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Review: Benares Restaurant, Mayfair, London

Benares quinoa salad spinach and red onion bhajia

If you enjoy Indian food and equally appreciate fine dining, then you will love Benares.  Benares is a Michelin-starred restaurant in the affluent Mayfair area of London, who serve up a fusion of Indian/British cuisine. In keeping with the location, the restaurant is sophisticated, classy and chic.  The décor in the main dining area is elegant, yet warm and relaxed with dimmed lights with dark earthy tones accented with copper, gold and Asian artefacts. The bar area feels a little more, trendy with a number of cosy dining chairs around smaller tables; bar stools and background music.

Benares Passion Fruit Cocktail
Benares Passion Fruit Martini Cocktail

My first visit to Benares was for a corporate event, where we were served tasty canapes, alongside their signature cocktails. The Passion Fruit Chutney Martini is to die for! Whilst there, I was personally shown around by their acclaimed chef, Atul Kochhar. He presented their private dining rooms, all of which were impressive.  Each room is unique, with one The Chefs Table, including an en-suite chef’s gallery where you can view the chefs at work. After this visit, I promised to return to try out some of the dishes from their main menu.  The a la carte menu is however a bit pricey and I am holding out for a suitable occasion. Therefore, on my second visit I went for the Benares Indian Street Food menu, a five-course sharing menu for two (£30). The menu is made up of dishes from every corner of India and pays homage to the diverse cuisines of each region and stays true to original preparations and recipes passed down through generations. I reserved my table through Booktable, who were offering this menu for £20 per person, including a cocktail. Of course I had the Passion Fruit Martini again! This menu is served in the more casual bar area – The Lounge. Staff were friendly and attentive and brought our dishes out one by one as and when we were ready for them.  Each dish looked like a work of art. Everything was tasty too. Although I would say that in comparison to most Indian food that I have tasted, the spice level was quite mellow.  The portions are quite small and the menu is altogether light and not too filling, but perfect to accompany after-work drinks.

Lamb Kofta Roll, with mint and coriander salad
Lamb Kofta Roll, with mint and coriander salad

The Benares Indian Street Food menu includes:

  • Chicken Tikka Crispy Naan with Smoked Tomato Dressing, inspired by the Punjab region of North West India

    Pickled Prawn Pani Puri with Tamarind Chutney
    Pickled Prawn Pani Puri with Tamarind Chutney
  • Lamb Kofta Roll with Mint and Coriander Salad, typically found in Lucknow, North East India
  • Grilled Curry Leaf Seabass and Seasonal Salad, a classic Southern Indian dish found in Goa
  • Quinoa Salad, Samphire and Red Onion Bhajia – from the East Indian region of Kolkata
  • Pickled Prawn with Crispy Rice Pani Puri a specialityfrom Mumbai, West India.

I would recommend Benares to anyone who likes the idea of Indian fine dining. I definitely intend to visit again to try out their main menu.  It’s the perfect destination for after-work drinks, a cosy date or a large group booking.

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The obsession with charcoal

One of the latest fads at the moment is foods or products which contain activated charcoal. Just to satisfy my curiosity, I purchased from a Chinese Ebay store, some charcoal toothpaste which claims to whiten teeth naturally. I can confirm that it does actually work. After a month of use my teeth definitely look a shade whiter. However, if you are brushing your teeth in a hurry, which I tend to do, there is the risk that you can get black stains on your clothing and around your bathroom. I am therefore not a convert, but would recommend it to those of you who prefer natural over chemical products.

Charcoal toothpaste and face pack

I am however a fan of charcoal in food. My favourite has been the Gourmet Charcoal Cheeseburger which I had the pleasure of indulging in whilst on vacation in Bali. This healthy Jap Bamboo charcoal black bun was the most delicious, melt-in-your-mouth burger I have ever tasted. If ever you go to Bali, be sure to visit Wahrung Bali at the Seminyak Village mall.

For more information on the benefits and uses of activated charcoal, check out this article here