Gymkhana, Karam Sethi’s critically-acclaimed restaurant, inspired by the gymkhana clubs of Raj-era India, has this morning been awarded a Michelin Star, just one year after its opening. To celebrate The Resident looks back at its first interview with Karam just weeks before the restaurant’s opening in July 2013:
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 a Michelin star 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 approach to Indian food in the UK changed?
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 were brought with more European and French influences in their cuisine. Now, we see Indian street food in London being more accessible and more focused on quality.
What is your earliest food-related 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? (Sunaina Sethi is sommelier at Karam’s Marylebone restaurant, Trishna)
My sister Sunaina, 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.
Why have you decided to launch Gymkhana in Mayfair?
Mayfair is probably the most exclusive area in London, if not the world, which 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 restaurant.
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. There will also be Roe deer chops on the menu, marinated in pickling spices, cooked in tandoor, and served with mustard mooli.
What influences your cooking the most?
The freshness of the food that I used to eat in my grandparents’ home in India, along with Japanese cuisine. The simplicity in their restaurants should be visible on our plates.
What can people expect from Gymkhana?
It will have a social atmosphere where the main thing is just about having a very good time. 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.
42 Albemarle St, London W1S 4JH; gymkhanalondon.com