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Michelin Star dining at Benares

I get asked a lot for recommendations on restaurants with great vegetarian choices. For my cousin’s birthday, we settled on Benares from our slimmed down list, as I had been before and knew they had a separate vegetarian a la carte menu.

Benares has been in Mayfair, in the heart of Berkeley Squarem for almost 13 years and had their Michelin star for 11 years, which is really impressive.

The cuisine is what is best described as a modern take on Indian food. Alongside their a la carte menus, they also offer a street food menu, and there is so much choice to cater for even the fussiest of eaters. The cocktail menu particularly impressed me.

The layout of the restaurant is slick – when you enter you arrive at a reception lobby, where you have your coats taken away and then you go up stairs to the main restaurant.

We had a lovely corner table, and the restaurant was already busy, testament to its popularity.

I decided to have a Pineapple and Ginger Mojito, which was absolutely divine. I am one to normally stick to a classic Mojito as sometimes flavoured ones render the drink too sweet, but this blend was just amazing.  

For the amouse bouch, we had an onion bhaji, which was crispy, crunchy and delicious.


We nibbled on mini Papad served with a choice of pineapple, tomato and gooseberry chutneys, which was unusual flavours but they really worked well. I particularly enjoyed the gooseberry chutney. What was lovely was that as we got through our generous portions, they brought some more out without us even asking which was fantastic service.

For this entire meal we ordered vegetarian choices. Starting with Chana Pakodi Chaat, which is black fried chickpea dumplings, this was scrumptious and my favourite from our starter choices.

We also had trays of Aloo Mutter Samosas (Potato and Pea) and Paneer Samosas (Cottage cheese and corn). I personally preferred the Paneer samosas.

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Amit had really wanted to try the Haveli Kofta, which is a seasonal vegetable and green vhilli kofta served with sautéed spinach and a peanut and sesame Sauce. All the flavours worked perfectly together and it was a must order dish from my perspective.

For mains we chose a Paneer Rogan Josh, which is classic and contemporary cottage cheese, Rogan Jusa and served with a whole wheat parantha. It was good, but there was another paneer dish on our table, with a creamy sauce (possibly Makhani), which was even yummier!

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We also ordered a Dal Makhni, which was really lovely and tasty. You could tell it had been cooked the traditional way for hours.

To accompany our mains, we had Pulao mixed vegetable rice and a variety of breads.

For a full vegetarian meal, we were really impressed with the food and the choices available. It was really enjoyable.

The desserts though, stole the limelight. On the table we ordered the Peanut Butter Parfait wit Almond Cake and Cumin Marshmallow, and served with Jaggery Ice Cream as one choice. The men actually chose this dessert and they were all blown away by it. It was served beautifully and the flavours were all genius and a marriage made in heaven.

The ladies went for the Raspberry Bhapa Doi, with Pistachio Burfi and Cardamom Shortbread. This was a lovely light, fluffy dessert and I loved the contrasting textures of the burfi and shortbread. It was really refreshing and enough to keep your sweet tooth satisfied but didn’t leave you in a food coma.

All in all we were pleasantly impressed with both the service and the food and I can see why Atul Kochhar has successfully retained the Michelin star for over a decade.

Next time we go I will try the non-vegetarian dishes, but if you are a vegetarian and looking for a special place to dine, Benares has a fantastic choice.

Benares can be found at http://www.benaresrestaurant.com

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Exploring the Teotihuacan Pyramids in Mexico City

I have always been so fascinated by the history in Mexico, having visited the sites at Chichen Itza a few years ago, and so when visiting Teotihuacan was part of our itinerary during my trip to Mexico City, I was really looking forward to it.

The site is just 30 miles north of Mexico City, and the perfect place to spend a day exploring. Surprisingly the Aztecs or Mayans had nothing to do with it – it was built before their time. There is a mystery that surrounds the early settlers who built the city and multiple theories about it. Very little is known about them and this only adds to the charm of it and it attracts so many people to marvel at it daily. It was called Teotihuacan, which means place of the gods and remains an important part of Mexico City’s history.

After wandering around the Palace of Quetzalpapalotl, which has complex paintings, carvings and lots of ornaments, we started off at the Pyramid of the Sun.

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Now I somehow missed the memo that we were actually climbing the pyramids so when everyone started going up the steps I was panicking as I have a massive fear of heights! I am incredibly unfit (and lazy) but to avoid being a party pooper I slowly started to climb the steps up this 70m high and 215m wide pyramid.

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After having to stop several times I finally got to the top and collapsed for a few minutes while I gathered my breath. When I finally had the courage to look out from the top (I have a fear of heights too!), it was SO WORTH ALL THAT EFFORT. I mean look at that view!

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Also, the Pyramid of the Sun is the third biggest pyramid in the world! So you can add that to your list of amazing things that you have done in your lifetime 😉

Just like the Mayans, the Mexicans have a belief that the Pyramid of the Sun holds astrological powers. Every year, on March 21st (Spring Equinox), people travel from all over the country, as well as from abroad, to climb the pyramid, and charge their energies at the top.

After enjoying the panoramic view, we descended the pyramid, which was equally frightful for me, and walked down the Avenue of the Dead towards the Pyramid of the Moon.

I somehow missed the memo that we were climbing this pyramid too and these steps looked even more steeper than the Pyramid of the Sun!

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Photo credit: Mexico Tourism Board

This Pyramid was built in seven layers, (pyramid on top of pyramid) and is considered to be the starting point of the city.  This was definitely a more strenuous climb than the Pyramid of the Sun, but the good thing was that you could stop lots while you gathered your breath! This is the second largest pyramid in Teotihuacan and is 43m high.

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It was lots of fun, although made me realise how terribly unfit I was – something I am rectifying as part of my new year’s goals.

If you are interested in the historical aspect of travelling and love seeing archaeological sites, this is definitely one to go to! Even if you don’t have an avid interest in history, this is such a great excursion and activity to do whilst visiting Mexico City.

I thoroughly enjoyed our time exploring Teotihuacan, and it proximity makes it ideal for a half a day or day trip! If I can do it being a lazy person and with my fear of heights, anyone can do it! It is just inspiring and I am absolutely in awe of the cleverness of the early settlors and the precision with which they built things. The structures themselves are just magnificent!

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To read more about things to do in Mexico City, go here.

I was hosted by the Mexican Tourism Board, which I am very grateful for.