Just steps away from the chaotic crowds spilling over the curbs of Oxford Street and Hyde Park lies Hankies, an upscale Indian restaurant serving authentic Delhi-style street food with a tapas twist.
As I strolled through the dimly lit side streets of Mayfair; the crisp golden leaves crunched beneath my every step. Within moments of leaving the mayhem behind, I reached the Montcalm Marble Arch and was welcomed by the grand brick building and imposing white pillars that twinkled with the flicker of fairy lights. The suited and booted doormen stood outside gave me a nod and a smile as they patiently awaited the arrival of their next guest.
With an entrance all of its own, the hotel’s restaurant Hankies lies just next door. I stood at the bottom of the steps and let the flicker of candle light lead the way. No sooner had I taken my last step; the door swung open and the warmth of both the restaurant and the smile invited me in. I left my coat and the cold wintery night behind me and headed into the restaurant.
I took my seat over by the window, and gladly turned my back on it; ready to forget where I was entirely for just a few hours. As I fidgeted in my seat and laid my napkin in my lap, I couldn’t ignore the smell of spices seeping out of the kitchen and into the restaurant.
I ordered the ‘Hugo’s Hankie’ off the cocktail menu. After all, it’s their signature drink and it’d be rude not to, wouldn’t it? The refreshing concoction served long over ice was a mix of St Germaine Elderflower, mint, Indian lime and prosecco. And yes, it tasted as good as it sounds.
I sipped slowly as my eyes wandered around the restaurant. Dark-wood tables were draped in Indian cloth with touches of turquoise, gold, and burnt orange, while a centre-piece of copper lights hung from the ceiling casting shadows in every corner of the restaurant. The atmosphere was somewhat sophisticated; with only the quiet chit-chat of diners and the occasional clink of a saucepan as the kitchen doors swung open.
There is no such thing as ordering off the menu at Hankies. Simply tell your waitress what you like and don’t like, and how much you can handle the heat, and she’ll take care of the rest.
To start, we shared a truffle naan, crispy golden cod, and purple sprouting broccoli – most of which I did not expect at a Delhi-style street food inspired Indian restaurant in the heart of Mayfair. The naan tore apart in your hands with just the softest touch, while the vintage cheddar cheese and shaved truffle were the perfect pairing.
The crispy golden cod was a similar affair. Flakes of white fish fell apart in your mouth while the turmeric, amritsari spices and sour mango dip did all the work. To compliment the two dishes, the charcoal grilled sprouting broccoli with cream cheese, thyme and chilli was an unlikely companion but one I wouldn’t have wanted to be without.
As the kitchen door continued to swing and the wafts of sensual smells poured in more and more, I couldn’t quite wait for our array of main course tapas-style dishes to arrive. We devoured a classic Delhi-style butter chicken which was cooked in a creamy tomato sauce with fenugreek and garam masala. The braised basmati rice with saffron and seasonal vegetables mopped up the remaining sauce, as did the signature ‘Hankie’.
Inspired by the classic hand-spun roti, the ‘hankie’ is hand-spun until it is thin enough to read through, then it is cooked on a burning hot roomali tawa and folded into ‘hankies’. The perfect alternative to naan bread and poppadum’s; the hankie is something you never knew you needed.
The dish that stole the show, though, was the rib-eye. Smothered in a garlic, paprika and masala rub, the steak was melt in your mouth perfection. Nothing like a usual steak, the Indian take on a five-ounce rib-eye is worth going back for time and time again.
With little room for dessert, we decided to share the Hankie’s homemade kulfi ice-cream selection as the flavours were just too good to resist. Mango and saffron, fennel ‘n’ paan, and pistachio; the trio of creamy ice-creams left a lasting silky sensation in my mouth. All washed down with an espresso martini, or two, and we’d had an Indian like nowhere else in London.
Hankies’ tapas-style dining ticks every box; from authentic Delhi-style street food to an innovative cocktail menu and impressive interior décor in the heart of Mayfair. No return could be too soon.
Hankies Marble Arch
61 Upper Berkeley St, Marylebone, London W1H 7PP