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|Address:||12a Berkeley Square House, Berkeley Square, London W1J 6BS|
|Tel:||020 3544 1650|
|Price: £68.00||Wine: £25.00||Champagne: £65.00|
|Opening Hours:||Mon-Sat 12N-2.30pm 5.30-11pm|
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22/02/09. So I had to go to London again , this time for a Monday meeting . I took the opportunity to go early on Sunday in my own time, allowing me again to sample a nice lunch. I opted for Benares, the One Michelin starred restaurant of Atol Kochhar, the Indian chef you may well have seen on tv (Great British Menu & Saturday Kitchen) . (It has 2 "h"s on his website!) (note: this was not a claimable work expense!) & (my collection of stars is growing)
Sunday Lunch booking 13:30 hours – train was 9 mins late into Kings Cross giving me 23 mins to get to Green Park on the tube including 5 minutes walk. I arrived 13:28.
With a prestigious Mayfair location on Berkeley Square, (didn't hear the nightingale!) it promises much. The slick entrance (Next to a Rolls Royce and Bentley Showroom – no prices = can't afford) sees you greeted pleasantly, (coats and bags taken to cloakroom & ticketed), before being led up the stairs to the bar, past the pond with floating flowers, and to the restaurant (both windowless) , the lighting is subdued and subtle in the bar, where, if you arrived in good time, you can relax with a cocktail or two. I declined and was shown to my table. The restaurant also has subdued lighting but “spots” over each table enable you to see well enough. Most of the staff appear to be from the sub-continent, dressed in black, with seniority seeming to be indicated by an orange tie. Although the Maitre D' seemed French, with jacket too. The menus (A la carte, prix fixe and wine) were presented, and a quartered open box with mini poppadums and square plate with four square pots of homemade chutneys, (tomato, cucumber, apple and I can't remember the other). A la carte dishes range starters 6 to 12 pounds, mains 12 to 24 pounds, desserts as starters. I opted for the prix fixe at £24.95 three courses including a glass of house wine, I chose a glass of red. .(at time of writing last week of February 09 the menu was as displayed on the website) Though it didn't mention the “extras” as detailed below.
An “amuse bouche” arrived, a gram flour mousse with balsamic vinegar (1cm orangey coloured cube of something so subtly spiced I couldn't detect a flavour, drizzled with a drop of balsamic and topped with a small herb leaf and not very light anyway) It didn't amuse my bouche and the plate was only moved aside to accommodate my starter! Next my starter of choice, semolina crusted chicken fillets, with a tomato/chilli dressing, garlic oil and wild rocket (arugala). Hot and tasty, though nothing too outstanding , something any quality restaurant could do! Although the menu said slow cooked lamb breast ( I chose this to compare with my previous review of Arbutus) but my main course plate arrived with a good slice and a half of leg joint (can't compare) sauced with a masala, with a prefecly cooked large brightly green floret of brocolli, and “ROGAN” ? fettucini (this had slivers of red & green pepper, onion, a tomato based sauce, flavoured with fenugreek and sesame oil i think). This did slightly take over the delicate masala flavour of the sauce on the lamb, but was overall very good and good sized portion, especially as a light and crisp fresh naan bread (approx 6inch diameter) was served alongside.
a “dried” hot towel pellet is presented on a small slate plate, hot water poured over so it expands ( I refrain from comparisons!)
A “pre-dessert” arrived. I'm unsure if this would have arrived if I hadn't ordered dessert, but it was a shot glass with a delicious mango sorbet, topped with a yoghurt foam, swiftly followed by Raspberry Cheesecake, with a lime and cardomom sorbet (couldn't taste the cardomom and the sorbet was melting as I watched) – Nice creamy with a sharp jelly top, base average, but it had a side of pistachio crumb, and a small raspberry jelly too No problem really. My individual cafetiere arrived with four “petit fours” (I could have had tea), enough for two good cups of coffee to finish.
Overall this was a different Sunday lunch, spiced. If you want to have something more akin to the Indian roots then go for the a la carte menu, but quality, service, surroundings and atmosphere are top notch. (Compare what you pay for your bog standard local carvery for just a main plate – approx 6.95 – 12-95 estimate – add a starter, dessert and a few drinks and then £28 for top quality is not unreasonable)
Foe me, no real problems with the service , I would have been happy refilling my own glass but may have had to wait too long if I relied on the staff, and my starter arrived so quickly it seemed they had one ready, and they neglected to clear the amuse bouche plate from the side , (restaurant was half full when I left – approx 30 customers and a private party of approx ten in a side room) but a table near me didn't get their drinks in time, and another wasn't too happy with a biryani but the matter was swiftly rectified and all happy.
My bill including 12.5% service was £28.12. Excellent value for a different Michelin starred lunch. Oh – my tap water was free but bottled water is £4.25 for 750ml of something from Kent.