Benares executive chef Sameer Taneja has not followed the traditional route of other high-end Indian chefs. His early career saw him hone his skills in European cooking techniques, working in French restaurants including Alain Roux’s three-Michelin-starred restaurant The Waterside Inn, and with the legendary Pierre Koffmann.
Such grounding in classic French cooking before turning his attention to Indian cuisine has not only been the making of Taneja, but has breathed fresh life into Benares, which launched in 2007. Taneja first joined Benares in 2012 and led the kitchen for three years before leaving to pursue another venture. He re-joined the restaurant in 2019, his flair and produce-led vision leading it to quickly regain the star it lost after founder Atul Kochhar left.
There are a number of ways to eat at Benares, with a la carte, tasting and set menus all available. On the tasting a meal starts with refined versions of Indian street snacks followed by a trio of seafood dishes that could include the likes of baked Malabar scallops; and tawa masala halibut; with meat dishes coming after a fruit soda palate cleansing interval. Dishes display Taneja’s playful approach to cooking, a light touch of hand and a love for colourful plating.
Desserts at Benares are a must and are where Taneja’s training with some of France’s best chefs shines through the most. Here dishes such a mille-feuille and praline tart are given an Indian accent, reminding you just why Benares is still a restaurant of note a decade and a half on.