It takes something special to standout amongst all the restaurants in the Soho area. And yes, Indian tapas is probably something you’ve seen and heard about a dozen times now, a popular trend that sees no sign of stopping.
But why should it? The bold and vibrant flavours lend themselves to small dishes well when diners want to pick at a dozen things, and each mouthful becomes a new experience in itself across a variety of dishes.
Hankies Café on Shaftesbury Avenue enters the fray, selling Indian street food tapas style from a rather nondescript venue despite the neon sign at the front. You’ve likely walked past it a few times without giving it a second thought, but you really should consider heading in.
At the heart of the menu lies the “hankies”, also known as roomali/rumali roti: thin flatbread quickly rolled, spun and baked on a grid and then wrapped up into a hankie shape for diners to enjoy with their curry.
Grab one, and use it as a vessel for the great variety of curries and dishes on the menu. Chutneys kick start the meal with tangy spiced chicken or mushroom, with fried pea poppers and dahl puri remaining some of the highlights of the entire meal, especially with an addictive tamarind mint chutney.
Chilli lamb chops are tender to bite and quick to finish with their marinated flavour, and the very popular lemon chilli & jaggery chicken were juicy and perfectly cooked. It was more than tempting to take a piece, dip it in the yoghurt sauce and shovel them into my mouth one by one. On the curries list, my personal favourite, a paneer tikka, was a great “wet” curry to dip the roti into. A crab and egg dry curry was a bit lacking in punch, but the kidney and keema curry pairs perfectly with the roti and is highly recommended.
Overall, the food here at Hankies is bold, packed with flavour, and great value for the portions. Tapas style generally invokes an internal cry of alarm of having to pay a bit more than you’d wish, but I could happy spend £8 in here for a roti, chutney and a dry curry and leave an extremely happy man. Throw in an extensive cocktail list which mostly everything at £5.50 (with some real hidden gems in there), and you’ve got a great restaurant that is worthy of your attention. Don’t expect queues comparable to the other Indian sharing plate stalwarts in London either!
Address: 67 Shaftesbury Ave, London W1D 6EX