Gymkhana: colonial India versus the local curry house

Recently I was bought a birthday dinner by one of my favourites at Curry Paradise, the family-run curry house which has been on South End Road, NW3 for donkey’s years.  However it was a special moment of discovery for both me and she-who-bought-me dinner.   We’d repeatedly heard how good the fare was and, bearing in mind we seem to find each others lives side-splittingly funny, couldn’t wait for our regular download.  We grazed til both the cows came home and our plates were squeaky clean.  So I’d agree with all who rave, it is one of the best local curry houses I’ve ever tasted – but doesn’t EVERYONE think that their local curry house is ‘the best’?

Even though it was a birthday present, I think I’m uncouth enough to admit that it was also ridiculously good value. But as a rule, Indian restaurants don’t tend to break the bank – unless of course you aim high, really high.

Gymkhana on Albemarle St, W1

Gymkhana on Albemarle St, W1

Gymkhana (Albemarle Street, W1) is right up there on the top shelf.   But then, on the other hand, this is so much more than its pitch: contemporary Indian cuisine.  It is dignified, refined and absolutely British Raj India in its ambiance, design and furnishing.

duck dose for starter

duck dosa for starter

In fact, it has been on my absolutely-can’t-wait to review list since it first opened last summer and, seeing as I don’t know the difference between a nashta, sabzi and keema, I took along my very own Food-Bird for guidance.   She (with virtually no assistance from me) analysed and dissected the menu before ordered for us accordingly.

baby goat mince - I KID you not...

baby goat mince – I KID you not…

We began with the Duck Dosa and a minced Kid Goat which comes with soft bread buns to scoop up anything our spoon couldn’t reach.

the most succulent chicken tikka I have ever had

the most succulent lamb tikka I have ever had

indian breads at Gymkhana

indian breads (special made for us on request) at Gymkhana

Following this we dug deep into the Kasoori Chicken Tikka, lamb nalli barra (brilliantly seasoned with turmeric and ginger), some not very photogenic (but equally divine) bream, spiced okra, wild mushroom pilau, mint burrata, Indian onion and green chilli salad…. Oh my goodness, I quite lost count of the endless stream of dishes gracing our very laden dinner table.

photos on the wall of Indian sportsmen

photos on the wall of Indian sportsmen

Food-Bird and I were troopers; there was absolutely no slacking on our mission and, while tasting, we also talked through a couple of new (food) projects we are working on.  It’s so much fun to blend a sprinkling of work into a friendship.

pomegranate and mint raita

pomegranate and mint raita

Anyway, as you can only imagine if you haven’t yet been, Gymkhana was nothing short of an OUTSTANDING culinary delight! If I was forced to pick fault, I suppose the service may have been a little slow at times but this could be justified as all in keeping with an Anglo-Indian Sports Club.

owner and chef Karam Sethi popped out to say hi to us.

owner and chef Karam Sethi (of Trishna fame) popped out to say hi to us.

Of course it was nothing like a curry house meal – in presentation, taste nor… cost.  And nor should it have been.  Horses for courses and dinners for diners.  But I must just say, one night in Gymkhana and you might never want to opt for the local again…  this, my dears, is the jewel in the crown.

If you eat as we did (which was probably enough for 4!) -it would cost around £150.

Gymkhana 42 Albemarle Street, W1

ps Gymkhana’s menu is very seasonal so if you’re a fan of game, now’s the time to go!

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