Michelin-starred chef Atul Kochhar, who will be hosting the Panoramic restaurant at this year’s Royal Ascot, held a tasting event at his London restaurant Benares
As chef patron of Benares, Atul Kochhar is a pioneer in Indian fine-dining in the capital. His modern style focuses on regional Indian dishes, expertly prepared with British ingredients. He demonstrated his unique approach to Indian cuisine, showcasing some of the signature dishes from Benares, while sharing his story on becoming the first Indian chef to gain a Michelin star.
Now firmly established as one of the UK’s best-known chefs, he makes regular television appearances on popular food programmes such as Saturday Kitchen, Masterchef and Great British Menu. In March 2013, he published his fourth book, Atul’s Curries of the World, which features a collection of more than 100 curry recipes from his native India, as well as from Asia, Africa, the Americas, Europe and even the UK.
Atul opened Benares following his success at Tamarind restaurant, where he was awarded his first Michelin star in 2001. He achieved the accolade for a second time when Benares earned its star in 2007.
Benares offers impressive dining facilities that can accommodate groups ranging from six to 30 guests. There is a Chef’s Table, designed for six people, with two glass walls that allow diners to watch the kitchen team at work preparing the food. Meanwhile, in the dramatic glass-walled cellar dining room, or Sommelier’s Table, guests are surrounded by many of the world’s finest and rarest wines. Separated from the main dining room by a fountain is the Benares bar, where visitors can relax on beautiful Indian furniture hidden between ornate, wooden partitions.
It is in this suitably exclusive environment that Atul welcomed guests to taste his Ascot menu. Due to his love of combining Indian and British cuisine, guests are presented with an array of never-before tasted flavour combinations that somehow work perfectly on the palette. All in all, a truly unique dining experience that’s a real treat.
You can tastes Atul’s beautifully designed hat-inspired dessert that he made to celebrate his partnership with Royal Ascot. A raspberry and white chocolate galette served with a brandy snap hat, vanilla and vodka quenelle (pictured above) with The Royal cocktail (Champagne with a Pimm’s foam) is on the menu at Benares, Mayfair from 9th to 22nd June.
Royal Ascot won’t be Atul’s first brush with royalty. He has had the privilege to cook for Prince Charles at St. James’s Palace as well as having been personally invited to meet Her Majesty The Queen during the President of India’s official visit. We caught up with Atul for some quick-fire questions on what to expect at Ascot.
What made you want to work with Royal Ascot?
It’s an event that is internationally renowned and very important in the British calendar – what’s not to love about a day at Royal Ascot?
What are you trying to achieve with your menu for Royal Ascot?
This is a special occasion and so I want people to feel that they’re having a really great meal, in great surroundings and that they are being looked after. That was the goal, and I think we’ve come up with something to reflect this.
What inspired your menu?
Royal Ascot is a British Institution, so I have gone for great British ingredients and used them in a simple way that shows off their flavour best.
What does fine dining mean to you?
It’s about feeling special, feeling like it’s a treat, and knowing that you’re experiencing something rare. It’s about it being an occasion!
What influences your style of cooking?
I love British ingredients married with Indian techniques and so I always try to stay true to that principle.
Tell us about your team?
I am incredibly lucky to be surrounded by great people at Benares, and they’re all desperate to be involved in this project, so there will be a collection of them visiting each day over the festival.
What’s it like working in your kitchen?
It’s calm, hard work, fun and hopefully very rewarding.
What’s next for you?
I never say never to opening a new restaurant – I have my eye on somewhere at the moment!
Are you a big fan of racing?
Indian culture and horses goes back a long way, so I feel like I’ve always known about horses and racing.
Will you be putting a bet on this year?
Of course, but I’m useless so I’ll be after some tips!
Sneak peek: the Panoramic Restaurant menu
British Onion Bhaji
Pan Fried Sea Bass with Ginger and Coconut Sauce
(V – South India Kofta)
Roasted Lamb Rump with Chickpeas Masala
(V – Tandoori Paneer & Peppers)
Bhapa Doi – East Indian Pudding with Yoghurt, Raspberries and Pistachio
British Cheese Platter
Hi – Chai
Selection of Teas
Green / Assam / Earl Grey / Silver Needle / Indian Masala Chai
Vegetable Samosa With Mint-Tamarind Chutney
Mango Chutney Sandwiches
Tandoori Chicken Sandwiches
Fennel Scones with Wild Berry Chutney
Royal Ascot is from 17th-21st June, book tickets for the Panoramic Restaurant here