Indian Food Cooked With Passion At Potli
The King Street restaurant which features marketplace food to feature on BBC show
It is three years now since Potli turned up the heat in King Street with its blend of 'marketplace' dining and home cooking.
Since then it has drawn together a loyal following for both dinner and lunchtime specials and is shortly to be on BBC Two as part of a 'reality television' programme in which four establishments run a competition to find a head chef. The show is hosted by Hotel Inspector presenter Alex Polizzi and we look forward to seeing it on our screens in the forthcoming months.
When I visited Potli with two friends one cold lunchtime last week, the staff were recovering from the exertions of filming - the restaurant interior had been freshly painted to look its best on national television and the the bright new colours and patterned cushions lit up the grey day. We were ushered to a table and ordered drinks while we looked over the menu.
A 'potli' is a little cotton bag like a bouquet garni, containing the mix of spices used in Indian kitchens- cumin, mustard seed , cardamom and coriander predominate but every cook has their secret collection. Co-owners Jay Ghosh and Uttam Tripathy spent years travelling around India investigating secret recipes, in order to give West London an experience of Indian market-place food. They come from a background of many years in hospitality both in India and London.
Marketplace food in India contains special dishes with often secret recipes known to the local chefs for many years - the food is cooked on the spot in specially designated market areas, and you are as likely to find a millionaire in the queue, as someone with a rickety bicycle. Street- food on the other hand, is more likely to be simpler ' chaats' or pakoras or dosa pancakes in the south, and is more akin to our 'fast' food'.
For mains, we opted for the A La Carte menu, although there is a rapid lunch menu at the very reasonable price of £4.95- £6.95 for low-calorie fillers such as a paneer and vegetable wrap or chicken/meat rolls.
My Chicken Makhani, chunks of tandoor chicken in a fenugreek, cream and tomato sauce, was just the right level of spice to warm up the cockes, while my companion chose to turn up the heat with her Chicken Handi Masala, chunks of chicken breast in an onion and tomato sauce with cardamom and cumin. It was served in a beautiful silver bowl and had sufficient fire for her. Our vegetarian companion was delighted with her Rattan Manjusha- a nut kofta dish laced with jaggery in a paneer and shredded spinach mixture. This is a house favourite and its not difficult to see why - it could be a choice for anyone opting for a meat-free but still sustaining meal. The mains were accompanied by delicately spiced pilau rice, and some Daal Tarka lentils in a cumin, onions, astafoetida and garlic sauce. Naan bread was on hand to mop up the delicious sauces.
Between us we drank a bottle of sparkling water, a lager and two glasses of Pinot Grigio.
Needless to say there was no room for dessert but we headed back into the cold nicely warmed up.
The service was friendly and attentive, and the staff were very happy to give advice to customers about the menu.
I would certainly recommend Potli to anyone wishing to try an authentic restaurant where the food is cooked with care and passion. I look forward to a return visit.
January 23, 2015