A lot has been said and written about the Michelin starred Gymkhana in Mayfair. Naturally, there was only one place to head when a chance of a child-free night arose. That and the fact we’d already failed twice to nab a weekend booking. It’s the second restaurant from the team behind Trishna in Marylebone. Karim Sethi has more than proved he is no ordinary chef with his first endeavour, so high hopes were placed on this evening.
Walking through the doors you are transported to the high-society sports clubs (gymkhanas) of the British Raj. Think dark wood panelling, chocolate leather banquettes, rattan backed chairs, marble tables and fans hung from shiny lacquered wood ceilings. While the walls are adorned with vintage photos reminiscent of the colonial days, cut glass Jaipur lamps and hunting trophies from the Maharaja of Jodhpur (well I never!) all add to the ambience.
We started with an apéritif. Gymkhana has a fantastic selection of cocktails and my eyes nearly popped out of my head with the extensive, delicious sounding gin menu. I finally decided on the Haymans Old Tom – Ginger gets me every time.
The menu is divided in to several sections – Gymkhana Bar (snacks), Nashta (small plates), Kebabs & Tikkas, Game & Chops (who’s ever seen game on an Indian menu? Well you have now!), Curry & Biriyani and Sabzi (vegetables)
We went Indian tapas style for the starters and ordered a range of dishes. From the Gymkhana Bar the masala peanut and lotus root chat (£4), deliciously moreish.
Gol guppa’s (£5) – pastry casings loaded with spicy potato and lentils then drowned from a hole in the top with a kick-ass green chutney. Popped whole in your mouth it’s an explosion of tangy, refreshing, crunchy joy.
From the Nashta menu we opted for aloo tikki chat with masala channa, tamarind and sev (£10). Flavoured perfectly with the right levels of heat from the spices, tang with the tamarind and yoghurt coolness.
And you can’t have Indian starters without the infamous samosa (£7). Punjabi in style filled with yummy potato and peas.
Eyes were definitely bigger than our bellies when we ordered mains. Even the waiter had to stop us and say ‘yes, I think you have enough’. First up was the paneer tikka, cashew nut with corn chat (£10). Large juicy chunks of paneer straight from the tandoor. It came with the most delicious green chutney oozing from the middle topped with a crunchy textured cashew nut and corn chat
The lasooni wild tiger prawns (£18) basically laced in garlic and accompanied with red pepper chutney. Mr S found it succulent and flavoursome.
The malai morels with achar and truffles (£16) totally blew my mind. Never have I eaten a curry dish with truffles and never in a million years did I think it would work. How wrong I was! These small juicy mushroom morsels danced a merry jig in my mouth and left me craving for more.
And there’s more…We were hungry alright…
The wild muntjac biryani with pomegranate and mint raita (£30). That’s spicy ‘Bambi’ rice to the vegetarians and non-frequent deer eaters out there. Who knew? I learnt something new that evening. By the way my sister-in-law polished it off I can only conclude it was delicious.
The dish of the evening for me was the paneer kalimirch (£16) made with black peppers. The perfectly cooked paneer was swimming in the most delightful of sauces. The thought of it now has my mouth salivating.
Everything was mopped up with steamed basmati rice and soft buttery nan bread.
Once the spice fest was over, we still had room for dessert. Yes. Busted. We eat a lot.
While waiting for desserts to arrive, I did my usual. Made friends with the bartender. Who shook up an amazing espresso martini.
It went down a treat with my ras malai accompanied with tandoori pear chutney (£7).
I can see why everyone raves about Gymkhana. Along with its heritage interiors and delicious food, the staff win top marks too. We were never hurried through our meal, which can be a problem at popular restaurants in London nowadays (due to table turnaround). We were left chatting away and were in fact the last ones to leave.
And who ends a lovely review with a shot of the karzi. That would be me! Have you ever seen a more beautiful looking cistern. I thought not. Just another example of the attention to detail from this restaurant (and the fact that I take my camera everywhere!).
There’s no denying that some of the prices are slightly eye-watering – ahem…£30 biriyani! But then you are sat in the middle of Mayfair in a fine dining restaurant. It’s not your average Indian, which is evident from the unusual and finely executed dishes.
Gymkhana this was my first visit and you’ve made sure that it certainly won’t be my last.
Are you a spice fiend like me? What’s your favourite curry dish? Let me know in the comments box below.
Gymkhana | 42 Albermarle Street | London | W1S 4JH
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