Wednesday, 20 February 2008

Review: Benares

So I'm sitting on the tube reading The London Paper on my way to Benares and I spot that the lovely Natalie Portman had dined there the previous evening. This filled me with equal parts sadness and joy. Sadness that I had missed her and that it was unlikely that she would dine at the same place two nights in a row. Joy that Benares attracts such Hollywood A-listers and that the night might still throw up some good sleb spotting potential.

Benares is seriously swanky. To get there you walk through Berkeley Square, past the Bentley garage and the Ferraris parked outside. A top-hatted doorman ushers you inside and you go upstairs past a lily filled indoor pond and into the bar. Atul Kochhar, a man I've admired since watching The Great British Menu, is chatting to some smart looking people and we walk by into the restaurant itself. From his TV appearances Atul seems unlike most other "Celebrity Chefs" in that he is quiet. You can't imagine him effing and blinding like Ramsay, or throwing people out of his restaurant like MPW. He has this aura of calmness and control which it has to be said, is perfectly mirrored by the decor and atmosphere of his restaurant.

Around us, the room is filling up with suits. Lawyers, money men, business dinners. No Natalie Portman, no Charlize Theron. It's early though. There's still plenty of time.

The menu looks great and includes a few dishes that feature in Atul's book Simple Indian. Starters include Pan-Fried Potato Cakes and at the top of the main courses is Meen Molee, or Sea Bass in Coconut and Ginger which I made myself a few weeks ago and is pictured above.

I'm going to say right now that I spent the night suffering from serious food envy. Envious of the crisp soft shell crab with squid salad to my right. Envious of the simple potato cakes with Egyptian hummus to my left. Envious of the roast rump of lamb with rosemary and garlic chickpeas across the table. They all looked and tasted great, and the soft shell crab had my Dad in raptures. On the other hand my starter of spice crusted scallops with grape and mint dressing was beautiful to look at, but seriously lacking the mouth-stimulating spice I'd hoped for. It was, dare I say it, a bit bland. The Hyderabadi Speciality of Slow-cooked Basmati Rice and Lamb had an overwhelming flavour of saffron that swamped all of the other spices in the dish. It was ok, but certainly not special. I guess I just chose badly on the night, because everything else was fantastic. Sometimes it happens that way.

As we prepared to leave, a celebrity couple sat down at the table next to us. Was it Tom and Katie? Posh and Becks? Madonna and Guy? Not quite. It was the Two Hairy Bikers who were indeed very hairy, but unfortunatly not on their bikes.

1 comment:

Trig said...

Haha I didn't see that one coming, although I suppose it stands to reason that they would come to eat at a place like Benares.