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Benares restaurant, London


 I think I’ve lost count of the amount of times I’ve seen Atul Kochar on Saturday Kitchen and said ‘oh I really want to go to Benares.’ Finally last weekend we made it there for our 3rd wedding anniversary. We booked it way back in late August so I’ve been looking back and forth at the menu for weeks and the anticipation was great.

 We started with little poppadoms with three chutneys – pineapple, tomato (my favourite) and mango & ginger, they were a good introduction to the style of spicing used at Benares, all very well selected, not too hot but with enough to leave you with a slight chilli warmth when you’ve finished eating.

My started was the ‘Mumbai Pizza’ – I guess they were trying to be lighthearted with the name but I think it didn’t really sell the dish very well! It was tandoori fish kebab (made with the catch of the day which was Hake) on a sundried tomato naan with micro leaves, lovely pink pickled onion and black olives. The olives worked really well, surprisingly so, especially when you added some of the coriander chutney the dish came with. I would have preferred my naan to be a little crispier, the dish had plenty of oil which didn’t make it taste oily but it did make the naan a little softer, but not soggy.

Mr had the roasted autumn vegetable pastries with plum chutney, I of course snuck a taste and they were lovely, possibly a little forgettable but I was concentrating on my starter instead!

For main Mr had the cottage cheese and apricot koftas, which came with herb rice and a tomato and fenugreek sauce, I loved these, a really innovative vegetarian main and despite neither of us being that crazy about cottage cheese or apricots, we both thought they were great!

My main was braised lamb neck fillet with masala turnips and a green peppercorn sauce. The lamb was as I’d hoped, super tender and the spices ran all the way through it. I could have broken into the kitchen and taken home a whole pan of it. Something I definitely want to recreate at home. As part of our mains we also got some tandoori bread, onion rice and gorgeous red dahl – all lovely and a nice touch to have something to share on the table which is so much a part of Indian food.

I’d also ordered some Bhel Puri, which is one of my favourite things to eat, but unfortunately it didn’t actually turn up and both of us didn’t actually realise this til we were half way through our mains so we didn’t ask for it. We probably should have done, but given the quality of the restaurant you’d have hoped they would have remembered! Bit of a shame.

Desserts were chocolate mousse (Mr’s) which was encased in a chocolate globe with raspberries both fresh and dried with extra chocolate sauce and orange. Mine was spiced poached pear with vanilla custard and some excellent pistachio kulfi. Both beautiful and just the right amount of spicing again without being over the top.

We also ordered tea – a light darjeeling tea for Mr and some masala chai for me, and happily we also received some perfect petit fours – possibly not entirely sticking to the Indian them but they were excellent – cinnamon shortbread (which were a lot like Nankhatai), peanut butter filled chocolate domes and raspberry rice crispie squares. Loved the fun element of the rice crispie squares, the raspberry flavour was really fresh and vivid.

The tea menu was extensive, with 6 darjeeling teas alone, many of which are exclusive to Benares. The masala chai was made traditionally, although with honey not sugar, and everyone knows masala chai needs to have plenty of sugar, but luckily I’d been provided with a little bowl of it – I guess they know too!

Overall the meal was fantastic and memorable, really interesting food which uses traditional recipes and techniques but gives them a bit of a modern / western twist. The service was a little slow at times – they forgot one of our dishes and we had to wait a while for the bill, so something to improve upon given they have a Michelin star.

Lime Tree Court Restaurant, Saffron Walden

Just a quick blog post to let you know about a lovely Italian restaurant that has just opened up in Saffron Walden. I’m really pleased because it is hard to find Italian food not dominated by chain restaurants.
They serve pizza, pasta, mains and salads, and importantly puddings.
We stopped by for the very good value lunch menu, £6.95 for a large range of dishes. I had a grilled aubergine & ricotta (the ricotta tasted house made too) pizza and Mr. a panini which was basically a cross between a wrap and a calzone. Both cooked in a pizza oven.

We will be going back again very soon!

Update, January 2013: I walked past recently and it turns out this restaurant is now closed, it is now an Indian restaurant. Such a shame as those pizzas were brilliant.

Bill’s Restaurant & Store, Cambridge

I find it very hard to think of a good place for breakfast in Cambridge, and upon asking other people it would seem that no one else really knows either. You can pop along to the Black Cat cafe for some french toast, or maybe Giraffe for one of their breakfasts but nowhere really sticks out as being amazing.

Bill’s Restaurant and Store opened last week, at the site of the old (and not very good) Slug and Lettuce pub. The first thing that really drew me in was the breakfasts, it has a good selection of traditional ‘fry up’, french toast, eggs benedict/florentine/royale and some interesting inclusions like bubble & squeak and grill vine tomatoes with basil on toast.

As the name suggests you can also shop here, they sell jams and marmalades, fancy French lemonade, pasta, chocolate, beer, the list is endless. Everything is arranged in shelves around the tables so you can shop whilst you eat.

I ordered the Bill’s breakfast which was two fried eggs on sourdough toast with bacon, sausage, mushrooms and grilled tomatoes. Mr had the veggie breakfast which was really well put together, poached eggs on toast spread with houmous and guacamole, tomatoes, mushrooms and sweet chilli. He also tried the bubble and squeak which the real star, crispy on the outside and pillowy soft inside with a good kick of mustard.

The coffee here is also excellent, as are the freshly made smoothies.

We arrived at about 11 and the restaurant was quite busy, it is obviously very popular already, only a few days after opening. The food seems very fresh with attention to detail.

It is a small chain and in a place full of chains I can be wary but Bill’s does have personality. I’m looking forward to coming back, mainly to give the puddings a go, which look very naughty!

Bill’s Restaurant and Store
Green Street, Cambridge

Update: We’ve been back a few times since 2011 to Bill’s and I’m afraid to report that the quality has gone down a lot. Portions seem to be smaller, food blander and greasier. It’s disappointing and I don’t think just a blip. If anyone else has given it a try lately do let me know if it has improved.

Review: Trinity Restaurant, London

I’ve never written a restaurant review before, so there seems is better place to start than with the restaurant we ate at for our wedding.

The Trinity Restaurant situated in the Clapham Old Town area of south west London and has a focus on seasonal produce, the tables were even decorated with little autumn squashes of various shapes and sizes.

We opted for the set lunch menu which is very good value at £20 for three courses. And of course champagne to start!

The champagne was served in beautiful painted floral flutes, lovely for a special ocassion such as this.
The menu was varied, with three options for each course (a larger menu is also available for smaller parties). The starter options were Jerusalem Artichoke Soup, Potted Foie Gras and Liver Pate and Grilled Sardines on Toast with Piperade and Toasted Pinenuts.

I opted for the Grilled Sardines on Toast, mainly because I have wanted to try proper fresh sardines for a while after only being offered horribled tinned sardines by most shops! They were beautifully fresh, not overcooked. I must admit I didn’t know what ‘Piperade’ was when I ordered. It was a mixture of peppers, caramelised onions and possibly tomatoes, almost like a chutney, but made fresh.
Others on our table ordered the Potted Foie Gras and Chicken Liver Pate, which was served in a little La Parfait kilner jar on a small wooden board – nice little details to make the dish unique.

Main course options were the boldly named ‘Trinity Fish Pie’, Roast Fillet of Cod with Taramasalata or Roast Anglian Beef with Triple Cooked Chips and Bone Marrow and horseradish cream.

Well of course I couldn’t pass up the last option. I’m pretty sure most of my decision was based on the prospect of triple cooked chips, and I was not disappointed. The chips were thick, crisp and incredibly fluffy inside – I think they may have been cooked in duck or goose fat because they were very flavoursome. The beef was tender and cooked pink, as it should be.
The bone marrow was a brilliant inclusion and went down extremely well with everyone who ordered the dish, it was nice to see a restaurant using ‘cuts’ that aren’t always used and cooking them well. I think the horseradish cream could have done with a bit more of a kick to it, which would have cut through the richness of the beef and bone marrow more.

Others had the Roast Fillet of Cod, which was also served with fresh mussels – something which probably should have been included on the menu, but wasn’t, the suprise addition of mussels was well received, although I’m not sure how well it would be if someone had an allergy.

I chose my pudding before I had decided on my starter, being the chocoholic that I am. It was a Valhrona Chocolate Pot with Salt Caramel Ice Cream – perfect for me. With the description ‘Chocolate Pot’ I was expecting more of a rich set chocolate mousse but it was in fact closer to a fondant or a chocolate sponge, which is actually what I preferred. Extremely rich, the salt caramel was a lovely addition. The pudding was a little crisp on the outside and meltingly soft inside. This is definitely a pudding for someone that can cope with a lot of chocolate, be warned!

They were also kind enough to decorate mine and my new husbands plates with the words ‘Congratulations’ – very thoughtful and a wonderful touch.

All in all our experience at Trinity was brilliant, the service was attentive but not pushy and the staff were knowledgeable and friendly. This is a restaurant that is obviously working up to a Michelin Star and I do hope they achieve it.

We’ll be back!

Trinity on Urbanspoon

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