Restaurant review: Once you've dined at Gymkhana, you'll never pop out to your local curry house again

Gymkhana, 42 Albemarle Street, London W1

Since I'm not the first, second, or even third to review Gymkhana, I shan't describe its background in great detail; you can find my esteemed colleague John Walsh's words here. What I shall talk about is the food.

With a finite amount of words and a brisk editor, sometimes the actual dishes eaten get short shrift in a review, because the décor, service and so on need to be described. John, Fay, Jay and others have helped me out here.

Had a look now? Welcome back. So, in a pretty booth with acres of space, a marble-topped table and what I think is delightfully flattering lighting, I have a dinner of such sublime tastes and precise flavours, such elegant presentation and with such charming service that though I have one of the most exhilarating jobs in the country, I wish I still had my old one, as it was a 30-second walk from Gymkhana.

First a pale ale for Mr M and a G&T for me – all very Jewel in the Crown in, respectively, a silver tankard and a cut-glass tumbler. Then we begin. The Raj-era mood is offset with what are essentially street-food snacks. If you've ever scarfed down a metal bowl of bhel puri at Diwana on London's Drummond Street (I have an addiction to it), you'll recognise the potato chat with chickpeas, tamarind and sev. At £7, this is an haute version, but don't mistake that for dainty. It's hot and tangy and crunchy and messy, a swizzle of yoghurt giving a moment's calm. Alongside, a more elegant dish of Amritsari shrimp and queenies, with dill chutney (as it should be, for £11). The tiny scallops and plump shrimps are light, despite being fried in fiery garlic, ginger and chilli. The creamy chutney cools the palate.

The Gymkhana menu is exemplary of the fine line between comforting and imaginative. The chef Karam Sethi, of the well-loved Trishna, has allowed his imagination a freer rein here. A starter of kid-goat keema sounds very fine; the fact that you can add brains if you wish is – as far as I'm concerned – a challenge I'm not up for (similarly I ducked out of Glandstonbury, a feast of all things offal and unusual, at the excellent Draper's Arms pub recently). But I applaud its presence.

For me, the bravest I get among a menu with plenty of game is a wild muntjac biryani with pomegranate and mint raita (£25). This only works if you don't get all Bambi-ish about muntjac, but boy does it work for the rest of us. A large bowl is placed with great ceremony in the centre of the table, its flaky pastry domed top studded with nigella seeds just crying out to be smashed with a serving spoon. The marble-topped table is soon covered in flecks of crisp pastry, and we're spooning out perfect fluffy rice that is fragrant with spices, slivers of tender venison and muddling it with the pastry and that raita.

A note on pricing: this dish could easily feed two (we took home a doggy bag) but there is no indication of this on the menu, nor a kindly word from the waiter. So we also, ahem, have ordered chicken butter masala (£13.50), some tandoori broccoli (£7.50), coastal spiced okra (£8) and dal maharani (£7). I don't think we have done justice to the kebabs and tikkas section of the menu, but the pleasingly scorched broccoli drizzled with green-chilli raita is a start. The dal is dark and unctuous, but I daren't order any bread to mop it up, being close to exploding point.

So that's how we end up with a bill of £100 for two. As pointed out elsewhere, you could eat as much Indian food for half the price, but this is at least twice as good. I am thrilled to have eaten the chicken dish but my arteries won't thank me; I feel peculiar from the richness of the meal – perhaps the tasting menu next time, or the scandalously good-value three-course lunch for £25.

As you can tell, this is somewhere I am most keen to return to in any circumstances. There are at least 12 other dishes I am desperate to try – suckling-pig-cheek vindaloo, Goan bream, partridge pepper fry, for example. Getting a table is going to be the problem – my high score chimes with all the other critics. Book now for December and enjoy your local curry house before Gymkhana ruins it forever.


Gymkhana, 42 Albemarle Street, London W1, tel: 020 3011 5900. £100 for two, with drinks

Three more haute Anglo-Indians


With its colourful contemporary décor, the top-end cuisine at London's oldest Indian is often amazing.

99-101 Regent Street, London W1, tel: 020 7734 1401

Indian Cavalry Club

Since it moved premises a couple of years ago, this New Town Indian scores high on satisfaction.

22 Coates Crescent, Edinburgh, tel: 0131 220 0138

Chutney Mary

Incredibly subtle blends of spices contribute to the originality of this calm and relaxed Chelsea classic.

535 King's Road, London SW10, tel: 020 7351 3113

Reviews extracted from 'Harden's London and UK Restaurant Guides 2013'

Susan Sarandon described David Bowie as
peopleSusan Sarandon reveals more on her David Bowie romance
Arsenal supporters gather for a recent ‘fan party’ in New Jersey
sportDidier Drogba returns to Chelsea on one-year deal
Arts and Entertainment
The Secret Cinema performance of Back to the Future has been cancelled again
Life and Style
ebookA wonderful selection of salads, starters and mains featuring venison, grouse and other game
Life and Style
Balmain's autumn/winter 2014 campaign, shot by Mario Sorrenti and featuring Binx Walton, Cara Delevingne, Jourdan Dunn, Ysaunny Brito, Issa Lish and Kayla Scott
fashionHow Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film
filmFifty Shades of Grey trailer provokes moral outrage in US
BBC broadcaster and presenter Evan Davis, who will be taking over from Jeremy Paxman on Newsnight
peopleForget Paxman - what will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Life and Style
fashionCustomer complained about the visibly protruding ribs
The new dawn heralded by George Osborne has yet to rise
voicesJames Moore: As the Tories rub their hands together, the average voter will be asking why they're not getting a piece of the action
Dejan Lovren celebrates scoring for Southampton although the goal was later credited to Adam Lallana
newsComedy club forced to apologise as maggots eating a dead pigeon fall out of air-conditioning
Arts and Entertainment
Jo Brand says she's mellowed a lot
tvJo Brand says shows encourage people to laugh at the vulnerable
Life and Style
People may feel that they're procrastinating by watching TV in the evening
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Food & Drink

    C++ Software Engineer - Hounslow, West London - C++ - to £60K +

    £40000 - £60000 per annum + Pension, Healthcare : Deerfoot IT Resources Limite...

    VB.NET and C# developer (VB.NET,C#,ASP.NET)

    £30000 - £45000 per annum + Bonus+Benefits+Package: Harrington Starr: VB.NET a...

    Visitor Experience volunteer

    Unpaid voluntary role: Old Royal Naval College: To assist the Visitor Experien...

    Telesales Manager. Paddington, London

    £45-£55k OTE £75k : Charter Selection: Major London International Fashion and ...

    Day In a Page

    Evan Davis: The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing to take over at Newsnight

    The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing

    What will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
    Finding the names for America’s shame: What happens to the immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert?

    Finding the names for America’s shame

    The immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert
    Inside a church for Born Again Christians: Speaking to God in a Manchester multiplex

    Inside a church for Born Again Christians

    As Britain's Anglican church struggles to establish its modern identity, one branch of Christianity is booming
    Rihanna, Kim Kardashian and me: How Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

    Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

    Parisian couturier Pierre Balmain made his name dressing the mid-century jet set. Today, Olivier Rousteing – heir to the house Pierre built – is celebrating their 21st-century equivalents. The result? Nothing short of Balmania
    Cancer, cardiac arrest, HIV and homelessness - and he's only 39

    Incredible survival story of David Tovey

    Tovey went from cooking for the Queen to rifling through bins for his supper. His is a startling story of endurance against the odds – and of a social safety net failing at every turn
    Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

    Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

    The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

    Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

    Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
    German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

    Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

    Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
    BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

    BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

    The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
    Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

    Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

    Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
    How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

    Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

    Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
    Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

    Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

    Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
    10 best reed diffusers

    Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

    Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

    Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

    There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
    Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

    Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

    It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little