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.
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!
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