Hankies

Meal courtesy of Hankies

Written by Ed @onehungryasian

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.

DSC_9048Grab 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.
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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!

Pure Indian Cooking

Meal courtesy of Pure Indian Cooking

Meal eaten and written by Luxmmi

pure_6Situated on Fulham High Street, Pure Indian Cooking is a short walk from Putney Bridge station. The restaurant is surrounded by the usual high street stores and looks like your average local Indian from the outside. The restaurant being small and virtually empty (granted, it was a Wednesday evening) meant that we weren’t expecting much. Well, as we all know, looks can be deceiving.

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We started with goat’s cheese samosas, seared scallops, bhel and pani puri. Each of these dishes were bursting with flavour. The goat’s cheese samosas were especially delicious, with a beautifully crisp pastry and a variety of dipping sauces. The only dubious part of the starters was the pani puri sauce, however, this is an acquired taste anyway.

The options for mains were the usual selection. I went for the dal makhani (black dal) and garlic naan, whilst my companion went for the lasooni palak (creamed spinach and garlic) with rice. Consistent with the starters, all the dishes were delicious. The rich and creamy dal makhani particularly stood out and, to be honest, was just as good as Dishoom’s.

After the amount of food that had been given, dessert was definitely a struggle. Luckily, dessert stomach exists! Baked yoghurt in three flavours (lychee, mango and pistachio) was on the menu and we decided to give it a go. The dish was the perfect end to an Indian meal – fruity, light and smooth.

Overall it was a great experience, complemented by the attentive service. The prices are a little steeper than you’d expect, but it’s totally worth it.

Est India

Meal courtesy of Est India

Eaten and written by Ed @onehungryasian

dsc_3754A sister restaurant to the more refined Mango Indian around the corner, Est India serves more “rustic” Indian dishes but with plenty of flavour attention to detail. It’s a classy restaurant but still with an intimate feel, with booths for small groups and just enough lighting in there to make you feel welcome but not dazzled by bright lights.

I came in with high expectations, with my meal at Mango Indian last month being pretty impressive with its use of fresh ingredients and attention to detail. Est India does not disappoint. The focus here is on street food, with dosas, naan rolls and small plates making up a significant portion of the menu, with other regional specialities in the curry section that deserve as much attention as the street food.

dsc_3764We kicked things off with their mixed grill, with tender lamb chops, punchy flavours and plenty of an addictive mint sauce we joyfully slathered over the meat. Tender cuts of chicken tikka and kebab also accompanied, plus 2 small naans to mop up the juices. Highly recommended! A massive highlight of the entire meal was also the keema pav: minced lamb served with pomegranate seeds along with a buttered pav bun. Probably one of the best keema pav’s I’ve had in London, and while I’m no expert, is a very good dish and the stand out item of the night!

dsc_3772dsc_3767We followed up with a mixture of curries including a classic chicken tikka, a railway lamb, a Bengal prawn curry and a North Indian fish kari. Each curry was unlike the others, and we frequently passed our bowls around to try different flavours. The chicken tikka was sweet but still well balanced, and was a big favourite of the group with it effectively being licked clean by the end. The fish kari had large chunks of fresh fish, delicately cooked but still carrying through some punchy flavours. The railway lamb was a proper hearty dish with bags of meaty flavour and a thick sauce to match, and the Bengal prawn curry was superbly cooked and spiced.

dsc_3775dsc_3781Throw in some cracking paratha and naan bread (of the more crispy variety than doughy), and Est India is a fantastic Indian restaurant that I personally prefer to their sister restaurant Mango Indian. They have the same care over the cooking of food and same fresh ingredients, but don’t pull their punches with the spicing, providing a brilliant meal at more than fair prices. I didn’t get a chance to try their dosas or rolled naans, foods more typical of their street food origins, but I’ll definitely be back again soon to check it out!

The Painted Heron

Meal courtesy of the Painted Heron.

Bloggers event attended and written by Bella H, reviewed by Steph

The Painted Heron (8 of 31) History and Background:

The painted Heron describes itself as a “Contemporary dining room with upscale Indian menu and an outdoor cigar lounge.” It’s slightly off the beaten track on a quiet corner on riverside Cheyne Walk in Chelsea. It is obviously popular for those celebrating, as the restaurant was noticeably busy for a Wednesday evening, with happy birthdays being sung all around. This could have been a factor in the slow service we experienced; it took over 2 and half hours for all the courses to be served!

The meal:

We chose two mixed starters, the fish starter, which included Pollock fish tikka, tandoori roasted tiger prawns, and soft shell crab, and, the meat starter, containing wagyu beef kebab and lamb chops.

The Painted Heron (5 of 31)

The Pollock tikka was a highlight and the prawn had a great smoky taste.  The wagyu beef was succulent and the best item on the meat starter; the lamb however was a little chewy.

I was at first hesitant to try the palette cleanser, avocado lassi, however, I was pleasantly surprised. The added cumin gave it a little kick while being very refreshing. A light relief after some spicy food!

The Pollock tikka was a highlight and the prawn had a great smoky taste.  The wagyu beef was succulent and the best item on the meat starter; the lamb however was a little chewy.

The Painted Heron (21 of 31)I was at first hesitant to try the palette cleanser, avocado lassi, however, I was pleasantly surprised. The added cumin gave it a little kick while being very refreshing. A light relief after some spicy food!

Palettes cleansed, we moved onto mains. We had big selection of curries to sample including chicken tikka sweet chilli, black tiger prawns, rose veal and a super “hot” lamb shank super. The chicken tikka sweet chilli stood out the most, while the sweet chilli didn’t stand out, it had a distinct smoky and sweet flavour and I found myself going back for more.

The ‘osso bucco’ lamb shank was also lovely, tender meat, but I found the super hot flavour too overpowering to enjoy. Maybe those with a higher spice tolerance would like more!

To accompany the curries there was naan, yellow lentils and spinach, asparagus and okra and watercress, mango and sweet corn salad.  The mango salad was a much-needed fruity addition to combat the spice from the different curries.The Painted Heron (31 of 31)

The finish, we indulged in carrot halva profiteroles, gulab juman black forest and rose petal ice cream. There were mixed opinions on this one. It was nicely presented, and the rose in the ice cream was refreshingly fragrant and not too overpowering, however the profiterole was a little dry.

The Painted Heron (24 of 31)

It was a good, unique meal in a lovely location but I would only recommend to those willing to spend that little extra for something different to traditional Indian cuisine.

 Price: £££

Square Meal

Sheba

Meal courtesy of Sheba Brick Lane
Reviewed and written by Ed from @onehungryasian, published and edited by Steph
Sheba Brick Lane (5 of 17)
Brick Lane shouts one thing at you, almost quite literally if you walk down it, as the different restaurants try and entice you in with free drinks, 20% off and set menus that will make you question how low they can actually go and still make a good dish. That one thing is, by the way, curry! Famous/infamous for its curry, depending on how you see it, Brick Lane has more curry houses on it than you could possibly ever need, and standing out in the crowd is a difficult job.
Personally, I have to admit, I’ve never gone to a curry house there before! Sacrilege I know, but it’s easy to dismiss the restaurants on the street with the sudden influx of new hip and trendy Indian and Pakistani restaurants in London. Having had the chance to try a fair few dishes at Sheba, I’m regretful that I haven’t been here earlier!
Sheba was awarded “The Best Curry House in the UK” Award in 2015 by the Cobra Good Curry Guide, so is already sporting some seriously good credentials, and I’m happy to say it definitely lived up to those expectations.
We chose a few of the starters including lamb chops, king prawn chaat puri and the Sheba special zalzala bread. The lamb chops had great flavour but were a little overcooked, but the zalzala bread was an incredibly good stuffed naan and the chaat puri?
Wow. I mean seriously, wow. So fantastically good, full of flavour and spices and just one of the best single dishes I’ve had in a while. It comes with a wedge of lemon. Do yourself a favour and squeeze it on. Heaven. I could easily have eaten 3 or 4 of them and a few beers and been an extremely happy man!
We moved onto mains next and ordered 3 curries, 2 vegetable sides, garlic and chilli rice and a peshwari naan. Not much food then for just 2 of us, right?
Their menu has a small section dedicated to the “Ultimate Shashlik Special”, a dish combining 2 styles of cooking and lots more appealing buzz words and spices. Suffice it to say, the lamb shashlik masala was great. A rich dish but not too heavy, with well cooked and tender lamb that we really enjoyed.
Another customer favourite is the chicken xacuti, which is a coconut based Goan dish that was also great. A bit more spicy than the shashlik with a nice kick, and plenty of flavour to go with our sides.
Finally, completing the trio of curries we ordered was the Boal fish fry. This one sticks out in my memory as the waiter nearly jumped over the table in the way he enthusiastically recommended this dish – and was probably my 2nd favourite of the entire meal. Fragrant coriander, tomatoes, chilli and all the good stuff in a fish curry made for a generous helping of fish and plenty of happiness at the table.
Sides wise, the chana daal fry and spicy daal aubergine special were nice changes to the curries, and were good enough in themselves. I was pretty stuffed by this point however so admittedly, we didn’t eat much of it, but they were pretty good!
Overall, my time at Sheba was a bit of an awakening. In what really shouldn’t have been a surprise, Brick Lane curry houses are actually really good! I know for sure that I haven’t had takeaway curry as good as Sheba, and my god that king prawn chaat puri is great.
 Sheba Brick Lane (12 of 17)
For those of you reluctant to try Brick Lane, definitely do it. Yes the people standing outside can seem a bit pushy, but the food is actually really good and fair value (look for deals!). For those of you who have been before and/or are frequent visitors, check out Sheba for a chance in scenery. There’s a reason it’s won awards, and the standout dishes of chaat puri, zalzala bread and the Boal fish fry are reason enough!

Bangalore Express

B Express Interior 2
Credit: Bangalore Express

Meal courtesy of Bangalore Express

Blogger’s event attended by Shaneel P, edited and published by Steph

History and Background:

Bangalore Express City is located by Bank Station.  Although BEC has been present for a while now, they recently went under renovation to ensure the restaurant remained current and focuses on contemporary Indian cuisine. We were invited to an cocktail reception and subsequently a dinner.

The interior design and decor is rather confusing which made the dining experience a bit fuzzy, though BEC was going for a fine dining theme it was easy to see that it was more casual than formal.

Yogesh Datta acts as head chef and has previously trained under the Taj Group and Sheraton Hotels in India. His influence is still very much traditional Indian Cuisine, experimenting with innovation and new techniques.

The meal:

The menu was extensive but maybe too extensive, in which this opinion was mirrored by the other bloggers on the table. With so much depth on the menu, it was rather difficult to understand what to order.

B Express Food Pic 2
Credit: Bangalore Express

We ordered a few dishes from the menu, the first, chicken lollipop which was very nice and succulent. Great texture and lots of meat on the bone. Juicy with an Indian twist.

The Samosa Chaat, and the gravy on the Samosa was very enjoyable. It was seasoned with “Dallam” which made it a very interesting dish. The Samosa, however, did not stand out and is easily forgettable.

The Thali, was served with two small Naans, 1 butter chicken dish, 1 samosa, 1 cutlet, pappad, raita (yogurt), black dahl and rice. The samosa was the same as the samosa chaat so would advise you to order the thali only, than ordering both. The butter chicken was very fresh and the sauce was very rich. Unfortunately the cutlet was extremely oily which was the only negative to an otherwise great thali.

B Express Food Pic 1
Credit: Bangalore Express

Service: Overall, I could tell that they were understaffed as it took us over 3 hours to finish our meal. We had to leave slightly early at 11pm and they were still trying to get our dessert orders. Please note we sat for dinner at around 8.

Price: ££

Chakra (Kensington)

History and Background:

Meal courtesy of Chakra

Previous review of former Chakra found here.

Around the scene since 2011, Chakra opens up to the Indian restaurant scene to a whole new level of fine dine, with chandeliers, sleek presentation and a delicate interior. My previous visit to Chakra was a mixed one but a revamp and a relocation to Holland Street meant giving Chakra a second chance.

Highlights of regional specialties and traditional street food completes the Chakra experience. Indian cuisine in particular focuses on one important attribute, the flavour. This was the one thing I look to at Chakra was the essence of flavour.

I find that Chakra doesn’t focus so much on its authenticity but rather has a playful nature, streamlining modern influences into regional specialties.

Would like to note, the menu itself is priced at the high end, with up to £15 starters for a main, it would only appeal to certain gourmands and wealthy locals alike.

The meal:

Started off with appetisers and poppadoms. Poppadoms made mini-size, thicker and with more crunch. Mixed opinions on these as I would probably have much prefered the more traditional, thin spread, pancake-like pieces. Spice Crusted Tiger Shrimp, Fresh Ginger & Garlic Yoghurt £15.50 were meaty and succulent and the spice gave it an extra kick. The Crispy Avocado Spheres, Curry Leaves, Tamarind Chutney £10.50 were just as delicious. Hot, fried avocados are definitely not something I’ve had before and thoroughly enjoyed consuming these.

Betty had a taste of their signature cocktail, spicy and a strong kick with a hint of mint. A great refresher and a cooler.

Chakra (4 of 19)
Chicken grilled well and plated well
Chakra (11 of 19)
Clay oven cooked Black Code, Saffron, Samphire £19.95

Not going to deny, the black cod was cooked well, soft, tender and just slips on to your tongue. Black code in general is an expensive dish wherever you go, though the prices are still pretty steep at Chakra. The dishes here are innovative and unique but I also question the Indian cuisine element to these, most notably the fried avocado balls.

Chakra (14 of 19)
Blue Cheese Naan £2.95

The blue cheese naan caught my eye. Something different and again something innovative. Naan was soft and had a good balance of cheese.

Desserts became another round of pure visuals, a very modernised approach to Indian dining.

Chakra (16 of 19)
Hand modelled by Betty @bettypwang

Mixed opinions on the dessert. Absolutely love the design and the plating. Mango Kulfi, Fresh Mango, Mango Sauce £5.75 was again original and had a great novelty factor it. Gulab Jamun Caviar, Pistachio Toast Cardamom Creme £5.75 – I don’t usually like Gulab Jamun as I find it too sweet, but the “caviarversion of this meant that I was able to nibble on this and dip into fresh cream or serve it with biscuits. Great idea, great design. Unfortunately not a fan of the Chocolate Soil, Chakra, needs higher quality chocolates before serving these as found it to be sub-standard.

Overall a good meal in a nice location. Suitable for locals and those with a hefty wallet but not for those who are looking for an authentic curry house.

Price: £££

Square Meal