42 Albemarle Street, W1S 4JH
WLC Rank : 68
Glass from : £ 8 (125 ml)
BEST FORIntuitive pairings including sake
Deeply spiced dishes including wild muntjac biryani
Simultaneously cosy and glamorous personal décor
Aromatic and incisive wines
The Michelin-starred Gymkhana, which unravels over two floors has been re-launched with a broader list and more glamorous interior.
Phoenix-like, Gymkhana rose from the embers of a fire, and then along came the global pandemic… “The team are getting pretty good at reopening the restaurant this year,” says Seamus Williams-Sharkey, the group wine buyer for JKS restaurants, which also includes trendsetters, Bao, Kitchen Table, Flor, Sabor, Trishna, Brigadiers and Hoppers. His substantial role varies from “in-house tastings, staff training, hosting masterclasses, auditing wine lists to writing new lists or updating existing lists.” The main goal being, “to increase the quality of the wine offering and wine knowledge at all our restaurants.”
In these oft befuddling times, Williams-Sharkey underlines the importance of being able to adapt. “Be flexible in your role and understand everyone is having to adapt slightly to survive,” he says. “Being multifaceted in your approach towards service, job role, and guests is important for the business to operate through a pandemic.”
As part of the post-fire refurbishment at the colonial-style, Mayfair Indian, part of the cellar is now temptingly visible behind glass cabinets in the private dining room of the enriched basement, accessed via mirrored stairs. Williams-Sharkey notes “almost half” of the 250-bin selection has changed under his tenure. Historically, there was a substantial focus on the South of France, and new additions from this territory of opportunity include domaines, l’Horizon, La Tour Vieille, Grange des Pères and Léon Barral. Meanwhile, the sections on Spain (including Viña Tondonia) and Italy (e.g. Etna Bianco, Giovanni Rosso) “have doubled in size,” and expect, “a great selection of German reds and some really exciting South African wines from our recent trip there.” Meanwhile, Indian wines remain, with Fratelli’s Sette poured by the glass – indeed, Williams-Sharkey blends with them a JKS Restaurants label. There is also a focus on lighter sakes such as Kome Kome, Happy Bride Junmai from Hiroshima, which balances spices in dishes such as Amritsari shrimp and queenie scallops. Cocktails are taken seriously, too, with the “Chikki Chikki” Scotch, distilled peanut and bitters being a perfect pick-me-up at the end of the satisfyingly deeply-spiced meal.
Williams-Sharkey was previously head sommelier at The Ledbury (RIP), “a brilliant restaurant and great place to work,” he says. Indeed, “there are a lot of similarities between JKS and The Ledbury – I get to work with hands-on Directors/Owners on a daily basis.”
Optimistically, Williams-Sharkey has high hopes for the fine wine market. “London is over-stocked with fine wine. It would be nice to get to a stage where the price drops to a level which means certain regions can be sold in restaurants again – and not just to private clients.”
When not working, Williams-Sharkey enjoys live rugby games and “switches off by reading World War II history books.”
By Douglas Blyde.