Angoor Sharbat – Spiced Grape Juice slow cooked with orange zest, black cardamom, and honey charged with siphoned soda
Cassava, Lentil and Potato Papads with Mango Chutney and Spicy Tomatoes with Shrimp
Duck Egg Bhurji, Lobster, Malabar Paratha
Dosa, Chettinad Duck, Coconut Chutney
Kid Goat Methi Keema, Salli, Pao, Bheja
Tandoori Guinea Fowl Breast, Leg & Green Mango Chat, Mint Coriander Chutney, Palak Paneer, Dal Maharani
Bread Basket – Plain Naan, Crispy Roti, Garlic Ghee Naan
Banana and Pecan Kheer
Carrot Halwa Tart, Cardamom Malai
Having experienced a few of the most highly reputed Indian restaurants on my side of the Atlantic in Vancouver’s Vij and Rasika of DC but still lacking a firm grasp of the culture’s culinary traditions I was told by almost everyone I asked that I’d be remiss to not at least book one such meal while visiting The UK and although opinions ranged from common curry houses to temples of tandoori lamb my fine dining inclinations eventually led me to Gymkhana, a splashy space of lacquered wood and equestrian theme in Mayfair. A relative newcomer to the upscale Indian movement with a focus on quality ingredients matched to Hindi home cooking with presentations meant to dazzle the eyes along with the tongue it was to an as yet empty space that I arrived as the restaurant opened its doors at noon on a Saturday and seated quickly to a two-top up front the service would prove excellent, a young man clearly well trained handling my amateur questions while helping to craft an meal he deem ‘a lot, but not too much.’ Never left for want of anything throughout the course of my two-hour lunch, even as the restaurant filled to capacity, it was with the aromatic Angoor Sharbat that the afternoon began and pairing beautifully with a complex array of spices in the four-courses of six plates plus sides to follow I ended up ordering a second, a rarity for someone generally seeking variety. Moving on to plates ordered after a basket of crispy chips with a duo of complex spreads it was to a duo that I was first treated although the soft eggs dressed in butter and lobster were lovely it was the cone of duck curry matched to chilly coconut chutney that won the round, a rich indulgence nearly indescribable in complexity but still allowing the tender meat to shine. Not at all a timid menu in terms of region or scope it was next in a still steaming skillet of Methi Keema that I indulged and with the £3 supplement of tender brain juxtaposing the simmered lean goat I couldn’t help but smile, the buttery buns provided to sop up sauce…or produce a reinterpreted ‘sloppy joe.’ Entirely thrilled by the opening courses but finding the Guinea Fowl a bit dull despite sides that shined it was onward to desserts that I moved and although the rice pudding proved quite pleasant it was the Halwa tart that captured my attention, the filling itself only that of pure carrots and custard while the crisp, buttery shell and a dollop of cardamom cream lent both texture and nuance harkening the flavors of a more ‘American’ carrot cake but ever more restrained.
RECOMMENDED: Angoor Sharbat, Dosa with Chettinad Duck, Kid Goat with Bheja, Carrot Halwa Tart.
AVOID: The Tandoori fowl was fine, but with everything else was so much better that I really can’t justify ordering it.
TIP: With the lunch prix-fixe offering several of the restaurant’s best items one can craft quite the experience at limited cost by simply adding a few of the cheaper a la carte selections to the more pricy items selected via the set menu, the bonus Palak Paneer, Dal Maharani, Naan, Roti, and Papads more than rounding out a full tasting.