Benares and mother’s day vouchers

A free day. It was a shame to waste it. I haven’t managed to use my mother’s day treat voucher yet. It’s been burning a hole in my pocket since March. A trip to Bletchley Park for two with afternoon tea. The site where the enigma machine was located and where Doreen used to work during the second world war. It’s situated in Milton Keynes and I can’t seem to find a suitable time to book it and now time is running out. I exchange the voucher for a restaurant deal.

‘Benares’, a Michelin starred Indian restaurant in the heart of London. Luckily they had spaces to accommodate us today. It’s a short walk from Bond Street station. A road we’ve never taken. Art galleries and designer shops line the street. This reflects on the clientele as well. I check them out as we walk past. How do the ladies look so immaculate? Everyone looks so chic. Does this come natural to them or do they have to work on it?

Soon we reach the restaurant. We are a bit early but the receptionist greets us with a ‘namaste’ and takes us to our table. I look around. Friends and families catching up on the latest news, intermingled with business lunches. The waiter asks me what water I would like “still or sparkling?”. “Tap”, there was a time when I would have been embarrassed and paid silly money for a bottle of mineral water, but not anymore.

We order our three course menu. The champagne cocktail is included, and we get a bottle of Chilean white to accompany the meal. My octopus starter is delicious. I put my glasses on to have a proper look. These dishes are all about the presentations as much as their taste. It is a work of art on the plate. Next is my main meal. Fish in Allepey sauce. I smile as the waiter describes my meal and take in a deep breath. The familiar aroma of spices. He asks me if we are Indian. I tell him that we come from a place not far from Allepey. There are no malayalee chefs here he tells us. There is nothing Allepey about the dish apart from the curry leaves and the spicy aroma but the fish melts in my mouth and the sauce is more sweet than spicy. It has been adapted to suit the western palate but is still delicious. The butter Nan and lentil curry are equally scrumptious. This is followed by my dessert. Something I’ve never heard off before. The waiter describes it, but I do not understand what he is saying apart from the fact that it is some frozen sweet. I have a nibble and exchange it for Murali’s flourless chocolate cake.

Murali tells me that ‘Pinarayi’, the chief minister, has gone to America for his surgery. A surgery that Sandy and I used to do before it was taken away from us and passed onto one of the London teaching Hospitals. Sandy tells me the other week that we were the best in the country for certain aspects of the intra and postoperative care. That’s what the national audit data showed. It’s all too late now as we’ve lost the contract. He wants me to get the information and add it to my appraisal. I cannot see any point in this. Recently as I was doing my high risk preassessment clinic, a couple of my old patients, who were waiting for other appointments recognised me and came to thank me. One of those days I was going through a mentally rough experience and the lady’s gesture made a huge difference. We are the unseen doctors who care for these patients while they sleep. Somebody who is just there to help facilitate the surgery. That is how patients perceive us. If everything goes well the surgeon takes credit, if not they remember us. On the odd occasion when we receive such praise it does lift our spirits.

The waiter comes with the bill and asks us if we’ve enjoyed the experience. We also get a cook book written by their chef, Atul Kochaar. It is very unlikely that I will be able to conjure up anything like what I’ve eaten today, but maybe one day when I have the time I will give it a try.

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