A deep dive into the modern Indian cuisine from the ‘Best Newcomer’ at the FACT Dining Awards Riyadh 2023.
When CoolInc began snatching up international brands and celebrity chefs for their portfolio of restaurants at Via Riyadh, we were in awe. London’s hip Sexy Fish, Japanese hotspot WAGYUMAFIA, and Spago by Wolfgang Puck all set up shop in the luxury retail haven, welcoming Riyadh residents and curious visitors into the Kingdom’s burgeoning dining scene.
Despite all of the impressive concepts announced, there was one restaurant that team FACT was most excited about: Gymkhana. Inspired by the elite clubs of India where members of high society socialise, eat, drink, and play sports, the MICHELIN-lauded Gymkhana has become synonymous with classic and contemporary boldly spiced Indian cuisine. The original restaurant opened in Mayfair, London, in 2013 before opening a second branch in the Saudi capital a decade later.
Gymkhana Riyadh’s design has been based on the flagship London restaurant and is spread across one rather than two floors. The interiors, by North End Design, pay homage to the London stalwart while offering a slightly elevated look and feel. A bar space resplendent in tones of jade green, polished dark timber and metallic accents is ideal for a pre or post-dinner mocktail. In the larger dining room, a nostalgic club lounge feel is evoked by hues of peach, Kashmiri chilli red fabrics, and contrasting Indian carpeting surrounded by artworks by contemporary Indian artists. Elsewhere, a second ‘dining train carriage’ layout keeps the original Gymkhana green palette. Partly inspired by residential mansions of Kolkata and Shimla, the space houses intimate leather booth seating, and Edwardian-inspired joinery units that recollect the luggage trunks of the Raj era.
Guests can expect the same level of flavour and experience as that in Mayfair – with a few new menu items designed specifically for the Saudi palate. The carefully curated menu at Gymkhana Riyadh brings to life flavours from across India, offering a modern interpretation of renowned classics. The menu covers Gymkhana Bites, Biryani, Curry, Kebabs, Tikka and Chops, in addition to Vegetarian (SAR 350) and Non-Vegetarian (SAR 390) tasting menus covering the Gymkhana classics.
Savour dishes such as the Punjabi Samosa (SAR 60), suitably spiced and stuffed in a thick casing; the stunning Patiala Fried Chicken (SAR 85) slathered with a sticky and sweet imli and mint glaze that is undeniably moreish; or the signature Kid Goat Methi Keema with Salli and Pao (SAR 85). The Kid Goat Methi Keema has filled paragraphs, posts and #pictures – and deservedly so – as it’s an unexpected delight. The dish combines splendour and simplicity as we slather the soft, slow-cooked meat across a buttery brioche bun.
The mains are return-worthy good. Ensure you order a biriyani – cooked in a pastry case. The Gucchi, Khumb & Truffle Biryani (SAR 135) was oh-so-earthy and infused with truffle for a decadent touch. When the lid was lifted, an aromatic and richer taste filled the dining room. The Chicken Butter Masala (SAR 110) is luscious and velvety, offering an elevated take on the popular dish. Elsewhere, Gymkhana’s generously coated Tandoori Masala Lamb Chops (SAR 185) are a revelation, tender and pink, and served with a lovely walnut chutney.
Diners at Gymkhana Riyadh can also enjoy a specially crafted beverage menu, with mocktails featuring a wide selection of ingredients and garnishes gathered from various regions across India. The Pomegranate’ Champagne’ (SAR 65) proved a popular choice, combining the nuanced flavours of almond blossom tea, Gujarat rose petals and pomegranate.
With its rich history, Gymkhana Riyadh builds on the success of its London counterpart, delivering an unforgettable gastronomic experience that elevates Indian cuisine to new heights. The restaurant’s culinary creations have garnered a wide array of admirers, ranging from renowned celebrities like Taylor Swift and the Beckhams to FACT’s Editor-in-Chief.
Whether dining on the succulent kebabs or fragrant biryanis in London or Riyadh, Gymkhana is one of the most innovative Indian restaurants in the world.
GO Visit https://coolinc.com.sa for reservations and more information.