Spicing things up: Gymkhana partners with Berry Bros. & Rudd

Words by
Flora Drummond-Smith

16th April 2018

Michelin-starred Indian restaurant Gymkhana partners with wine and spirit merchant Berry Bros. & Rudd for a month-long collaborative tasting menu and wine paring

“Have a sip before you try the food,” says Valentin Radosav, Gymkhana’s head sommelier hurriedly as a tantalising bowl of assorted  poppadums are placed on the table. I raise the glass to my lips and taste the sparkling wine. With hints of caramel and apple it is a delight, brut but underpinned with sweetness. “This is Hambledon Vineyards Premiere Cuvée, an English sparkling wine from Hampshire,” Radosav adds. “Now try it with the food,” he says gesturing at the bowl in the middle of the table. I choose a large shard of puffed tapioca poppadum and smother it in mango chutney before tasting the wine again. Now it’s more robust, the bubbles somehow more piquant complementing the delicate spices. “Many people think that wine doesn’t go with spicy food, but it does, you’ll see,” he says knowingly as he moves on to talk to a couple at the next table.

We are at Gymkana to sample the six course Taste of Gymkhana menu and wine pairings, created in collaboration with Britain’s oldest wine and spirit merchants Berry Bros. & Rudd

Widely regarded as one of the hottest spots in London for exquisite, authentic Indian fare, Michelin-starred Gymkhana has been educating diners about fine Indian cuisine through creative dishes since it opened in 2013. Continuing in this vein, the restaurant's recent collaboration with Berry Bros. & Rudd demonstrates how best to enjoy wine with spice. Devised by Gymkhana’s Valentin Radosav and Berry Bros. & Rudd’s master of wines Demitri Walters, the wine list features a variety of interesting wines from such locations as Hungary and Germany to South Africa and New Zealand. And although it can be a challenge, even for seasoned sommeliers, wine pairs surprisingly well with assertive and spicy dishes, as the complex layering of flavour in Indian food offers opportunities to provide something expressive yet complementary. 

“The secret to successfully paring the wine is to embrace the spice, not fight it,” explains Radosav. “Usually with Indian food I like to start with a light white wine, something with a bit of body that isn’t too soft,” he continues while introducing the wine for the first course – a dry Manolás Furmint from Tokaji, Hungary to match with the Samosa Papdi Chat with Tamarind and Sev. Rich, sweet, aromatic and crunchy, the samosa is topped with a drizzle of cooling yoghurt. The wine, which is acidic, creamy in the mouth with a tangy minerality to finish is a remarkable match.

As dinner progresses other stand out dishes include a dinky Ajwaini scallop starter and minced quail Seekeh Kebab. Served with a vibrant green chilli chutney the delicate quail dish builds in strength and character with every bite, the heat of which is tempered with a refreshing glass of a medium bodied Churton Viognier 2014 vintage.

A test for both the sommelier and the diner comes with the fourth course – a powerfully aromatic dish of sweet minced goat with the option of adding ‘Bhedja’ (brains). There are not many places that would tempt me to be as adventurous as to try goat’s brain, but thanks to the excellent opening courses (with a little chiding from my guest) I am persuaded. The soft pearls of meat are slippery and unctuous, enrobed in an aromatic tomato and onion sauce and add a luxurious silky edge to the overall dish. Weighing the delicacy of the brain with the strength of the goat meat the course is matched with a Cinsault from Itata, Chile. Light in body but meaty the Cinsault cuts through the acidity of the lemon and charred green chilli while carrying the more delicate notes of the brain. 

There is something poetic about the way the menu closes with a sweet Tokaji, mirroring the start of our dinner. Thick and syrupy it could be cloying but avoids being so paired with tart Angoori Rasmalai – cottage cheese dumplings swimming in saffron milk. Dotted with nuggets of popping candy the dish is a surprisingly playful end to such a sophisticated soirée.

The Gymkhana and Berry Bros. & Rudd wine pairing menu will run at Gymkhana until the 12th May. For more details, or to book, please visit www.gymkhanalondon.com