London: Gymkhana is my new number 1 for posh Indian, sorry Amaya (now no. 2). Having come from a background of top Indian home cooking, I am rather hard to please on the curry house front. This venture is by the people behind seafood Indian Trishna in Marylebone, so expectations are high. There is an old colonial India theme to the restaurant, however this is done elegantly with alluring dark wood booths, slowly rotating old ceiling fans, black and white photos of men with curly moustaches and a 1920s playlist. This place attracts the well heeled ,partly due to the location in Mayfair central but also the avid foodies. The reviews across the board have been ridiculously good. Service is helpful and unobtrusive. Time for the food, this was a spicy heavenly feast laden for the Indian gods. There is an art to presenting a curry well but Gymkhana has cracked it with immaculate, appealing dishes presented in novel ways, even Michel Roux would be impressed. To start with, the goat keema had a depth of rich meaty chilli flavour and was accompanied by little white buns to mop the residue . Chicken wings were not really wings, more little yummy chicken lollipops. Then came the crispy light dosa cone hiding a delicious duck curry. Tandoor guinea fowl was a beautiful breast of tandoori chargrilled white meat. We ordered it twice. Could this get any better ? yes, then came the 3 plump pan fried spicy wild tiger prawns with an unctuous red pepper chutney. I had to order an old school vindaloo but this was no ordinary vindaloo, rather a fiery suckling pig condensed into a dark velvety explosive curry. Sides were not just bland sides, the aubergine was a sweet rich accompaniment. Okay, I know I sound like a Marks and Spencers food advert but this is how it felt. This was a feast for the eyes and the robust belly. There were also a number of other gamey numbers such a partridge pepper fry, pheasant, deer, maybe next time. The only negative is that portions are a little meagre for the big price tag per dish, but it just means you have more room to taste more… I know when a place is a winner, when the very next day I have to book it again, to keep my spicy Indian frenzy hunger at bay. PS tables are hard to get, but go midweek for Indian game, why not indulge?
© Jonathan Perugia
Time Out rating:
Time Out says
Posted: Tue Sep 24 2013
Patron-chef Karam Sethi has added a new venture to his line-up of Trishna (a suavely modern Indian restaurant in Marylebone) and Bubbledogs (Charlotte Street’s hot-dogs and fizz trendster). Gymkhana has the look and feel of an Indian colonial club with its retro ceiling fans, marble table-tops, and yesteryear photos of polo and cricket team triumphs.
Bar staff theatrically deliver Indian punches in sealed medicine bottles, accompanied by ice-filled silvery goblets. Bombay punch, a blend of arrack (rice spirit), butterscotch-like palm sugar and fragrant Darjeeling tea, is deceptively smooth and even comes with its own miniature nutmeg grater for a spot of DIY spice action.
Sethi lays on a splendid spread of modern Indian dishes based on regional masalas and marinades. Fried South Indian chicken wings, steeped in wispy gram-flour and chilli batter, pack a fiery kick, and make a tempting opener for dinner. The cutlery was redundant – even in a posh restaurant, chicken wings should forever remain finger food.
Goan pork vindaloo – slow-cooked chunks of suckling pig cheek, with vinegary red chilli-garlic masala, spiced with sweet cinnamon and pounded coriander – was outstanding.
Game lovers are well looked after with a separate menu dedicated to the likes of muntjac biriani, fried peppered partridge, and roe deer cooked with pickling spices. Tandoori-seared guinea fowl breast boasted a mellow mustardy smokiness enhanced by toasted sesame seeds – making a tasty contrast to herby potato straws tossed with tongue-tingling chopped green mangoes.
Less impressive were the Kerala-style mussels, which were let down by a cloyingly thick coconut cream masala. Although astutely seasoned with turmeric, curry leaves and popped mustard seeds, the sauce called for a lighter finish.
The ground-floor dining area is gloomy, an impression not helped by the dark-wood panelling, bottle-green leather banquettes and partitioned booths. It’s a sight more lively in the main bar downstairs where some additional dining tables are located. On our visit, the banter of well-heeled Mayfair office types unwinding at the end of the day brought welcome warmth.
The service team are clad in black but dressed for the occasion and up for a cosy chat. Unlike Gymkhana clubs in India, there’s no dress code here, but have-a-go Bollywood heroes would do well to leave their sequins and sparkles at home.
Reviewed by Roopa Gulati
Gymkhana 42 Albemarle Street
- Venue phone:
020 3011 5900
- Venue website:
- Opening hours:
Bar Open noon-1am Mon-Sat. Restaurant Lunch served noon-2.45pm, dinner served 5.30-10.30pm Mon-Sat
Tube: Green Park tube
Main courses £10-£25. Tasting menu £55. Meal for two with drinks and service: around £100
- 42 Albemarle Street
- 020 3011 5900
- 42 Albemarle Street