We love a curry here at FashionBite, so National Curry Week brought the perfect excuse for us to indulge. We tried out three of the most stylish Indian restaurants in the capital, each boasting award-winning chefs, mouthwatering menus and glamorous locations – and none of them on Brick Lane! We tried everything from Indian Tea cocktails to lamb’s brains, discovering incredible new flavours and some awesome twists on our old favourites…
BENARES, 12a Berkeley Square House Berkeley Square, Mayfair, London W1J 6BS, 0207 629 8886
Our first port of call was Benares – known for its inventive cocktail menu, we just had to try it. With a distinctly modern take on Indian cuisine, Benares is dark, atmospheric and right in the heart of fabulous Mayfair. Two lovely members of staff whisked us to a quiet corner, perfect for admiring the restaurant’s elaborate water features and people watching – we soon learned that the elegant location attracts equally resplendent visitors.
Once we’d settled, we were treated to Indian Tea Masala cocktails made with Beefeater Gin. They were absolutely delicious – sweet, smooth and spicy, this was nothing like I’d tried before. Before long, we began browsing the ‘Grazing’ menu, in search of a light snack to go with our drinks. We settled on a tasting platter to suit everyone in our party, including a vegetarian, and we weren’t disappointed. Fennel lamb chops, organic chicken seekh kebabs and tempura prawns of the highest quality were soon presented to us in neat little bowls, alongside deep fried potato fritters, some gorgeous cheese, colourful rice and moreish nuts. Light but satisfying, this was a great accompaniment to the many cocktails we went on to sample – we just couldn’t help ourselves!
My favourite was the Pann Fizz – Beefeater Gin and Paan liqueur gently shaken with fresh squeezed lemon and sugar syrup, charged with a bit of fizz. A special mention goes to the Strawberry Citrus, using Ketel One Citroen Vodka, fresh strawberries, strawberry liqueur, freshly squeezed lemon juice and a dash of Limoncello to ‘create a velvet illusion that blankets your pallet.’ Gorgeous! We’d definitely recommend Benares if you’re celebrating a special occasion, but perhaps a treat best saved for after pay day – the quality is superb, at a hefty price. But this is Mayfair, after all.
THE BENGAL CLIPPER, 11-12 Cardamom Buildings, Shad Thames, Butlers Wharf, London SE1 2YR, 0207 357 9001
Next up was the Bengal Clipper, a charming curry house in Shad Thames, a stone’s throw from the river. Walking to the restaurant, we stopped off for a look at Tower Bridge and the Gherkin peeking through moody grey clouds – a breathtaking view!
The Clipper was recommended to us by a friend, so we arrived very hungry, with high expectations. I’m pleased to report that as soon as we walked in we were greeted by two friendly members of staff, who showed us to a table with a view of the lovely cobbled street outside. After much deliberation over the extensive menu, we were paid a visit by the restaurant’s owner, Mukit Choudhury, who was more than happy to help us choose a few dishes.
We decided on some old favourites – Prawn Masala, Lamb Rogan Josh, Peshwari Naan and Onion Bhajis, but opted for some of chef Mohammad Asrar’s most famous dishes too. Thanks to Mohammad’s expertise, the Clipper has gained three prestigious AA Rosette Awards since it opened in 1994, and once our food arrived, it wasn’t difficult to see why.
The Chef’s Special Chicken Curry is a firm favourite with the Clipper’s regular customers, owing to it’s powerful combination of heat, spice and sweetness. As a general rule I’m not a huge fan of overly spicy food, but I absolutely loved this. A must-try for anyone visiting! The Prawn Masala was delicious, using giant prawns from the Bay of Bengal baked in a clay oven, then gently simmered in a masala sauce. The Rogan Josh was one of the best I’ve tasted, a medium-hot stew cooked Kasmin style. Another Bengal Clipper speciality that lived up to it’s name.
My favourite dish was the Murg Mango Chicken, made with a unique sauce using mango pulp, cashew nuts, onion, cream and butter. A gorgeous, mild curry with a difference – perfect if you’re wary of spice. A light, crispy Peshwari naan finished off the meal – a little crunchier than I usually prefer, yet delectable in it’s own right.
Full to the brim, we ordered some authentic mint tea to finish off the meal – a wonderful end to a delightful experience. The Bengal Clipper has everything a curry house should – fast service, charming staff and authentic, reliable food. I can’t wait to go again!
CINNAMON SOHO, 5 Kingly street, London, W1B 5PF, 020 7437 1664
We’d heard great things about Cinnamon Soho, the third restaurant from Vivek Singh of The Cinnamon Club and Cinnamon Kitchen. Nestled amongst the kooky boutiques and trendy shops of Kingly Street, the restaurant is moments away from the buzz of Carnaby Street and Oxford Circus. Vivek has created a menu that combines modern Indian fare with an unexpected nod to British favourites, while the modern design retains Cinnamon’s signature sleek style with a sexy Soho twist.
Again, we couldn’t resist starting the night with some cocktails. After poring over the impressive menu, I chose a Garden Cocktail, made with rum, elderflower, mint, cucumber and apple juice – a great alternative to the classic mojito, this was refreshing and tasty, perfect for sipping while I tackled the agonising decision of what to eat.
I eventually chose burnt chilli chicken, an ample plate of Indo-Chinese stir-fried chicken. This was absolutely delicious, and a welcome twist on traditional Indian starters. After much coercion from my waiter, I gave in to trying out the Bheja-fry lamb brains, cooked in mince curry. I have to admit that the idea of the dish left me feeling squeamish, but once I’d taken a bite I was pleasantly surprised! Tender and crisp, the brains had a similar texture to squid. I doubt I’ll be eating them again in a hurry, but it was obvious that the delicacy had been cooked to perfection.
For the main course, I chose Tandoori prawns – one of my favourite foods, this was presented with Alleppey curry sauce, spinach and rice. I can’t fault this dish – the prawns were so huge, three of them were more than enough. On the side, we ordered traditional Indian Okra with dried mango, and a Tandoori aubergine crush with green peas. Both added interest to the meal, bringing in flavours I wouldn’t have expected from an Indian. My guest opted for Ox cheek vindaloo, (which tasted divine) served with masala mash – combining Indian flavours with British favourites, this was cleverly put together and immaculately presented.
Though we barely had room, we couldn’t say no to dessert, especially when we were told British favourite sticky toffee pudding was available (with ginger, adding a totally new dimension of flavour). Again, this was faultless.
Feeling a little sluggish, we thought we’d try something different to finish – Naked Espresso Martinis that we were assured would perk us up. Vodka infused with coffee beans, tobacco bitters and vanilla, these were so strong we could take no more than a sip each. A great concept, but not for us! Other than this, we loved everything about Cinnamon Soho – we’ll definitely be coming again.
Amy @ FashionBite xxSign-Up To FashionBite’s Weekly News