Travels with my God Daughter – Lunch at Gymkhana:
While I travel a bit too much to always be there with the restaurant review mob, I do eat at a lot of good places in London. And, I have a few friends who specialise in Indian food so as a result, over the last year I’ve learnt a lot more about Indian food and while I wouldn’t class myself as in any way expert I do love trying Indian restaurants that go beyond the local takeaway. My God Daughter is a big fan of Indian food and loved our trip to Dishoom in the summer. In fact, despite hating queues, she wanted to go back. I had another idea though, having seen all the hype around Gymkhana Mayfair, I wanted to take her there.
While the a la carte and fine dining menus are fairly priced for Mayfair (the highest priced property on a Monopoly board with restaurant charges to match), the lunch menu offers a good choice of dishes at £20 for two courses or three for £25. Gymkhana is the sister restaurant of Michelin starred Trishna in Marylebone, an an Indian restaurant specialising in the coastal cuisine of South Western Indian with a predominately fish based menu. Now, chef Karam Sethi has tried to recreate the ambience of a British Raj-style Indian Club at Gymkhana.
The set lunch starts with a selection of papads with a shrimp chutney and a mango chutney and, in my God Daughter’s case, a non alcoholic cocktail, Lemon Teaser, to
Tease your taste buds with rich herbs, lemon thyme, muddled with fresh lime and vanilla sugar
Meanwhile we had picked starters to share. The potato chat arrived first, looking for all the world as if we’d invited an extra guest or two
Stunning to look at, I thought it was nicely balanced with just enough of a tamarind tang to cut through the potatoes and some fine crispy sev topping.
Kasoori Chicken Tikka with sprouting moong kachumber intrigued me, with a fragrant chicken coated with something I couldn’t quite place so I’ve been trying to find out how it was made. Amazingly I’ve found a recipe online, albeit without a Tandoor, by head chef Karam Sethi. I suspect this was my teenage God Daughter’s favourite dish because the final piece of chicken disappeared before I’d managed to finish my first.
From reading reviews of Gymkhana, it seemed obligatory to order the Kid Goat Methi Keema, Salli, Pao (with optional Bheja – that’s brains and I opted out). Salli means ‘sticks’ (of deep fried potatoes) and Pao are the little buns served alongside. An Indian version of the slider - and really delicious.
My flexitarian God Daughter looked away and refused to even taste the kid, so it’s probably just as well we avoided the a la carte menu where I’d have wanted to try the Muntjac Biriyani. Meanwhile, she enjoyed a very generous, fragrant and buttery Wild Mushroom Pilau
The accompaniments, included in the set lunch, were exceptionally good, if perhaps a little conservatively portioned given the generous helpings of everything else. The Dal Maharani was delicious, rich and creamy. I’d happily have dined on this and a portion of the pilau rice. Palak Paneer came with tender morsels of paneer in a creamy spinach base.
My dessert of Rose Kulfi was refreshing and not overly heavy, though rose scented and silky.
We left feeling very contented. And, while I can’t comment from experience about the a la carte or tasting menus, I’m confident enough that I’d enjoy the indulgence of going back some time. Lunch, meanwhile, is excellent value for this part of London and the quality of the ingredients and style of cooking make it a perfectly reasonable choice at any time.