by Daisy Christie
QH pays a visit to London’s trendiest modern Indian restaurant, the Michelin-starred Gymkhana in Mayfair
I dare someone to walk into UK Restaurant of the Year Gymkhana - the second venture from Karam Sethi (of Trishna London) - and not be transported to colonial India. Evocative of the East Indian punch houses from the days of the British Raj - albeit with a contemporary twist - the décor features slatted oak wood panelling, high ceiling fans, cut glass wall lamps from Jaipur and a grand aged brass bar which runs along the back of the restaurant.
The talented Andrija Klajic oversees the bar, which specialises in classic Indian punches, cocktails mixed with a subtle blend of spices and spirits and lassi 'mocktails', as well as offering an impressive selection of premium Absinthe and Arrak, lagers and Indian Pale Ale. That's not forgetting the extensive wine list devised by Head Sommelier Sunaina Sethi, which you can tell has been put together with meticulous attention to the food on offer.
I selected a G&T from the standalone 'Gin and Tonic' list, but my dining partner Mr. QH went for something altogether more adventurous choosing the absinthe lassi 'Flutterby' cocktail made from a cool and refreshing mix of Butterfly Boston Absinthe-infused lassi, cucumber, dill, lime juice and yoghurt.
The food at Gymkhana should come with the IHOP (International House of Pancakes) warning: 'come hungry, leave happy'. Diners to the left and right of us embarked on the Himalayan expedition, more commonly referred to as the six-course tasting menu (priced at £60 per person, £105 with wine pairing), but we knew better...at least we thought we did!
From the 'Nashta', we shared a bowl of minced Kid Goat Methi Keema with nuggets of brain scattered on the top and a soft 'Pao' bun to mop up the sauce. Take Jay Rayner's advice - scrap that, take my advice - pay the £3 supplement for the brain. It is soft, rich and utterly indulgent.
Mains are broken down into kebabs & tikkas, game & chops and curry & biryani. We chose the Lasooni Wild Tiger Prawns. Grilled to perfection on the restaurant's sigri charcoal grill, these fiery prawns are balanced with a red pepper chutney.
Another highlight was the Wild Muntjac Biryani with a pomegranate and mint raita. The presentation is a spectacle in itself; served in a large bowl beneath a flaky pastry dome, which you tap open with a serving spoon to reach the fluffy rice and gloriously tender spiced venison inside.
The stand-out for Mr. QH was the Dorset Brown Crab with butter, garlic and black pepper. Almost French in execution, this bowl of molten, garlicky deliciousness tastes like it shouldn’t be good for you...and it isn’t. We ordered a side of venison-filled naan to scoop up every last bit of it!
In the Gymkhana battle of QH vs. Food, food was victorious in the end! It's hard to disagree with my fellow critics, Gymkhana really is one of the best Indian restaurants in London - actually, I revise that - it is one of the best restaurants in London full-stop. Next time, I will try and leave enough room for dessert, as the Saffron Pistachio Kulfi Falooda that I spied on the neighbouring table did look very good.
Gymkhana, 42 Albemarle St, W1S 4JH
Approx. price for two: £120
QH RESTAURANT REVIEW: Gymkhana, London W1
3 November 2014