Atul Kochhar's Benares, London

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Atul Kochhar has a .com?! I guess he’s becoming a brand, more than just a chef he’s a celebrity, writes recipe books, has his own blog: http://www.atulkochhar.com/
After being the first Indian chef to be rewarded a Michelin star during his time at Tamarind, he then went on to be the brainchild at Benares, receiving his second Michelin star.

So naturally when I saw that Benares were doing a Prixe Fixe menu at a respectable £19 including pear and cumin Bellini I was there camera at the ready.

Nice little position Atul chose here, Mayfair, slap bang next to a Bentley garage. Inviting to those living in the local vicinity, yet also for the likes of me who are attracted to the reasonable prices of the fixed menu, and willing to compromise on food choices and dining time preferences.

A warm welcome by friendly staff in a relaxing, chic atmosphere took us off to a great start which was swiftly boosted up a notch with our complimentary Pear and Cumin Bellini.

The food in this restaurant serves up a whole new Indian dining experience, Atul’s exquisitely delicate spice combinations compliment regional produce, in styles of Indian cooking… I’m not going to call it fusion food cos I hate that word, but you get the picture.

The wine list looked great but sticking to the budget theme we chose Atul’s Signature wines (aka house wine), which complimented the subtle spicing superbly.

Poppadoms, of coarse! But obviously they were a little bit special, served with 3 delicious chutneys, Green apple and cumin, a rich and intense tomato and chilli, and tangy gooseberry.

For my first course I had Summer Salad of Kentish Mutton and Roasted Fennel. The fennel let the dish down somewhat, I could have had more for one and I didn’t get the nice soft roasted texture and nuttly flavour I was expecting. The mutton was delicious however and almost like it was cooked in a tandoor; it was meaty but not chewy, with a slightly sweet aniseed flavour. The crispy cumin and onion seed croutons added a nice contrasting texture to the dish.

For the main dish, I had pan fried sea bream, curried moghrabieh, and coconut sauce. The sea bream was superbly cooked with a plain seasoning allowing the fish’s true flavours to shine, and pan fried to give a deliciously crisp skin. Served on top of the pearl like mograbieh, (which is basically giant couscous) coated in a delicate spice blend. The coconut sauce was presented to us in a separate jug, a nice little touch which allowed me to be really greedy and have a lot of the delicious, creamy aromatic sauce. I’ve made a version of this recipe here.

There was an option of a desert but we were in a hurry so im just going to have to go back and have the desert next time.

Overall a great tasting dinner, the main dish shone brighter than the starter, but pieced together with great signature wine and service with humour and a smile.

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