Thursday 3 May 2007

notes from the sofa

Today feels like my first official day on leave; I'm home with the dog with nothing on the agenda other than a midwife appointment this afternoon. Astoundingly, I was showered and dressed before 9 this morning. Hoo yeah, I know how to live it up.

We went into London town on Tuesday to see Spamalot with work (to celebrate our many product releases), which was okay...mostly because it was free. I've seen "The Holy Grail" so many times I know the entire film verbatim, so scenes lifted directly from the film for the stage version didn't really fill me with laughter. The new scenes weren't that hilarious either, although I did snort out loud a couple of times during the (more enjoyable) second act. What was nice was being in London and catching up with workmates from both offices. Our product release celebrations tend to be limited to drinking venues, and also tend to coincide with me being pregnant or breastfeeding. This event I could enjoy.

After the play, we went to a restaurant called Benares. As you all know, we're suckers for "celebrity chef" restaurants and this one fit the bill. Atul Kochhar was the first Indian chef to receive a Michelin star a few years ago and has since opened up Benares where he has received another Michelin star. He is currently on the second series of "Great British Menu" on BBC2, which is the programme that introduced him to us last year. We decided to take advantage of our time in London (probably our last before the baby comes) and have a posh Indian meal to end our day.

Benares is located on Berkeley Square in the Mayfair district. A short walk up a stone staircase leads to the bar, decorated in dark wood with rectangular ponds filled with exotic flowers. The restaurant area is to the right, neutrally decorated in white walls and dark wood, with a sense of cosiness despite the stark decor. I had a soft shell crab and squid salad to start, while Paul had a plate of salt cured salmon. I can't vouch for Paul's salmon (there was some talk that he deliberately chose something I couldn't eat), but my salad was divine. Although it's slightly unnerving to shove an entire crab into my mouth, legs and all, it was tender and sweet. Both the crab and the squid rings were coated in a light spicy batter and served with a sweet papaya dressing. It was a beautiful combination of hot and sweet. For our main course, I had monkfish with a ginger and coriander sauce, and Paul had tandoori prawns that were the size of a Rolex. Both dishes were perfectly cooked and spiced, only needing one portion of delicately flavoured rice between us to complete the meal. For dessert, we both opted for banana-filled crepes in a cinnamon chocolate sauce.

We were more than pleased with our food and the quality of the service, however service was too attentive, if there is such a thing. As soon as one sip of water was taken, someone was there to top up the glass. During the entire meal, I could see wait staff bobbing around the corner checking our table to see if I needed my napkin refolded (I'm not exaggerating - they did this while I was in the bathroom at one point) and to clear away our plates the moment the last forkful touched my lips. I found it very distracting and the interruptions created several pauses in our conversation as we politely smiled and thanked our sixth waitperson (again, I'm not exaggerating) for refilling our water for the twentieth time. Our only other complaint would be the cost - that was the priciest curry we've ever had in our lives, and we're not convinced it was warranted. Starters were in the £13 range and mains were £16 (for the veggie options) to £38, and considering the portion sizes, we didn't really get a whole lot for our £120 final bill. I'm glad we went and we had a fantastic evening, but I can't say I'd want to go back again.

Well, maybe if someone else is paying.

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