KARAM SETHI ON HIS NEW RESTAURANT GYMKHANA
The man behind Michelin-starred restaurant Trishna tells us all about his new venture in Mayfair
Why have you decided to open your new restaurant Gymkhana in Mayfair?
Mayfair is probably the most exclusive area in London, if not the world, which just fits with the whole concept and the style of the place as well. It is a kind of social place for Indian and British elites with a client set that is very familiar to Trishna.
What’s your favourite dish on the menu?
Among all the wild food we propose on the menu, I would pick the muntjac shoulder cooked with apricots; this will be a Parsi dish and it will be £18. There will also be Roe deer chops on the menu, marinated in pickling spices, cooked on the tandoor, and served with mustard mooli. This will be £24.
What food do you enjoy cooking the most?
Food from the south-west coast of India. We use a lot of seafood, shellfish and spicy food that is very fragranced, together with black pepper.
What influences your cooking the most?
The freshness of the food that I used to eat in my grandparents’ home in India, along with the Japanese cuisine. The simplicity in their restaurants should be visible in our plates.
What is your source of inspiration?
I like to eat out quite a lot in non-Indian restaurants and see the combination of flavours they play with. But it is also all about the ingredients that are coming with the seasons. We are going to change the menu every four months.
What atmosphere and image do you want to set in Gymkhana?
It will be a social atmosphere where the main thing is just about having a very good time, with a very laid-back atmosphere. People can just come and have leisurely meals with a couple of beers on a fun night out. Our aim is to provide a very high level of service and good food at the same time.
What do you think makes your food special?
Simplicity. And the fact that we like to use the best quality ingredients. We do not overdo it with the mayonnaise, the sauces or the spices. Our food is always light, delicious and very fragrant at the same time.
Why did you decide to become a chef?
I first got to cook with my mum when I was 15. I was brought up with a home cooking style cuisine that is very light and fragranced at the same time. And from there, I got to work in professional kitchens.
Do you feel under pressure to secure another Michelin star?
Not really, we’re not obsessed about being Michelin-starred. We just provide food and service as naturally as it comes to us. But obviously the recognition is nice. If Gymkana was to win itself it would be really great but it’s not something we are going to worry about. We have got a good team in place. I have built a very good close kitchen team as well in the last couple of years. I am pretty confident about it.
How has Indian food changed over time?
The very bad reputation of the heavy Indian food in the 80s was replaced in the 90s, when our concept of light Indian food was introduced. Chefs like us brought more European and French influences to their cuisine. Now, we see Indian street food being more accessible and focused on quality.
What is your earliest food memory?
I used to go to Normandy during the summer. As soon as we drove past a field of corn, we would get my mum to stop the car and run into the field, and ten minutes later, come back with ten or twelve corn pops. Then we would go back to the house we stayed in and put them on the barbecue.
What’s it like working with your sister?
My sister Susaina, 25, joined me when she finished university and has become a sommelier. She likes to keep the wine unusual and picks small producers. It is important because the food and wine are always matched.
42 Albermarle Street W1S 4JH; gymkhanalondon.com