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Indian food in an elegant surrounding – Hankies.
Romali roti, the ultra-thin Indian bread, is, apparently the inspiration for the curiously named ‘Hankies’ Indian restaurant a few minutes from Marble Arch.
In the corner of the glamorous restaurant is a counter where, if you are lucky, you’ll be able to watch the ‘hankies’ being made – tossed up in the air a little like a pizza, before being spread out on a special domed tawa or hotplate to bake.
The brainchild of Anirudh Arora from Delhi who worked with Oberoi before becoming the personal chef of the Indian Prime Minister, Atal Bihari Vajpayee. Having fallen in love with London, Arora moved, working first for Atul Kochhar at Benares and then at Moti Mahal where he stayed for over 10 years before leaving to start Hankies. There’s a cafe on Shaftesbury avenue, but, I’m at the Marble Arch Hankies which opened in December 2017 adjacent to the Montcalm Hotel near Marble Arch. It’s an elegant space with comfortable leather seats and classy lighting and with its own entrance to the side of the Hotel.
I was comfortable the minute I saw the menu at Hankies Indian Restaurant, with a concise but excellent selection of dishes, all of which I’d like to try at some point. Everything fitted on one sheet of A4 paper, with dishes split into small bites, grills and more, pots and pans (main courses) vegetables and sides. The most expensive dish on the menu was £12.50 and there’s a well-priced cocktail list (£5.50 for your choice of non-alcoholic or £6.50 for the boozy versions). Given the location, a stone’s throw from the posh end of Oxford Street and Park Lane, it was excellent value, though Hankies has a luxurious feel with pretty bespoke glasses and hand-painted plates, white linen napkins and helpful but not intrusive staff.
We were under the impression our food would arrive in stages, but actually all the savoury dishes came to the table pretty much simultaneously. Our first three dishes were a sample roomali roti, soft shell crab and yellow chilli garlic prawn (from the grills) section. The prawns, my selection, were beautifully tender, with chive, garlic and a spicy pepper coulis.
My companion loved her soft shell crab with a light batter seasoned with turmeric, Amritsari spices and served with a spicy sour mango dip. And, we nibbled on the roomali roti – though to be honest, we were more intrigued with watching them being made. I suspect we should have ordered them to go with one of the later dishes where there was more of a sauce to be wiped up!
‘Kafta’ – white fish dumplings with roasted onion and plum tomato sauce was, unexpectedly, my favourite dish of the evening. I thought they were similar to momos – plump, soft dumplings with a delicately spiced filling and a delicious piquant sauce.
My companion was similarly complimentary about her Saunfiyan paneer tikka served with fennel and grape chutney and charcoal grilled to give a delicious char.
Seabass was perfectly cooked – flash roasted with coriander, chilli flake and garlic and my companions ‘Hankies handi ghosht’ was the kind of dish you should definitely order at this time of year – warming and tender slow-braised lamb with curry leaf, pearl onion and roasted garlic. This is where the roti would have been in order.
I loved my saffron jalebi with black sesame icecream and Till ‘Patti’ croquant. Lighter and not as sweet as I had anticipated, it was a delicious end to the meal.
Meanwhile, my companion opted for one of the kulfi – pistachio and coconut flavour – which arrived picture perfect and was delicious (yes I did get to taste!)
We finished our meal with a coffee each. Despite the apparently large number of dishes, portion sizes were respectable and neither of us felt that we’d ordered too much food. It’s the kind of restaurant where depending on your appetite, you’ll order 6 or more dishes between two, enjoy the variety and, if necessary, order more dishes as you go.
I’m impressed by Hankies Indian Restaurant. The prices are respectable but the food is excellent, beautifully cooked and nicely presented. And, the flexible menu means that this is somewhere I’ll come back to with friends when we want a relaxed evening of food and drink.
Hankies Indian Restaurant
The Montcalm London Marble Arch
2, Wallenberg Place,
London, W1H 7TN
We love Indian restaurants. Some of our favourite hidden secrets include Mr Todiwala’s in Docklands, Coriander in Hatch End and Chai Thali in Camden. Do check them out if you get the chance. And don’t miss Hankies – it really is an excellent find in this rather expensive part of London