Gymkhana is the perfect Indian restaurant. There, I’ve said it.
In the eyes of my fellow Brits, for whom curry is the adopted son of our native cuisine, such a statement will draw sharp intakes of breath but I’m nailing my colours to the mast right here. Shoot me.
Inspired by the members’ clubs of Colonial India, the dining room is clad in dark woods, marble tabletops and vintage photographs of sports teams. It’s a subtle, brooding space where everything from Jaipur wall lamps to original hunting trophies are used not as props but as an integral part of an enthralling and ‘authentic’ journey to south Asia.
This, as you might have gathered, is not your average Indian.
It’s the astonishing food, however, where patron-chef Karam Sethi – one third of the Sethi family restaurant dynasty that has given us Bubbledogs, Bao, Trishna, Lyles – achieves total equilibrium.
Dish after beguiling dish delivers a one-two punch of exotic spice and chilli heat: kid goat methi keema is a smokey, rich mince curry to be ceremoniously loaded onto mini brioche sliders with a little raw red onion and bheja (goat brain – it’s a must); huge Tulsi scallops are slathered in a fiery basil paste and accompanied by an inspired masala artichoke; and wild boar vindaloo reinvents the curry house classic with a headier sauce that is thankfully less sadistically hot.
Elsewhere, the likes of guinea fowl, partridge, and roe deer all feature on a menu that is uniquely game heavy – and all the better for it. The best of the bunch has to be the wild muntjac biryani, with its glorious pastry domed presentation: it’s the most luxurious, delightfully aromatic rice dish you’re likely to find anywhere. Sorry, Bambi.
There’s an unfortunate and widespread opinion that good Indian food simply makes fine fodder for excess lager consumption: at Gymkhana, this backward view is put to bed in the most definitive way possible.
This is brilliant, haute Indian cuisine – and in the upper echelons of what you can find anywhere in London right now.
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42 Albemarle St, London W1S 4JH; gymkhanalondon.com