Situated nearby some great theatres on Shaftesbury Avenue is Hankies Cafe, a warm and cozy Indian tapas style restaurant. Hankies speacialise in creating the classic Indian roti hand spun till its thin and cooked on a burning hot tawa and folded into hankies – hence the name Hankies. As you enter Hankies you immediately see the bar area and the chef busy in open plan style kitchen, the restaurant itself is small in size and intimate. The look and feel is nice and welcoming and the staff are equally exceptional throughout.
As I was shown to my table I immersed myself in the atmosphere. I could tell it was a popular place buzzing with people. At the end of the bar is the main seating area and only my table was left available as all the others were occupied with happy eaters.
The waitress bought over the drink and the dinner menus and when I mentioned I had an allergy to nuts she quickly bought over the menu that depicted allergy details which was fantastic. As someone with allergies it can be a bit annoying to keep asking what dish contains nuts, gluten or diary etc. So, I was delighted that they had a modified menu that clearly stated allergy information.
As I mulled over the modified menu whilst I waited for my colleague and friend Sasha the editor of Inspire LS to arrive I looked over the varied drinks menu. There are lots to choose from, you can order Shikanji and tonics, juices, beer, wine, shots, mixers, cocktails (my fav) soft drinks and hot drinks.
I started off with a cocktail called the ‘Island Shandy’ which consisted of spiced rum, ginger, pineapple juice and beer – all ingredients that I liked the sound of and I was not disappointed, the cocktail was scrumptious and came with ginger on the side of the glass rather than a lemon which was a nice touch.
Once Sasha arrived she also ordered from the cocktail section and went for the spicy lychee which consisted on vodka, lychee and green chili – so a drink with a spicy twist. Another waiter came over to talk us through the menu, how best to order the tapas style food.
Naturally the roti’s are centre stage and they have two versions of the roti, the classic and the truffle roomie which has homemade truffle butter with seasoned cheddar. Hankies also offer a selection of chutney’s, a ‘Basil and Mango Chutney’, ‘Chicken Achar chutney’ and a ‘Mushroom Chutney’. We tried the ‘Mango Chutney’ which was sweet and spicy.
Alongside this we ordered some vegetable dishes. Hankies offer four vegetable tapas dishes, the ‘Lauki Wadiyan’, which is Indian squash and lentil nuggets, the ‘Hankies dal’ which is a black lentil stew, ‘Saag’ which is made with kale, spinach and lotus puffs, and ‘Cholay’ made from chickpea masala. All sounded delicious and it took a moment for us to make up our minds but we went with the Hankies Dal and the Saag as we’re both spinach and kale fans and each are scrummy flavoursome dishes.
The menu is set up so you can order dishes from the grill or the pan. The grill dishes are marinated in spices, options included ‘Chili Lamb Chop’, ‘Lemon Chili’ & ‘Jiggery Chicken’, ‘Chive and ‘Garlic Prawns’, ‘Yellow Challis Fish Tikka’, ‘Guinea fowl Sheik Kebab’ and ‘Pumpkin Paneer Tikka’. All sounded mouthwatering so I opted to try Lemon Chili and Jiggery Chicken and Sasha ordered the Chili Lamb Chop. I really enjoyed my Lemon Chili chicken, the spicy flavours on the chicken packed a tasty punch and my taste buds were happy. Sasha also enjoyed her lamb chop and our dishes were clean in no time.
The ‘From pan menu’, features Hankies signature dry curries and pan fries which complement the roti’s perfectly. Choices include ‘Kidney n Keem’ -Lamb mince, kidney tomato and coriander sauce, ‘Egg & Crab Gotala’ – eggs masala spicy crab, ‘Sea Bream’- pan fried in spices and lastly ‘Chicken Dhaba’ roadside dry chicken curry.
As it’s tapas, everything comes in a neat size and as we both ordered from the grill we opted to order one dish from the pan menu which was chicken dhaba – referred to as roadside dry chicken curry another delectable dish.
We were impressed with all the appetizing dishes we ordered. The truffle roomali’s are delectable and can be eaten as a snack on its own or with one of the chutney’s. Both roti’s completed each and every dish we ordered. The flavours were full, rich and spicy where it counts. The chicken curry although called dry curry isn’t dry at all, it comes in a thick sauce that went perfectly with the classic roti. The lentils stew was also tasty as were the vegetable dishes. The roti’s are perfect for tapas style menu allowing us to dip and switch at our leisure.
What you’ll notice from the menu is that there is no rice in sight which is unusual for Indian style restaurant food, but I didn’t miss rice at all! With the roti’s you really don’t notice or need rice. For me personally I’d take roti’s over rice any day so this ticked every box for me.
After filling up on all of those dishes we weren’t even thinking about dessert. The waiter returned to ask if we wanted to try a dessert so we figured it would be rude not too so we’d squeeze in a bite or two as well as another cocktail. I ordered the apple Margarita made with tequila, lime, apple and agave and it was another lip smacking cocktail. Sasha went for the Masala Coke made with old monk rum, nimbu, mint, chaat masala and coke and was highly complementary about it. For dessert, I tried the Aam Gur Ki Kher – mango rice, caramel cardamom and Sasha tried the Kulfi selection – pistachio and both were nice.
The food and drink at Hankies cafe doesn’t disappoint and we would highly recommend it. They had a nice steady flow of customers and you can easily see why that is. I would happily return and chow down again with friends. If you’re planning a night out at the theatre in Westend or happen to be shopping in the area why not stop by Hankies and fill up on their delicious Indian tapas delights! You won’t be disappointed.