What’s the secret to Indian cooking? The REAL secret. However many times you try and recreate your favourite curry house dish, there’s something missing. The X factor, perhaps? Is it a magical, intangible combination of ghee – and lots of it! – fresher-than-fresh aromatic spices, ground when needed; the smoky tandoor oven, let’s face it, hard to recreate in the average kitchen.
Then again, Indian cooking in the main, is pretty average, it’s just the UK is addicted, trembling like a junkie needing a fix at the thought of a chicken jalfrezi with a pillowy naan, even it is of high-street curry house quality.
The question has to be asked though, why are there so few Indian restaurants elevating the cuisine to incredible heights? In London, Chutney Mary, then Veeraswamy, and the Red Fort all took up the challenge, but Gymkhana has surely taken the trophy, with its Michelin star and rave reviews across the board.
The chef and owner Karam Sethi, with his Michie stars for Trishna and Gymkhana has raised the bar in terms of global Indian cuisine, and his menus and bar offering makes the tastebuds tingle on their own. Quail kebab and deer biryani, mussels in a coconut broth, all splash the menu with creativity and the famous papads (poppadoms) come with tomato and shrimp chutney.
Pale ale is served in tankards and the cocktails – courtesy of bar geniuses Fluid movement – make the mind boggle: based on a 17th-century East india punch house, it features Indian punches and cocktails infused with Indian spices, such as In Light Of India, which features tequila, ginger beer, pineapple and cardomom; or Quinine Sour, a take on gin and tonic and featuring curry leaves and ginger.
The interior of this Mayfair favourite is pure gentleman’s club, the concept of a Raj-inspired eating and drinking destination set off by dark wood, dark wood and more dark wood, with a grand brass-laden bar.
Sometime it feels like Gymkhana has set the bar so high, any new Indian restaurant with vaulting ambitions will have to tread a slightly different path to avoid unfavourable comparisons.
42 Albamarle Street, London W1S 4JH / 020 3011 5900