Gymkhana is one of my favourite restaurants. It's everyone's favourite restaurant. Restaurant magazine rated it the top spot in the country last year, which means it's impossible to get a table unless you're Heston Blumenthal or a Bollywood star. Everyone else has to beg and pray for cancellations.
I had been taken there to lunch by Eversheds' Lee Ranson, and to Lee's embarrassment and amusement I badgered the poor lady on reception until she relented and gave me an evening table. So I found myself there last night, squinting in the sepulchral gloom of the crowded and rather odd room, all dark panelling and nick nacks and bad prints of colonial India, a cross between a county pub and a high street curry house.
The slightly shonky decor is irrelevant. The food is some of the best I've eaten anywhere in the world, and the smell of it has you salivating as soon as you step through the door. There's lots of game - muntjac biryani, venison chops, wild board vindaloo. I'd eaten pretty much all of it on previous visits with the exception of the vindaloo, which the manager had warned me was unbelievably hot. I looked up at the stuffed and mounted head of a boar on the wall next to me. It was surely a sign. At least it seemed like one at the end of a very large and very dirty martini. I ordered it, along with a mint and pomegranate raita to try and take out a bit of the sting.
Plate after plate arrived, each more delicious than the last. Huge tiger prawns seared in the tandoor, minced goat with chilli and onion, perfumed butter chicken. Then the vindaloo, chocolate brown and glistening.The animal on the wall gave me an imperious look as I fell on his relation's hind quarters. It was just incredible. Extremely hot, as advertised, but so rich and subtle and complex as to defy proper description. At least to a palate as untutored as mine.
I departed imploring the staff for a rematch, writing down dates and handing over business cards, and slept the sleep of the stuffed and slightly pissed. Until 4am, when the boar decided to wreak its revenge from beyond the grave and rose, Lazarus-like, in my stomach to gore me for the next three hours.
I lay doubled up in agony, sweating like a horse until my infant daughter greeted me with a beatific smile and luxuriantly full nappy. As I changed her I wanted only death. As I then visited the smallest room I thought my wish was about to be granted. I write this mid afternoon and have only just recovered.
But it was that staggeringly good I'll be ordering it again. Even if I've got more chance of seeing Jeremy Corbyn singing Land Of Hope And Glory than of bagging a table this side of 2016.
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