For Valentine’s Day, myself and the OH wanted to go somewhere a little more special than our usual, casual restaurants and Gymkhana was at the top of the list.
Unfortunately, and unsurprisingly, Valentine’s Day was fully booked so we decided to have a belated Valentine’s Day instead.
As soon as we entered the restaurant and were seated upstairs, the restaurant felt relaxed, elegant and was modernly presented.
… inspired by Colonial Indian gymkhana clubs, set up by the British Raj, where members of high society came to socialise, dine, drink and play sport – Gymkhana’s Website
Since our table was booked slightly earlier, we opted for the early dining menu which is only offered between 5.30pm – 6.00pm every evening. The menu is extremely good value with 4 courses offered for £25 per person, with the option of adding a wine pairing for £45. We opted for the former and since there were two options per course, we opted to try every item offered. We couldn’t help ourselves.
An Indian dinner can not be without poppadoms and the usual dips. We were pleased to find that these arrived on our table not long after we ordered and at no extra cost.
The poppadoms all had different colours and textures and were all pleasant enough, whilst (of course) the beautiful, shimmering dips were the highlight. We were served the usual expected dips such as mint raita (top green), mango chutney (middle orange) and a tangy pickled chutney (bottom red). Our favourite was the mango chutney, which had a beautiful sweet, sticky flavour.
The first course arrived which was a shared platter of potato chaat and chickpeas which was garnished with a sweet, tangy tamarind sauce and to balance out the flavours, creamy yogurt.
The flavours were stunning making the texture and of the chickpeas and potato, sing. I was brought up eating chana (chickpea) chaat at Indian events and occasions, and this is the best chaat I’ve tasted.
For the second courses, the first we tried was the paneer tikka. I’m a huge fan of paneer in Indian cooking but I’ve never tried paneer grilled with tikka seasoning, and served independently.
Imagine a moist, yet still firm, juicy texture with a slight crispy grilled outer layer that the fork just glides through. Then imagine the paneer melting in your mouth. This was exactly both our experiences and didn’t last long on the platter.
The other dish was Goan Cafreal bream. Cafreal is a sauce made using fresh coriander leaves and other spices such as ginger and garlic. The fish had been delicately poached and had a slight bounce whilst still being beautifully soft and tender in the middle. To enhance the subtle taste of the bream, was the addition of carefully mixed cafreal with extra freshness from the coriander. A perfect complement for the bream.
I wouldn’t have usually ordered a fish starter, but I’m glad we decided not to be picky and instead found that the fish, mixed with the beautiful cafreal sauce was divine. The OH doesn’t usually eat fish and he devoured his portion.
Then the main courses arrived and we were blown away at the amount of food that arrived, ranging from garlic naan, to chicken butter masala, potato with mustard seeds and wild mushroom pilau.
The mushroom pilau had soft, buttery mushrooms scattered throughout the fluffy pilau rice and when a meat eater doesn’t miss meat, you know the dish is good.
The chicken butter masala was rich, buttery, creamy and had large pieces of tender chicken throughout. The sauce was beautiful. My only complaint was the lack of chicken, as the large pieces soon disappeared leaving nothing but sauce to lap up.
It’s very unlike us, but we couldn’t finish the feast in front of us. We were stuffed and then realised we still had dessert left to consume.
Fortunately, the desserts arrived a little while later which gave our stomachs time to settle. Personally, I’m not usually a fan of Indian desserts as I find them too sweet and overpowered with spices.
The first dessert we tried, was chestnut and date kheer. I’ve tried kheer many times and I knew I wouldn’t be a fan. Nevertheless I tried the dish anyway and although there was a strong nutty, creamy flavour coming through the kheer, it wasn’t to my taste. Fortunately, the OH loved it.
The other dessert was jaggery caramel custard. I didn’t think I’d enjoy the dish as much as I did but I actually found that this is the first Indian dessert I’ve enjoyed. The caramel was sweet and sticky and the dish overall, was surprisingly flavourful without needing to be overpowered with spicing or sweetness. The OH didn’t seem to agree and much preferred his kheer.
Far too many Indian restaurants in London can be disappointing, with many dishes similar in taste and texture with a lack of creativity and authenticity. Gymkhana although inspired by a British raj, served flavours you most definitely will not have tasted elsewhere, all pleasantly mixed with Indian spices. The dishes served at Gymkhana were refreshing and the experience overall, was a delight leaving us both feeling like we had been treated like royalty not just because of the high standard of food served, but also the warm, friendly, unpretentious service. As far as I’m concerned, this is the best Indian restaurant I’ve tried in London and I can’t wait to go back and try their game menu.
– Gymkhana, Mayfair