Gymkhana is a new Indian restaurant situated on Albemarle Street in Mayfair. It has embraced the Mayfair scene by the décor and the name being inspired by gentlemen’s clubs in India during the days of the Raj. They have certainly succeeded in the ‘clubby’ atmosphere; there is a lot of dark wood here, as well as some random taxidermy and old prints of cartoons etc.
Although in itself the concept looks interesting it was because of the owners that I was in a hurry to visit here. This is the second restaurant by Karam Sethi, who set up Trishna off Marylebone High Street a few years ago. I am a big fan of Trishna and have been there between 5 and 10 times; it is a restaurant that specialises in southern Indian seafood, itself influenced by a Mumbai restaurant of the same name. Gymkhana on the other hand, although featuring some seafood dishes and a couple directly from the Trishna menu, focuses more on meat and game.
The main restaurant is upstairs with a small bar, downstairs there are more tables and a larger bar. Usually I would say in these type of places that I was glad to be sat upstairs because of the natural light; however in this case the downstairs room seemed quite cosy and also we were sat right next to the open front door which was not ideal! We started things off with a cocktail; these apparently have been created by the people behind Purl, a cocktail bar where I have had a drink in the past, before crossing the street to have dinner in Trishna. They also have their own pale ale and a lager on tap, along with a decent wine list. The pale ale was good and served in a metal tankard, while a glass of off-dry Riesling went well with the food.
There are three tasting menus as well as the a la carte; these are a 7 course general one, a 7 course vegetarian one and a 5 course game option. Yes that’s right; a game tasting menu in an Indian restaurant, there was also a decent sized game selection on the a la carte. I have had game dishes at Trishna before and they have been excellent thus I was very tempted by the game menu, although this being my first visit in the end we decided to try a range of things from the a la carte instead.
To start we decided to share three starter sized dishes. Kid goat methi keema with salli and pao (£11.00) was served with a splice of lime, some raw red onion and two small brioche style buns (poa). This was a fantastically flavoured dish, quite nicely hot from the chilli but with the rich flavour of the meat shining though. The texture was very appealing with the fried bits adding crunch to the soft meat, it was also not as oily as versions I have had elsewhere.
Again a gilafi quail seekh kebab with pickled green chilli chutney (£12.00) was very well spiced and cooked to perfection. This was a top class dish; however, although the quail did work very well it was probably not quite as good as a really great lamb version. The green chilli chutney was well made and as always was a good complement to kebabs. Lasooni wild tiger prawns with red pepper chutney (£13.00) were very well marinated in a garlic and chilli based mix, these were actually pretty hot and dammed tasty. They were cooked perfectly, incredibly soft but still with bite and with a nice hint of smoke in them.
The question for us was: would the main courses be as good or would this be one of those places were the starters are the stars? The first main was a curry dish of suckling pig cheek vindaloo (£18.00), this was good- the meat was tasty and had a falling apart texture. The sauce had a nice tang which was to be expected from a more traditional Goan style vindaloo, although it was a touch too thin and oily for me. Tandoori guinea fowl breast, leg and green mango chat with mint coriander chutney (£20.00) was a very good dish. The breast was well marinated with lovely spices; again this was cooked perfectly; the leg side dish was also very good. Dal maharani (£7.00) was nicely favoured although this type of dal is a little thin for my tastes. Basmati rice (£4.00) and a bread basket (£5.00) were very good as well. We were stuffed and thus we did not even look at the dessert menu.
Overall this was a top meal; at least as good as Trishna if not better. I think it belongs in my top 10 favourite Indian restaurants in London if not into the top 5. Already I am thinking about a return visit, I may go for that game tasting menu next time… Be warned though, as with Trishna, this is not a cheap meal.
Also posted to Chowhound: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/919171