With a Michelin star already to his name for Trishna – his seafood focussed Indian restaurant in Marylebone – Karam Sethi’s exciting new venture takes its inspiration from Colonial Indian ‘gymkhana’ social clubs set up by the British Raj.
Renowned for their excellent tandoori and sense of conviviality, Gymkhana is designed to revive this dining culture in the heart of Mayfair. The time/location warp starts as soon as you walk through the doors from corporate Mayfair into an interior filled with references to the British Raj India.
Design features include ceiling fans that hang from a dark-lacquered oak ceiling (albeit without the endearing clickety-clackety whirring sound of the Indian originals), cut glass wall lamps from Jaipur and hunting trophies from the Maharaja of Jodhpur. Seating comprises of oak booths with marble tables and rattan chairs. Alternatively, the lower ground floor area offers a modern day interpretation of a 17th Century East India punch house, complete with an aged brass bar at its heart.
So all pretty impressive so far, but proving there is some serious substance behind the style is an array of dishes that will have you doing a little jig under the table with every bite! Forget the naff ‘contemporary approach’ that so many new Indian restaurants continue assault and bore our taste buds with; Gymkhana genuinely serves the kind of exquisite traditional Indian food that really would have been served to the upper echelons of society during the days of the Raj. Diners can expect a menu filled with interesting game meat and tandoori dishes. Comprised of snacks, grills, biryanis and curries, we weren’t shy in ordering a variety of dishes to put the kitchen team through their paces.
One of our acids tests of an Indian restaurant that claims to provide authentic food is the Biryani and Gymkhana’s attempt provides a taste of culinary perfection. Slow cooked so that the delicate spicing works its way into each and every grain of rice, the dish is available either with melting morsels of Muntjac deer or Kid goat and tells us everything we need to know about the skill in kitchen.
Other highlights included a Venison Keema Naan that got the mouth-watering with its fiery spicing, flaky buttery texture and meaty filling; Crab with butter, pepper & garlic that juxtaposed some wonderful spicing and richness against the sweet crab meat; and a Paper Dosa served with rich chunks of perfectly cooked Chettinad duck & a cooling coconut sambal.
If the food wasn’t special enough, renowned drinks consultancy Fluid Movement has added to the experience with one of London’s most exciting cocktail lists. Expect signature punches derived from old recipes including the Regent’s Punch, containing arrack, cognac and Assam tea, served with a nutmeg, grater and Champagne for dilution; a large collection of gin cocktails including the Ooty Town Gimlet, made with Old Raj Export Gin and crystalized rose petals; and more curious creations such as the Flutterby Lassi with Butterfly Boston absinthe, cucumber and dill.
Cuisine style: Indian
Dinner for two (excluding drinks): £90
42 Albemarle Street