Forget the Panky – Get to Hankie’s, Marble Arch

16 May 2018

I’m always getting an overwhelming sense of déjà vu. I’m always getting an overwhelming sense of déjà vu. Ok, that’s probably the oldest joke in the book, along with ‘why did the chicken cross the road?’, but I’m equally fascinated by the idea it’s some supernatural experience or some kind of seizure in the brain, but explanation or no explanation, it doesn’t make the experience any less bizarre.

The last time I had a strong sense of déjà vu was at a restaurant in Marble Arch. It looked the same, the furniture was the same, I could even swear the staff were the same, but the name and the menu were different. It turns out it wasn’t my memory fooling me, I had in fact been here six months before, only last time it was Indian fine dining with lobsters sticking out of coconuts and meticulously constructed domes of rice. This time it was street food, small plates and pickles you could pick at with your hands.

I’ll cut the suspense. The restaurant I’m talking about is Hankies, part of the Montcalm Hotel. It’s named Hankies after a traditional roti bread which is cooked on a roomali tawa (a hot metal dome thing which they had set up in the corner of the room) and folded into little well…hankies.

These signature hankies (£1.75) are great, especially when used like hands to lap up the house pickles and sauces (£3), the best of which was the sweet tomato and sultana, it would make even your grumpy Aunty Sue smile like a Cheshire cat.

When they bring over extra hankies unprompted I’m smiling loads too, although it may have just been to mop up the tears I’d produced from the chilli I bit into from the house salad (£2). I swear I produced enough to fill the blue paddling pool my brother and I used to play in when we were younger in the garden.

The cocktails are £5.50. The cocktails are £5.50. No, that wasn’t any memory malfunction, just shock because let’s be plain here, the cheap prices don’t match the setting. It’s all golden and smart, like a second lounge in a palace which is only used after a walk in the grounds on a Wednesday.

There was loads of food. The Bhindi Bhel (fried okra) (£3.50) with spices and rice puffs had the strong Indian flavour you crave on a hangover, but the texture was of potpourri from the hallway in Grandma’s house. The spinach saag subzee (£5.50) and the chickpea Pindi Choley (£4.50) we’re both fabulously sloppy with wilted leaves and slowly cooked veg, the kind of texture only Indian cuisine can get away with.

You could pick at this Delhi style street food for days, not only would you never tire of the different flavours, but you’d still be able to afford the bill, which in my book means I’m more than happy with the Montcalm’s new direction.

Oh, and that jaywalking chicken by the way…. well he was just crossing the road to get to Hankies wasn’t he?


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