Chef Sameer Taneja (previously at Soho’s Talli Joe) previously worked his magic in the Benares kitchen in 2015. This year, to mark his return, a new menu has been created to reintroduce diners to his contemporary culinary touches.
Located next to Berkeley Square, the large dining area is smart and unfussy, with a warm palette of browns accented with burnt-orange artwork, textured white wall panels and mirrored room columns, while the lounge/bar space is vibrant but moody, with a water feature complete with floating candles for added ambiance. The two distinct spaces make this a great spot for grabbing dinner and then carrying on the evening over cocktails. Be sure to leave your coat in the cloakroom for an effortless dinner-to-drinks transition.
Benares’ menu offers Indian cuisine with a sprinkling of modern British flair, and its varied and innovative offerings cater to varying levels of adventurousness of palate. The Scottish scallop with coconut curry arrives baked in its giant shell, adding a beautiful touch to the table, while the accompanying malabar paratha is the perfect flaky flatbread for mopping up every last bit of flavourful sauce. The chargrilled chicken momos with smoked tomato chutney are a delicately constructed, colourful joy to behold (and were wolfed down with equal glee). For mains, the tandoori monkfish with clam moilee and ridged gourd chutney was a standout dish, with a delicious, almost meaty texture and just the right amount of cold-clearing heat, while the roasted Gressingham duck breast with lentil and young onion gravy was cooked to pink perfection. Every portion left us comfortably satiated but still ready for dessert. And what a dessert the apple and fig bavarois was! Arriving in the shape of an apple, the sculpted bavarois sat on top of a cinnamon crumble base, in what must be the coolest finish to a meal we have seen in a long time. Almost too good to eat. Almost.
The cocktail list is, in a word, impressive. There are pages and pages of interesting takes on bar classics and original recipes, as well as a limited-edition section, from which the Blimey Strawberry – Sipsmith gin shaken with fresh strawberries and lime juice, apple spiced syrup and rhubarb and hibiscus tonic – is a refreshing starting choice, while the espresso martini (one of our favourite litmus tests for cocktail quality) was outstanding. If you’d prefer to move onto wine for dinner, there is an equally extensive selection from a variety of countries, with five grand crus available if you really want to celebrate. Wine pairings are recommended on the menu for some dishes, and knowledgeable sommeliers are on hand to offer winning suggestions for each course. If you want bubbles, your only option is to quaff (pretty great) champagne. We’ll drink to that!
Three courses from the à la carte menu with drinks for two, £150. There are also a variety of tasting and set menus available.
Not only is this a glamorous space in a great location, the food and drinks are exceptional. The range of set, tasting and à la carte menu options means Benares is a great choice for everything from a business lunch to a birthday blowout, while the lounge area offers a great start to a night out around Berkeley Square.