One of the great sorrows of the pandemic has been India. Its own harrowing experience of the virus has been dreadful to see. And less importantly but still poignantly, India’s disappearance from the list of possible destinations for travel for the foreseeable future has created a sense of morose yearning among those itching to get back. So long as we’re barred from going, London is perhaps the best city on earth to recreate some of the finest ambience, tastes and smells of the subcontinent and with that in mind I set out to experience the best of India through a clutch of sophisticated restaurants only a Tube ride away.
Gykmkhana, 42 Albemarle St, Mayfair
No stroll through the best Indian cuisine in London is complete without dinner at this rollicking Michelin-starred outpost. Gymkhana openly models itself on the ‘elite clubs of India where members of high society socialise, eat, drink, and play sport’.
Upstairs is airy with banquettes of dark wood and straw lattice and framed photos from the Raj glory days while downstairs is sultry and thickly upholstered with a low red ceiling and tables snugly pitched. For true raj spirit, the cocktails are essential drinking: I had the ‘silver sip gimlet’ with gin, jasmine and sage cordial, followed by excellent house white and red.
Food is all elbows, but sexy, perfectly formed elbows: naan is offered with venison and cumin raita; dill raita goes with Amritsari shrimp and so on. We were dazzled by a bright yellow, creamy duck egg bhurji with lobster and Malabar paratha, a beautifully flakey fried flatbread identical to those I once gorged on in Calcutta. Wild muntjack (baby deer) biryani comes with pomegranate and mint raita and a delectable pastry hat dusted with sesame seeds: I was tempted to wear it, but ended up eating it all instead.