It was quite some time since I last visited Benares. The decor is lovely, with elegant dark wood screens and a pretty water feature with lilies floating on the surface of the water. The dining room itself has low ceilings and has modern decor, with mainly black and white emphasis. The head chef is Atul Kochhar, who opened Tamarind in 1994, prior to opening Benares in May 2003.
Mini popadoms were served with small portions of pickles that were probably home-made. I began the meal with tandoori rattan, a sampler of a piece of chicken tikka, lamb and prawn kebab. The chicken tikka was quite tender, as was the lamb, though the prawn was a little overcooked (12/20). Spring chicken roasted in the tandoor was served on the bone in two pieces, the chicken marinated in ginger, garlic chilli and yoghurt before being cooked in the tandoor. The chicken itself was quite tender, the spicing well under control (13/20). This was better than pan-griddled tiger prawns with carom seeds, peppers and caramelised onion sauce, which had a pair of large prawns that were slightly overcooked once more (11/20). Gobi mattur had cauliflower that retained some of its texture at least, and whose sauce was pleasant enough if a fraction oily (12/20). A selection of naan breads were good, light and fluffy (13/20), and rice was fine.
Service was pleasant. Overall this was a pleasant enough meal, but starters here are £9.50 - £16.95, main courses £14.50 - £38 (mostly around £25) with vegetable side dishes £7.50 - £8.95, bread £4.95 and even plain rice £3.95. The only sommelier suggestion on the menu (with the soft shell crab) was a glass of Krug at £29.50, which will indicate the clientele at which Benares appears primarily aimed. I find the food pleasant, even good, yet stunningly expensive for the level of food produced. Is this as good as Haandi, which is in nearby Knightsbridge? No. Yet it is more than double the price.