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An evening when our culinary stars aligned with Michelin at Benares in London

Located in an aristocratic quadrangle in the heart of Mayfair, a few steps away from high end car showrooms is a culinary jewel, truly rare and immensely valuable.

Chef Sameer Taneja at Benares

Benares, named after India’s most holy city, proudly dons a Michelin Star, but according to many who have dined there, deserves so much more, given the immense talent of Sameer Taneja, Executive Chef at one of the most acclaimed modern Indian restaurants in the UK. He is indeed a celebrated virtuoso and a super-star in his own right.

We were greeted at the entrance by a hostess who led us up a flight of steps and showed us to our table at the main restaurant which was brimming with the well-heeled of London, exuding an air of sophistication and elegance.

Our grand evening feast, one we were both eagerly looking forward to, started with milk bread fritters served on a bonsai tree, delightfully crispy on the outside with a cloud-like interior. The perfectly textured bite sized snack, impaled on sticks in the soil of the pot holding the bonsai tree, offered a harmonious blend of savoury and sweet notes that enlivened our palates and prepared us for what was to follow.

Benares Food Image

The Oyster Civiche Chaat was an explosion of flavours that danced fluidly on our taste buds. Laveena said the dish was innovative and married the freshness of oysters with the zing of traditional desi chaat spices. The juxtaposition of textures created a sensory experience that was both surprising and amply satisfying.

The baked malabar scallop curry was next, refined and visually pleasing in its presentation. The velvety richness of the curry contrasted rather beautifully with the tenderness of the scallops. Sameer’s masterful use of aromatics with hints of select spices elevated the overall flavour profile of the dish to a very high level indeed and we could imagine why this young talented chef has favourably captured the attention of so many discerning food lovers and critics from across the world.

Sajjid Mitha and Laveena Mitha at Benares

We wanted the remarkable tastes to linger and decided to take our time savouring every precious moment at Benares, eagerly wanting to recognise the genius and technique behind Sameer Taneja"s cooking, coupled with the love and attention he showered on each dish. Who would have imagined that Sameer had initially excelled in European cusine where he had a flair, honed over years of training under the likes of Michel and Alain Roux and Pascal Proyart. But it was under Pierre Koffmann of 3 Michelin starred Koffmann"s, that this masterchef gained his skills in classical french cusine. At Benares, he highlights his ample talent through his exemplary french cooking skills, presented cleverly in his desi culinary offerings, thereby creating a fine and rather unique dining art, inspired mainly by Indian flavours.

Paneer Galouti, Benares

Next on our evening menu at Benares was the paneer galaouti tikka, a vegetarian delight that celebrated the creamy decadence of the paneer grilled to perfection. The smoky char of the goats milk paneer tikka imparted a certain depth to the dish, while the mild tanginess of nuanced spices resulted in a truly indulgent and well-balanced offering.

The Muntjac Boti Kebab, the tenderest of tender chunks of meat marinated in a symphony of spices and cooked to succulent perfection. The kebab boasted of a caramelized exterior that gave way to a juicy, flavourful interior, creating that fiery blend of deliciousness with subtle hints of smokiness.

Ahead of our next course, we were presented a palate cleanser. The lip-smacking sorbet was topped with foam from a soda dispenser, the extra theatre a delicious distraction from the fabulous meal.

Soon after, we were served a meen dakshini, a tawa masala wild halibut, a showcase of culinary artistry, with the beautifully seared crust, locking in the fish"s delicate juices. As we reached out for our first taste, we noticed how the fish flaked apart with a mere gentle touch, revealing a buttery texture and a nuanced medley of spices that elevated the natural flavor of the halibut to extraordinary heights.

Benares Food Image

The tastes which followed need to be immortalised in a love sonnet of Shakespeare. Sameer’s batak nihari, is a rich and complex blend of spices, enhanced with the bone marrow of the duck, which celebrates the fine art of slow-cooking. The fragrance from the layers and layers of flavour created a dish which to us was not only deeply comforting but also richly satisfying.

Sameer personally stepped out his kitchen studio to serve us our next course - the fish biryani. Enclosed in a warm outercrust, the master chef used a sharpened knife to dexterously cut through the crisp and flaky first layer, below which lay a lush soft, coloured and fragrant basmati bed for the tender and flavour filled fish. A genious blend of delicious spices infused every long grain with warmth and depth, culminating in whatwas not only visually appealing but tasted utterly delicious.

Benares Rasmalai

To end our feast on a rather divine note, we concluded with a rasmalai, a delicate dessert that exudes both elegance and sweetness through its spongy cheese dumpling like texture, richly soaked in sweetened milk and generously infused with cardamom and saffron. The creamy confection was light and indulgent, offering a perfectly delightful close to our memorable Michelin dining experience.

Sameer is a maestro in the kitchen, effortlessly orchestrating his unwavering vibrancy to create modern Indian taste memories to last a lifetime. His second Michelin star is surely on the way and possibly just a few blocks away from Benares at Berkeley Square.

Chef Sameer Taneja and Team of Benares


Travelling the World with Laveena and Sajjid Mitha

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