Hankies in Marble Arch: North Indian cuisine boasting big flavours at affordable prices
When thinking of spots to eat at in Marble Arch, it’s easy to think that few places would be accessible to your average crowd, what with neighbouring Park Lane boasting Michelin-starred restaurants and upper-class hotels, and the bustling Oxford Street not offering much more than fast-food chains and coffee shops. Hankies at the Montcalm Hotel is just the remedy for this situation: a North Indian restaurant located in a luxury setting just a few minutes’ walk away from the main thoroughfare.
The interiors are sleek, decorated with artefacts, glassware and china sourced from Indian markets and antique shops. There is also plenty of copperware throughout the restaurant, most notably in the form of an extractor hood located above a member of staff who artfully spins balls of dough into hankies, from which this restaurant takes its name. These are a classic Indian roti, which is hand-spun until ultra-thin and then cooked on a burning hot tawa and folded into the shape of a hankie.
The man behind the restaurant is Anirudh Arora, whose mission it is to make authentic, fuss-free Indian food accessible to the masses, with a focus on small plates and street food-style dishes.
As it’s a Monday night, we give the wine list a miss and opt for something a little more traditional in the form of the mango lassi (we also love dessert-type drinks being sanctioned at the beginning of a meal). The drink is as refreshing as always, creamy and milky from the yoghurt and not too sweet.
Soon after, we’re served with a steaming shot of tomato soup, which is strong and spicy, leaving a hum of warmth at the back of the throat from notes of cinnamon and cardamom.
The concept being the sharing of aromatic small plates, our waiter recommends ordering several to try. We begin with Bhindi Bhel – a crispy okra dish served up with rice puffs, sweet chutney, onions and fresh coriander. The first mouthful takes us by surprise, with the starter almost feeling like the breakfast option, reminiscent of granola in its contents of nuts, seeds and fruit. However, it quickly grows on us, and the texture of the dish, along with the punch from pomegranate seeds, has us going back for more.
Yellow chilli garlic prawn is the hero of the evening, arriving as a skewer of perfectly plump prawns, coated in a thick marinade that has blackened slightly from cooking in the tandoor, leaving that distinctive charred flavour. The Chilli Lamb Chop brings us equal amounts of joy. Encased in a coating of fresh chillies, a crispy exterior hides within it very tender lamb. A little less inspired is the Peshwari Tikka, which is a grilled chicken served with green chilli, coriander and yoghurt. Although well-cooked, this plate does not display the same level of character or bright flavour profile that we’ve quickly come to expect from Hankies.
As a main, it is recommended that we try the Mustard Fish and Butter Chicken; the latter is a classic Delhi-style delicacy made with pulled roasted chicken and served in a tomato sauce infused with fenugreek and garam masala. The tomato flavour is sweet and buttery, making for a dish that is rich and addictive. We ditch the plain rice in favour of scooping up the sauce with the Roomali Roti, mopping up our plates with these deliciously thin and floury hankies.
We have to finish on a sweet note, opting for the Chocolate Gola. This dish is all about the theatre, molten caramel melting through a hard shell of tempered chocolate to reveal tutti frutti flavoured ice cream. The chocolate dome sits atop a bed of sweet treasures, with morsels of walnut brownie and fresh nuts adding texture to the dish and balancing the sweetness, and the contrast between the cold ice cream and warm caramel adding a welcome note. We also try the homemade Pistachio Kulfi, which is refreshing but is overall too milky in flavour and missing that strong pistachio flavour that we know and love.
For those looking for a relaxed spot to enjoy some authentic North Indian cuisine right in the heart of London, one that is both upmarket and casual at the same time, Hankies offers up a great array of small plates boasting big flavours and affordable prices.
★★★★★Food ▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮Drinks ▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮Service ▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮
Photos: Matthew Pull (except featured image)
To book a table at Hankies, Upper Berkeley Street London W1H 7PP, call 020 8958 3222 or visit their website here.