For years, Gymkhana has been recognised as not only one of the best Indian restaurants in London but one of the best restaurants, period. The place has all the trimmings: a Michelin star, a Mayfair postcode, a five-course, three-figure tasting menu (and that’s without the paired wines).
And now Gymkhana has another signifier of its considerable culinary status: its own private bar, 42. It’s situated directly upstairs for anybody who fancies a pre-dinner sharpener or a relaxed digestif.
As you would expect, 42 is a seriously beautiful space. Indeed, it’s more of a cocktail lounge than a bar, evoking the clubs of Delhi in its silk rugs, plush sofas and rich mahogany furniture. The place purrs with an understated opulence, if that isn’t an oxymoron.
Artwork abounds, most strikingly in the vast painting of a panther and a tray of whisky that dominates the main room. Maybe that’s where the purring comes from. You’ll be purring too once you’ve tried the drinks.
What to order?
There’s a mixture of house and classic cocktails – the former inspired by the flavours of India. As any gambler will tell you, the house always wins. There are some highly creative serves on offer here – such as the Bagheera, which is made from Lost Explorer espadin, Chaprah weaver ant chutney, lime juice and banasura peppercorn. The ice cube is engraved with a panther silhouette, a very cool touch.
Moose Wala (Tapatio Blanco tequila, coriander seed, sparkling grapefruit Juice, citrus ‘char’) carries a real zing and will certainly wake you up from any postprandial drowsiness. Follow it up with a Penicillin (Johnny Walker Gold Label, Peat Monster, Lemon and Ginger Juice), which is lovely, light and citrus. Just the medicine if you’re planning an evening on the town.
I’m pleased to report that Cokagne (Thums Up Sobert, Cherry Liquor, Pol Roger) is pronounced exactly the way you're hoping. It tastes very like a Kopparberg – and while Kopparberg is a fine drink, there are more interesting options on the table. Very moreish though.
Speaking of interesting, may I introduce you to Mr Ilyas (Macallan 12, peanut butter, coconut, black truffle)? Peanut and truffle is a strange old combination but one that works wonderfully well – this is a phenomenal cocktail, complex and creative.
There are a couple of very tasty Indian bar snacks but if you want a proper feeding, you’ll have to head downstairs to one of the capital’s great restaurants. Poor you.
What’s the damage?
Nothing about 42 looks cheap, including the prices. Classic cocktails are £20, house cocktails range from £19 to £25.
Feeling sophisticated (and rich)? Try one of the Old & Rare Spirits – the 1942 OId Fitzgerald Bourbon will set you back £650. For God’s sake, don’t use a mixer.
Anything else to note?
The name 42 isn’t a Douglas Adams reference, alas – Gymkhana is housed at 42 Albemarle Street. But then you won't find the meaning of life at the bottom of a glass, however delicious the cocktail housed within it.
View on Instagram
42 Albemarle Street, London, W1S 4JH; Gymkhana