42 Albemarle Street W1S 4JH
0203 011 5900
Design: 4 stars
Service: 4 stars
Atmosphere: 4 stars
Overall: 3.9 stars
When you talk about Indian restaurants, there are 3 types of people who relate to Indian restaurants: those that like Indian vs. those that don’t, and within those that like Indian, those that like the corner curry shop vs. those that like fine dining Indian restaurants. I tend to fall into the LILCCS: ‘Likes Indian/Likes Corner Curry Shops’. So, it is never my inclination to go to a fine dining Indian restaurant, but when a friend ‘lent’ me her reservation, which are quite difficult to get, I was eager to try this much applauded Indian restaurant.
Gymkhana was voted Best Restaurant in 2014 at the National Restaurant Awards, sponsored by the Restaurant Magazine, which appears to be one of the top Restaurant accolades you could ask for. This sets a high bar to this new-ish Indian restaurant that was opened in 2013 by the team behind Trishna. Both have Michelin stars. All the critics ‘LOVED’ it, with capital letters. I am not a curry/Indian food expert so can’t really put myself in a critic category and can’t give you an expert opinion whatsoever, but can give you a Indian-fine-dining-novice’s opinion.
The restaurant itself is very cool and dark; there are dark wood walls and marble tables around, with swirling colonial fans above and sepia photographs hanging on the walls. The effect works and reminds me of trips to Asia visiting old antique shops and colonial relics. It takes you out of London to another world, which gets very high points for me. I love everything colonial and this succeeds at putting you in the mood of a gentleman’s club in the day.
The drinks were excellent, and the ‘mixologist’ or bartender for us common folk, did a great job but the menu is very confusing, there are too many different parts to it with too many descriptions that I don’t quite get. There’s kid goat that we had to have, the duck-in-a-teepee, the venison biryani and so on. The waiter had to repeat and explain the menu way too many times and it took too long to order. Yes, I know I’m a novice, but it really shouldn’t be this hard.
The food was very tasty. There are so many spices involved and it is, I assume, very well balanced, but like I said, what do I know about Indian restaurants? I liked it, but I can’t say that I fell in love or that the meal was one of those very memorable meals, which is why I didn’t mark it higher on the food.
I remember going to a Sri Lankan Restaurant in Tooting about 12 years ago shortly after moving to London that I am 100% sure no one who is reading this blog would have ever been to, and having the best Biryani I have ever had. This is a meal I remember, and where my taste buds were so alive that my memory still remembers the taste to this day. Now, that was a stunning dish. Nothing too elaborate, just a corner Sri Lankan with amazing food in a very dodgy neighborhood.
As much as I did enjoy Gymkhana’s colonial atmosphere more than the food, it did remind me of one of the greatest Biryanis I’ve ever had. As I said, I am a ‘Likes Indian, Likes Corner Curry Shops.’ And I will remain that way, even after trying out what is considered the ‘Best Indian’ in London, but I would go back for the good drinks, the cool atmosphere and the decent food.