I first visited Gymkhana back in September 2014, about a year after it opened. This was a press invite for an evening of food and wine matching with one of the owners, Sue Sethi. It was a great experience, and I was back a few weeks after with some Californian winegrowers. I remember being blown away by the quality of the food.
It’s had a Michelin star for 9 years now, which makes it quite unusual among Indian restaurants in London. I’ve been back a few times since, most recently with Raj Parr and Christina Rasmussen on my birthday a couple of years ago. Raj is Indian, and he thinks it’s one of the best Indian restaurants in the world, which is praise indeed.
But like many amazing restaurants, I want to eat at them more often than I do. It’s just there are so many places to go, and when it’s somewhere famous like Gymkhana, which is evidently in all the tourist guides, getting a reservation can prove tricky (I quite like the fact that on their website they state “all our availability is shown online” – which is presumably because they are tired of important individuals who think calling will get them a table). But I managed to get a lunch reservation last week and was thrilled to be back with a friend who had never experienced this place before.
Gymkhana is part of a group of restaurants, JKS, owned by the Sethi family. If you want high-end Indian, in the same group there’s also Trishna (Michelin starred too, and excellent, in a more informal setting) and Brigadiers (pure fun: excellent food and a relaxed setting) in the group. But Gymkhana is the mothership, and it has beautiful dining rooms, upstairs and downstairs, in Abermarle Street, Mayfair.
When we visited they were offering a festive lunch menu at £48, or the festive tasting menu at double this, or á la carte. For the quality, this is good value, but don’t expect a cheap eat here. The wine list is an excellent one, creatively put together with mindfulness to the menu, and offering a range of options including some very cool wines. But it is expensive. [So are rents in Mayfair.] Time I didn’t treat us to anything fancy (we had a 375 ml carafe of the house white, a Viognier from the south of France), and we focused on the food. Matching this sort of food to wine isn’t easy, but Gymkhana are sensitive and creative with spicing, rather than nuking everything, so it is possible. Beer options are good: I had the Thornbridge Jaipur IPA, which comes in a cold tankard, to get me going.
We opted for the festive lunch menu, and the food was stunningly good. And there was plenty of it. The tip here is to each order something differently and then share: there’s more than enough in each dish for it to be shared comfortably. If you have any interest in Indian food, this is an absolute destination.