Wednesday, 10 March 2010

Benares at the Putney pop-up restaurant for Haiti

Roll up! Roll up! For one night only (well actually two) Benares at the Putney pop-up restaurant in aid of Haiti.

Yay! I managed to get a booking. And yay! It was actually as good as I'd hoped it would be! Atul Kochhar's Michelin-starred Indian restaurant is one i've been wanting to go to for a long time. I feel like i have a personal relationship with Atul, who has appeared in my life in various places (is it meant to be?!). I first saw him on Great British Menu (which I hope they're going to make another series of as it's one of the foodie highlights of my year...sad, I know!), then when i was doing my cooking diploma at Leith's, he came in for in a cooking demonstration, where he made the most incredible tandoori chicken, and then I saw him at Taste of London where I mentioned I had seen him at Leiths and he gave me a wink and slipped me a lamb chop!

So, first up was an amuse bouche of onion fritter with tamarind sauce (really a mini onion bhaji). It doesn't look very attractive in this photo as I think the camera flash picked up on every dust fleck on the plate, but it was tasty, if a little oily.
For my starter I had soft shell crab which was very simply presented but delicious, moist and light. The scrumptious sauce tasted slightly lemongrassy to me but I'm not sure exactly what it was as it wasn't mentioned on the menu. It would've been nice to have a bit more detail on the menu, to be honest.
My sister had the pan fried potato cakes with tomato chutney which, again were tasty but a little greasy for me.

Mains were the real star of the show. My seabass with coconut stew (the closest dish in the following photo) was incredible and had the flavour of my favourite spice (or herb?) in the world...curry leaves. At the back you can see my sister's 'lamb rump with chick peas' (not a very enticing description on the menu!) which came with the most delicious bright green sauce underneath the chickpeas. I think it was green chillies, whizzed up with mint and coriander...the tastiest thing of the whole evening! What a kick! But a perfectly balanced kick that doesn't linger too long.
The sides of 'potato and spinach', naan bread and especially the 'back lentil specialty' (presumably 'black lentil'?) were also fantastic and packed with flavour.
Finally, my dessert was pisctachio and mango kulfi (Indian ice-cream) which you can see in the foreground. A nice refreshing end to the meal.

A touch of glamour in Putney!
(£60 for 3 courses, £10 corkage, though I think we were the only ones that did BYO!)

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