My friend Danny took me to Gymkhana for lunch last Friday; my farewell lunch as I’m leaving my current day job. I’d heard of it, so was very excited to be going. It’s rated as one of the best restaurants in London, and honestly, bearing in mind there are so many good restaurants in London, I can’t disagree with the assessment.
The restaurant is in Albemarle Street, so in the posh part of town, and seats 100 diners. Having worked in the trade myself, I know that to get it right for that many people (although there weren’t quite that many when we went) but Gymkhana looks as though it will manage it.
The restaurant is inspired by the Gymkhana clubs set up in colonial India where the Brits would go to socialise, play sport and so on. The ground floor had lots of dark wood (very Victorian). We walked through this part of the restaurant to go downstairs to where we were going to eat. There was a mixture of architectural styles here but it all seemed to work pretty well: bare brick next to dark wood with a beautiful cream ceiling to add height and light. We were seated near to the street; there was a small window on the side with those tiny little square leaded panes that you see in older buildings in London. These ones had coloured glass, in keeping with the overall theme, which was a nice touch.
We had cocktails to start. Danny had Arrack Punch, a mixture of Ceylon Arrack, what I think was white wine, passion fruit and green tea, while I went with the less traditional Quinine Sour, which was gin and tonic with ginger and curry leaf. They were both delicious.
We chose from the tasting menu, which was absolutely fabulous. They brought a selection of breads to start (not what I would normally refer to a bread, I must say, more like crispbreads and papadoms, although they told us they all contained wheat or gluten), so they brought me a dish of nuts, I’m going to say raw peanuts, with little crisps that looked a bit like pretzels, only lighter in colour and much nicer.
The menu has changed since we went, and I honestly can’t remember the names of everything we ate (you’d have thought I’d have learned by now, wouldn’t you?) and I failed to note down the names of each course as we went through them. I can tell you we had chicken and fish and some paneer cheese too (I love that paneer, and it is so easy to make. Of course, it’s what you do with it after it’s been made that matters).
I’m not a big desert girl, but I had to try these. One was a rice pudding with mango, the other was some sort of creamy desert. They were both delicious, and there was too much here for Danny and me to finish (which is rare, we both like our food, so they must have been hefty portions).
Gymkhana is the work of Karam Sethi, a self-taught chef who received scores of ten by Times Food Critic Giles Coren Gymkhana was voted as number one in the National Restaurant Awards 2014, and it only opened in November 2013.
As well as a decent amount of seafood on the menu, there is also a dollop of game to be seen (Wild Boar Vindaloo and Wild Muntjac Biryani) so no shortage of variety. The menu is clearly marked with all the dishes that contain gluten, which makes life much easier for the likes of me, and makes me award the restaurant my own little star. I hope I get to go back really soon. Thank you Danny, great choice.
© Susan Shirley 2015