If you’ve become awash with tea and cake recently and would like to try something a little more left-field at the weekend, there’s another spicier way to spend your Sunday. Benares has come up with a delectable menu of tapas style plates of Indian dishes for those who fancy a lazy hazy afternoon of chilling out. Set in the heart of London, Benares still evokes a feeling of being far far away from the hustle and bustle of Sunday shoppers.
Known as Atul’s All-Day Sunday Brunch, Benares has opened it’s doors on Sunday for this Indian style feast presented from midday through till ten o’clock at night.
First off, pick from either a vegetarian or traditional brunch menu. Then you begin with a veritable selection of lipsmacking starters ranging from Masala Omelette to Tempered Dhokla - a steamed savoury cake to a Chicken Tikka Caesar Salad and Amritsari Sea Bass. The tapas dishes are served in beautiful tableware which gives an air of fresh and alfresco eating - perfect for the summer months ahead. The Tandoori Broccoli was melt in the mouth marvelous as were the Lamb Seekh Kebabs.
After the opening courses, cute little saucepans arrived with coconut laced Mangalorean Chicken Curry, a Malabar Fish Curry and a hearty Sweet Corn and Spinach Stew amongst other flavoursome curry based dishes; all accompanied by a selection of Tandoori Bread, spiced Pulao Rice and a northern Indian Boondi Raita - a yogurt salad. The food was seasonal yet indulgent, a theme which carried on into the mini desserts. My favourite was the almost deconstructed Black Forest Gateau and the Pineapple and Coconut Sorbet. Or for further extravagance opt for the nutty and creamy Pista Kulfi. Both equally good, but you have to choose (why Atul why?).
It’s a well balanced brunch with subtly spiced dishes that you could eat all afternoon and, for just for a few hours in a hectic life, forget about everything and regroup.
The price of Sunday Brunch at opulent Benares is a reasonable £45 per person that includes either a thick and rich Lassi - an Indian yogurt drink or Atul’s Signature Sauvignon Blanc which is well worth a try. The sommelier Vincenzo explained the notes which had hints of pineapple. It was crisp, fresh and smooth. The flavour was not too overpowering and you were left with a relaxing and comforting warmth to your palate. I’d say it was a spot-on match with the food.
A brunch is a combination of breakfast and lunch eaten usually during the late morning so I’d advise to skip both those meals before you head to Benares to savour the flavours and decadent atmosphere of Atul’s All-Day Sunday Brunch. So go on, spoil yourself.
12A Berkeley Square
Tel: 020 7629 8886
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Andy and Arjun Varma have tweaked the A la Carte menu at Chakra most recently with some lipsmacking additions to their spicy fare.
The Malai Kebab ke Dande - skewers of chicken breast marinated in cream, yogurt and northern Indian spices have a freshly baked tandoori feel and are light enough as a starter dish. While the Kamal Kakdi ki Chaat. This authentic Indian vegetable known as lotus root that’s been tossed with red onions and coriander leaves and drizzled with a tangy tamarind chutney and green relish is well worth the experience. However, if you fancy more of an indulgence, the Patiala Chops - English lamb chops cured in a blend of warming garam masala and cardamom are extremely popular with regular diners.
In terms of the main menu, the Adraki Gosht - a rich lamb curry in fresh ginger is a must for the doyens of traditional northern Indian fare. A side of south Indian Asparagus Poriyal which is seasonal baby asparagus mixed with green beans sauteed in Indian herbs and cooked al dente complement the Adraki Gosht favourably. Another vegetarian delight is the Navratan Korma that’s fabulous with Tandoori Rotis. The creamy and lightly spiced medley of mixed vegetables combined with fresh pomegranate and black grape makes the use of seasonal fare in an innovative and tasty way.
The selection of biryanis is awesome and can be eaten without any other accompanying dishes besides a raita (an Indian yogurt salad). There’s a rich sauce that comes with the rice dish.
A celebration of Punjabi cooking comes in the form of the Chakra style of Butter Chicken that’s synonymous with the hearty Indian state. Lean chicken is cooked in a rich buttery based tomato gravy garnished with boiled egg. The Chakra Black Cod that’s roasted in a tandoor (clay oven) after being marinated in lime and cracked black pepper remains on the menu and rightly so for its uniqueness and flavour.
The homemade refreshing Mango Kulfi with lime curd rounds off the spiced cuisine nicely. Although my favourite still has to be the Apple Sponge Pudding seasoned with nutmeg and cinnamon and served with an elderflower mousse. The chocoholics amongst us can opt for the Gooey Chocolate Melt with cardamom ice cream. But if you’re indecisive, just get all three!
The menu is laid out in a simple and straightforward way and the staff are there to assist you with your choices. There’s something for everyone and if you cannot eat everything you wanted in one session, then you’ll just have to return for a second helping.
157-159 Notting Hill Gate
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Situated within Harbour Yard by the Chelsea marina is the location for upmarket Indian restaurant group Amani which launches its first culinary venture in the capital.
Combining their respective talents together, Amani is the brainchild of Managing Director Azad Miah and Executive Chef Rajeev Kumar. Azad is an experienced hand in the restaurant sector with a keen and experienced eye on culinary innovations. The chef who’s from the renowned Indian Oberoi Hotel Chain as well as London’s Cinnamon Club, draws his inspiration from the regional cuisines of India combining the flavours of the north such as pomegranate, rose and fenugreek with the tastes of Western India - Goan red chillies. The food is authentic Indian cooking with fusion elements plucked from Rajasthan, West Bengal and Kerala. The menu is changed seasonally in order to refresh the flavours and to keep in line with food trends.
Amani’s menu is clear and concise clean menu with enticing descriptions of various dishes.
There are innovative starters such as the Trio of infused Chicken Tikka, Mint and Garlic Tikka, Reshmi Kebabs with moong bean sprouts and Grilled King Prawns in a Lime and Cheddar Marinade. The Smoked Fennel Lamb Chops hark back to the days of the Moghul Emperors of India and the Gilaafi Seekh Kebabs are served on slates for an earthy feel when eating.
For the vegetarian palate, there’s plenty of fare including a sumptuous Vegetable Grilled Kebab, Malai Paneer (Indian cheese skewered) and Stuffed Tandoori Aloo (potato). The chef has put a fun element in his cooking too with a Bombay Street Food Chaat consisting of scrumptious Samosas, a Potato and Pomegranate Cake and Pani Puri (a refreshing mini puffed deep fried bread filled with spiced tamarind water).
The main courses provide a seafood lovers’ feast with four different dishes to satiate the appetite such as Baked Halibut Fillet with a Garlic Spinach in a South Indian Moilee Sauce. There’s Seared Fillet of Red Mullet in a Spicy Classic Goan Sauce served with Roasted Vegetables and Tandoori Freshwater King Prawns in a Creamy Malai Curry Sauce with Pickled Shrimp Rice and Dill, Mustard and Honey Salmon Tikka.
The popular choices are the Delhi style Butter Chicken Curry made with tomato, fenugreek and cream with a Coriander Naan, Chickpea cooked with Dry Mango and Garlic, the hearty Kadhai style Paneer and Babycorn, the fresh Spinach Koftas or dumplings and my personal fused favourite the Mashed Potatoes with Crispy Fried Okra in Five Spices and the Tandoori Roasted Aubergine Crush.
However, if you’re spoilt for choice and want to try almost everything, a tasting Tapas Cocktail Menu is available and during the day, you can’t go wrong with Amani’s abundant Lunchbox Special for £6 with a choice of 3 menu meals including Biryanis and a Grilled Mixed Meat Platter of kebabs. Another sought after selection is a Business Lunch of two courses at £15.
There are plans afoot for masterclasses in engaging and educating diners about flavours and spice and set against the breathtaking backdrop of the most exciting city in the world, who could say no to that?
Amani is by the marina at Unit G6, Harbour Yard, Chelsea Harbour, Chelsea, London SW10 0XD.
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Tel: 020 7352 9444
If you’ve lamented the loss of the much loved and all time best Indian restaurant in London known as Vama, you’ll be pleased to know that chef Andy Varma and his brother Arjun have come up with another culinary creation. Nestled in the heart of London’s Notting Hill is Chakra.