The essence of Gymkhana, a place of assembly for British aristocrats and Indian royalty, where the elite gathered during the British Raj in India, runs throughout the Doha restaurant. FACT’s Craig Ferriman found the hidden gem located in Al Jomrok Hotel, Souq Waqif only to be completely blown away by the food and service…
If you’ve ever been to Souq Waqif, you’ve almost certainly walked past Gymkhana. It’s right at the front facing the Corniche and if you get a table by the window, you’ll get a front row seat looking out at the iconic West Bay skyline. Gymkhana takes its name from the Anglo-Indian word meaning assembly in the days of the British Raj and commonly referred to a gentlemen’s or country club and that’s very much the vibe they’ve gone for with the interiors. Fans, pictures of colonial India on the wall and wide settees and throne-like chairs occupy the space – definitely an insta-worthy venue.
Gymkhana fills the bottom floor of one of Souq Waqif Boutique Hotels’ properties – Al Jomrok. Boutique service and staff that treat you like the only people in there is what you can expect. Their general manager, Ketan treated us like royalty. Now, let’s talk food because it was truly exceptional. Everything from the lentil poppadoms through to the garlic or zatar naans and even the rather brilliantly designed beverages, was of the highest quality. We tried a signature masala magarita which was a curious blend of lychee, orange juice, guava, mint and cumin served in a glass which is rimmed in sugar and cayenne pepper so that it’s sweet on the lips but then you get an after kick – just divine. There is also the coconut cucumber cooler which you can stick two straws in and share. Hints of black salt and cumin underpin it – a real thirst-quencher!
If you love your lamb, then the Nalli Rogan Josh is to die for. The lamb has been cooked for a long time and literally slips off the bone…
The stand out appetiser for us was Zafrani Ribiyan which are Gulf shrimps, smoked and served with saffron and cream. These shrimps were humongous in size and alive in flavour. I always try to order something I haven’t had before so while I’m confident that their chicken tikka masala and butter chicken dishes are doubtless very good, I decided to try the impressive Kori Ghassi. It’s tender chicken in a Mangalorean curry, made hot by the chillies and flavousome by the tamarind which is such an underrated ingredient, in my view. If you love your lamb, then the Nalli Rogan Josh is to die for. The lamb has been cooked for a long time and literally slips off the bone and the Kashmiri spices are rich and varied – a tasty, palate-pleasing dish that we highly recommend.
The menu at Gymkhana is as satisfying to seafood lovers as it is to vegetarians as it is to those who prefer meat and poultry – so expect plenty of good options to please all dietary requirements. Deserts are taken seriously too and there’s lots to choose from. We couldn’t believe how good the Rasmalai was. The little spongy pocket was super delicate and innovatively topped with apple cream, pistachio and saffron. I’m not a great dessert lover but this was something special. It’s a dessert the restaurant is proud of, and rightly so. Ketan, who served us, was in no hurry to get rid of us. He was quite happy to have us there all night and try everything on the menu – so you won’t feel rushed; instead Gymkhana is inviting and relaxed. After your first visit, there’s a good chance that you’ll be planning a return to try some of the other treasures on the Gymkhana menu.
GO: VISIT GYMKHANA AT AL JOMROK HOTEL, SOUQ WAQIF. CALL 4038 5328 FOR RESERVATIONS AND MORE INFORMATION