Benares has been cited as one of London’s top culinary ambassadors, but last year’s feedback suggested standards were slipping and we’ve noticed a further downward trend. On the plus side, the suave vibe is appreciated, although not everyone is sold on the ‘drab’ chocolate and cream-toned dining room with its low ceilings, poor acoustics and echoes of a ‘conference centre’. Michelin-starred celeb chef Atul Kochhar is well capable of delivering some ‘amazing’ dishes founded on studious technique and clever-clever presentation – consider a ’superb’ starter of crispy soft-shell crab with lobster cocktail and chilli cress, khasta murgh (chicken-tikka pie with wild-berry chutney) or pan-roasted stone bass with vermicelli and a beautifully judged coconut and curry-leaf sauce. However, minuscule portions and sky-high prices cause regular complaints, while service can be slow, ‘abrupt’ and ‘charmless’. Thankfully, the well-considered global wine list makes some amends.
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