We arrived at Hankies entering through the restaurant’s private entrance on the side of the Montcalm Hotel on Upper Berkeley Street. The stylish, modern interiors are aptly plush, but our eyes were immediately drawn to the chef making Roomali Rotis in the exposed kitchen just off the foyer. He expertly spun the paper-thin discs through the air with a precision that would put the finest pizza chefs to shame.
After being seated we ordered drinks… the options are limited but the Malbec was very good. The amuse bouche was Carrot Soup (poured from a vintage teapot into a shot glass of course) after which our server, Lore, returned to talk us through the menu which I understand is constantly evolving. Despite the regular changes she happily rattled through the relative merits of every dish we asked about. Service was impeccable, our waitress was warm, attentive and charming throughout, and not at all shy about recommending her favourite dishes.
We decided to start with Truffle Naan filled with vintage cheddar and cumin topped with huge chunks of truffle. This was accompanied with Crispy ‘Gold’ Cod pieces marinated with turmeric and Amritsari spices coated in a delicious batter, served with a spicy sour mango dip. The Bhindi Bhel, a chaat of okra, rice puffs, sweet chutney, onions and fresh coriander, was presented in a stack of tangy crispy goodness.
For main course, our server suggested the Chilli Lamb Chops marinated in Kashmiri chillies, paprika and mustard oil. It arrived perfectly cooked through and tender, a refreshing change from the chewy charred chops that seem to have become standard fare in many Indian restaurants.
The Keema ‘Bateyr’ forgoes the traditional lamb for a lighter, less intense mix of Quail and Chicken mince with peas, topped with a couple of pickled quail eggs.
Butter Chicken has become a bit of a clichéd dish over the last decade or so, but I’m glad we tried this one…tender pulled chicken in a silky but not overly rich sauce, seasoned with just the right amount of garam masala. The Butter Chicken seemed to be designed to pair with the Roomali Roti, ultra-thin, hand spun rotis freshly cooked in front of guests on a burning hot tawa and folded into the trademark ‘hankies’ from which this restaurant gets its name. These might be the best rotis we’ve had outside of mum’s kitchen.
Our mains were served with a Home Style Black Daal and Raita, which offered a tasteful contrast of heat and cool. Portion sizes are on the smaller side but this is reflected in the price. Guests should order a few dishes tapas style and share.
After a strong showing from the savoury dishes we had high expectations for the desserts and they didn’t disappoint. We opted for the Chocolate and Apple Samosa with Summer Berry Rabri and the Homemade Kulfi Ice-cream.
Though we couldn’t find any trace of the apple in the samosa it worked very well, the cold sharp berry rabri cutting through the hot sweetness of the chocolate. The Kulfi was even better; A trio of Mango and Saffron, Fennel and Paan, and Pistachio were visually striking and all had strong authentic flavours.
With the Bhindi Bhel at £4.50, Butter Chicken at £8.50 and the Roomali Rotis at £1.75, pricing at Hankies was a pleasant surprise. The person responsible for the costing is either extremely generous or has an erroneous formula in their spreadsheet. In any event, AWM recommends you get over there before they realise.
Review by Nimesh Suchak
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