Atul Kochhar invites top chefs to cook with him at his Mayfair bar
Famed for his imaginative take on northern Indian cuisine, chef Atul Kochhar, has opened his kitchen doors and invited different chefs to join him for a week, on a monthly basis. The two aim to work together to create a menu of small plates that combine Kochhar’s layers of flavours and spices and his guest chef’s signature style.
Diners may choose from a fusion menu of nine dishes designed to share. A wooden tray with three tapas-sized bowls costs £21 per person. Three dishes are by Kochhar and six are by his guest.
The chefs inspire and learn from each other, while offering diners an opportunity to taste a number of dishes by some of Britain’s best chefs, all at a reasonable price considering the quality of the food.
Kochhar at the helm have twice been awarded Michelin stars: first Tamarind in 2001, then Benares in 2007.
For November’s collaborative event, Kochhar, joined by Welshman Bryn Williams of Odette’s in Primrose Hill. Williams’ six dishes included an excellent, earthy mutton and swede pie, just the thing for supper on a wintry evening, with a real flavour of home cooking.
Also on the menu, fresh-tasting smoked eel with beets and horseradish, seared scallops, confit chicken wings and Jerusalem artichoke, a light, fantastic crayfish lasagne with a squid dressing and braised pork cheeks with ginger carrots. The pork had been marinated for 24 hours and slow-cooked for four more to transform a cheap cut into a seriously intense dish.
Kochhar’s three plates were a perfectly cooked fennel lamb chop with pickles and salad, a delicious stuffed spinach patty with a great tamarind chutney, plus apricot and yoghurt and stuffed tandoori potatoes with mint chutney. Pudding consisted of Williams’ warm, baby-soft rice pudding with prunes and caramelised walnuts.
All this was accompanied by Williams’ smile-inducing whisky sour, made with Penderyn, an award-winning whisky distilled at the foothills of the Brecon Beacons, followed by Benares’ tea cocktail, made with the restaurant’s own blend of masala chai (a mix of cardamom, cloves, cinnamon, Assam tea and sugar). The latter was brewed for about eight minutes before vodka was added and it was served shaken over ice in a martini glass.
“I loved creating this menu with Atul,” says Williams. “We met on Great British Menu [a TV show] in 2006 and have been friends ever since. The chef season at Benares Bar is a great way to share each other’s skills, time and efforts.”
To find out who might be teaming up with Kochhar this year, keep an eye on Benares’ website. Whoever the chef chooses is sure to inspire. Past culinary talents have included Anna Hansen of The Modern Pantry, Richard Corrigan of Corrigan’s, David Thompson of Nahm, José Pizarro of José and Pizarro, and MasterChef winners Dhruv Baker and Shelina Permalloo.
In the meantime, enjoy Kochhar’s cooking at Odette’s supper club for a separate one-off stint set to take place in 2013 (this hot culinary date is yet to be confirmed although may be posted on Odette’s website).
“We are looking forward for Atul to come to Odette’s,” Williams said. “When he does, all the dishes will be by him and I’ll just be standing back, watching and learning.”
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