Named after and inspired by the holy city of Benares, this restaurant is an exotic hideaway in the middle of Berkeley Square.
In Mayfair’s stylish Berkeley Square, across the way from famous private member’s club, Annabel’s, and close neighbours with the eccentric Sexy Fish restaurant, lies Indian bar and restaurant Benares. Serving modern Indian cuisine with a distinctive British twist, from the outside Benares seems a quiet, sophisticated affair – it’s tucked away behind an unassuming façade. Stepping through the glass doors, however, guests enter another world.
Image: James Byrne
Named after northern India’s holy city of Benares, the restaurant’s interiors have been created by international designer Ou Baholyodhin and his studio. Originally from Thailand, Baholyodhin is based in London but his design style reflects his nomadic tendencies – his work is characterises by “warm, sensuous sophistication”, often hinting at the exotic or far away. For Benares, Baholyodhin has taken inspiration from the restaurant’s holy namesake to create a “fascinating voyage into the holy city, giving a cool and serene poise to a hip London restaurant”.
Downstairs in the restaurant lobby, guests are welcomed by a variety of Indian artworks and antiques, while the bold black and gold colour palette helps transports diners into the ‘holy city’. The restaurant itself is situated on the first floor; as guests climb the stairs, the first thing to catch the eye are the impressive infinity water pools. Filled with floating candles and flowers, these beautiful water features are reminiscent of the famous waterfront in the city of Benares, further inviting guests into the oasis of the restaurant.
Image: James Byrne
At the top of the stairs lies Benares’ newly refurbished lounge area; elegantly lit, the bar is made of sleek black wood to offset the restaurant’s rich colour scheme. Featuring a range of luxurious velour seating, the lounge is the perfect place for diners to enjoy a pre-dinner drink and unwind. As well as the lounge, Benares is home to four private dining rooms – including a cosy chef’s table, where guests can watch the sixteen busy chefs working in the kitchen through a large glass window.
Throughout the restaurant, hand crafted Indian furniture gives Benares an intimate ambience; in the dining room, luxurious fabrics complement the colourful traditional touches, marrying the cultural touchpoints with modern sophistication. The large dining room is also encased in Brian Wilsher’s acclaimed wave sculpture, adding depth and texture to the room; it’s clear that in his design, Baholyodhin has transported the beauty and vibrancy of the Holy City of Benares into this sophisticated Mayfair restaurant.
This October, Benares has welcomed the return of Sameer Taneja as its executive chef. Launching new menus in both the main restaurant and the bar, Taneja’s new dishes will be showcased in an a la carte menu and a multi-course tasting menu with paired wines. Having previously worked at Benares from 2011 – 2015, Taneja says, “I am delighted to return and to put my humble yet progressive mark on the menu at a famed institution such as Benares and introduce our guests to new flavours and dishes”.
Feature image: James Byrne