Birthday private dining
15th February 2014
Birthdays are smashing, an occasion for good company and pushing the boat out. With this in mind, Gymkhana was my first port of call for luncheon date with a gaggle of five gregarious girlfriends. Since opening in Mayfair in the autumn of 2013, it had been a hot ticket and I wanted to get in before gaining an inevitable Michelin star*, like it’s sister restaurant, Trishna in Marylebone.
After some wrangling in the form of telephone queues, emails and a visit to see Front of House, I landed the plush private dining vault in the basement. A group on a budget, I was also granted the set three course lunch,for £30, as a ‘one-off’ as the vault is normally chargeable for a higher priced tasting menu. I took this as a minor win in addition to my determination to land a hotly contested table.
Soft mood lighting, swathes of cushioned velvet banquettes and no worry of your table being turned at the two hour mark are three thankful advantages of dining in the vault. Starting as we meant to go on, aperitifs to hit our table included carafes of punches and a couple of Bloody Mary’s.
The punch above is the ‘Bombay Presidency’ namely ordered as it featured Ceylon Arrack, poignant as a tipple from my motherland. I loved the theatre of pouring my punch over ice and grating the fragrant nutmeg as a garnish.
To share and try as many dishes as possible, we tried a combination of all of the dishes available on the set menu. We also ordered recommended dishes such as the vindaloo suckling pig, which was so tender it fell apart and the Dosa with Chetinaad duck and coconut chutney.
I rarely go for an ‘Indian’, as a Sri Lankan I can dine from sub-continent dishes at home. Therefore, to pay for it, is certainly an extravagance, and to be disappointed is just dismaying. Having dined at Trishna (Gymkhana’s sister restaurant) previously and enjoyed my experience, I knew it wouldn’t be a disappointment, it’s worth a visit just for the superb wine flights. The reason why I chose Gymkhana is that it takes Indian food and raises the sophistication bar. It isn’t the paneer or chicken I could even dream of recreating myself. I would say though that the dal (lentils) dish didn’t cut the mustard with me, it just didn’t have any punch. Notably dal is a subjective dish, where most have a bias towards their regional style of preparation, whether with tomatoes, mixed lentil varieties or with a kick of dried red chillies.
Would I go back? In a heartbeat… the ambience, sumptuous surroundings and delicacies on offer leave you fulfilled in every way. For an afternoon, you can definitely feel like a Maharani, transported back to the days of the Raj. There is of course an underlying hankering to make another reservation there and then, to return to try more dishes or work your way through the dangerously good cocktail list.
*Added note in 2014 – Gymkhana has since been voted National restaurant of the year and gained one Michelin star, to be included in the 2015 guide.
42 Albemarle Street, London, W1S 4JH
020 3011 5900