Thursday, October 02, 2008

A Hollywood A-list curry.

Since the 18 year old and I hadn't been out for a couple of weeks I thought we'd sidestep the caff and chips and kick off at Benares, the Indian in Berkeley Square, which is about as closely associated to "going for a curry" as your local Chinese takeaway is to a full on Banquet at the Imperial Palace in Beijing.
We worked out we'd been there together before, on opening night actually, which was quite a long time ago, but still have the photo to prove it. I was informed by the 18 year old that the passion fruit Martini was excellent, which is a bit of a worry really. Not because I'm concerned about an Indian Restaurant's capabilities in the martini making departments, but the fact that an 18 year old knows the diffference between a good and bad one.

There's going to be a bit of eulogising here, so if you're not in the mood go and get a dose of schadenfreude by reading about bankers losing their jobs. Any newspaper will do. Then come back when you're feeling better and the italics have stopped.

Each of the courses served at Benares certainly sounds Indian, but when it arrives it certainly doesn't look it. John Dory in Gram Flour Batter was served with mushy peas in delicate little mouth (or mouse) sized portions. Curry leaf and Tarragon infused Lobster Rillet arrived in a shot glass and was accompanied by a glass of Qupe' Roussanne - a stunningly rich, aromatic white from California's Central Coast. And Khorma Chicken on Masala Basmati was like nothing I've ever eaten - in the looks or the taste departments.

Unusually the climax was pudding, and it wasn't Gulab Jamin, with accompanying wines. What looked like a trifle, but was in fact Star anise poached Rhubard, Yoghurt Foam and nuts was paired with a South African straw wine from De Trafford in the Stellenbosch, all marzipan and apricots, but which was then superceded (along with a Five Spiced Chocolate Brownie served with tarragon), by a golden stickie of such sweetness and depth, fruit, spice and honey all jostling for attention, I very nearly asked for a second glass. It was a Cuvee Saint Clement, Cabidos petit manseng 2004, of which I have never heard before, from somewhere near the Pyrenees I will make it my business to visit one day.

Doesn't really sound much like a curry, does it? (see what you missed by reading about bad things?). Take a tip from me. Don't ask for a beer when you walk in here.

The 18 year old was now feeling like another passion fruit Martini so we repaired for a chat and a final drink to Claridge's, where else when one has been for a curry? The bar was heaving with people who'd clearly not been for a curry that night but drinking mightily at some glitzy event deep inside London's tiptop hotel so we found a quiet seat in the other bar beside two young ladies of the most extraordinary beauty wearing small black cocktail dresses and sipping, well, cocktails who seemed very interested in me for some reason. They kept getting up, turnabout, to go powder their nose, or just shimmy across the lobby, much to the attendant interest of every male in the building, and their consequent delight. They seemed a very lively pair. Posh too.

I was about to engage either one of them in conversation, or both even, but the 18 year old wagged a finger, and warned me off, with one of those knowing looks.

Anyway, the 18 year old was more interested in what was going on elsewhere, trying to earwig unsuccessfully on a conversation at another table, rather rudely ignoring the shopping list of incidents that had occurred in my life that day, maintaining that staring-over-your-shoulder-at-someone-more-interesting-look so popular in the Groucho Club in 1995, and even ignoring the constant vibrating and flashing of the iPhone from other 18 year olds enjoying themselves in various clubs around town. This must be important I thought, if the phone's being ignored too, so I used the excuse of some hilarity from the table, I don't know what, to turn around in a disinterested manner and see what could possibly be more interesting than the excitement of my day.

It turned out to be three movie producers, (Boring!) one of whom was Harvey Weinstein, (er, not quite so boring) almost a fixture in Claridge's sometimes, and various other people such as Johnny Depp's girlfriend, (not boring at all) top popster Fergie (ooh, exciting) and, er, Kate Hudson (off the richter). I thereupon stopped trying to attract the attention of the 18 year old, resigned to having arrived somewhere out my depth, and began to consider what a quick mobile phone snap would be worth to Heat magazine. A lifetime ban from Claridges didn't seem quite such a high price to pay, but it was dark. And I'm chicken anyway.

After enough A-list gossip to last a week (does gossip last that long now?) we left and to the chagrin of the sleepy looking posse of paps outside who wanted to know if (a) they were still inside and (b) what they were talking about, we rather expertly pretended not to know the answer to (b) but said yes to (a).

Sorry Kate, but we'd been for a curry you see, and I was feeling a bit leery. A bit woo. A bit wah.
As you do.

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