Thursday, 22 November 2012

Guest Chef Menu at Benares – Bryn Williams

This week I have been mostly eating….

Anyone with a small child at home will know that long, leisurely meals are a thing of the past. In between pureeing Stanley’s meals from scratch (damn you Annabel Karmel), racing home to defrost his lunches and feeding him whatever choice mush of the day is on the menu – there’s not much time left to make and enjoy my own food.

So I was very excited this week when I was invited to try Bryn William’s guest chef menu at Benares, a chance to hopefully have some decent food, in a setting as far removed from baby bibs and beakers as I could get.

Dining at the Bar in Benares

Benares is a longstanding luxe Indian restaurant in Mayfair headed up by Michelin-starred chef Atul Kochhar.

There’s no doubt that this ‘Chef Season in the Bar’ is a clever PR rouse. Guests of the Benares bar are treated to changing tapas-style menus where Atul has included some dishes, the guest chef has added their own contributions, and a couple of signature cocktails have been dreamt up to match.

Benares Chef Season With Bryn Williams

Sitting at a low bar table lit by a Tom Dixon candleholder, with my first cocktail of the evening in my hand (Bryn’s Penderyn Whiskey Sour), I was already starting to get into the wealthy Mayfair vibe. Baby at home? What baby?

Bryn’s dishes came first and we chomped our way through some delicious snacks. Seared scallops with confit chicken wings and Jerusalem artichoke puree was my favourite by far and braised pork cheeks & ginger carrot was cooked to soft, sweet perfection and swimming in a moreish sticky glaze.

Atul Kochhar’s Dishes – Guest Chef Menu at Benares

Imagining there was some sort of MasterChef battle going on in the kitchen, Atul’s trio of dishes were served up next.

We were informed later as we toured the restaurant and peered into the kitchen through the window of the spectacular chef’s table that Atul had in fact flown to India for a family event so wasn’t in the kitchen at all. All the same, his capable kitchen staff had turned out more great mini meals:

Fennel lamb chop with pickles; stuffed tandoori potatoes; and a beautiful dark green stuffed spinach patty with apricot and yoghurt arrived. The soft hints of spice running through all three dishes were just the right accompaniment to our second cocktail – Benares’ signature Tea Martini (made with black tea, Beefeater gin, lemon juice, egg white, syrup and a spice mix of cardamom, black pepper, star anise, cloves).

It’s unusual for me to rave about desserts but on this occasion it was Bryn’s final punch – a warm rice pudding with prunes and caramelised walnuts – that won the day. It was warming, wintery and filled with sweet spices that mirrored the Indian dishes that had come before. It was the perfect thing to send my on my merry way back home.

* Foodie Mom in London was invited as a complimentary guest to try the Guest Chef Menu at Benares.

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