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Indian restaurant, Hammersmith
Potli – an Indian market kitchen: that’s how it’s
described on the website. In fact that home page is a stylish
introduction to the ethos of the whole restaurant. Vibrant and
inclusive, fun and tempting. This isn’t a part of the swathe of “fine
dining” Indian restaurants that seem to be the norm in new openings.
Potli holds to the principles that made Indian food in the UK so
popular in the first place.
I have no axe to grind regarding Indian fine dining. There is a place
for every presentation of Subcontinental food, but a glinting French
chandelier does not a tasty dinner make. There are many good high-end
restaurants around that offer food in a polished environment and they
are special spots, but Potli has gone for a more relaxed and rustic
tone. This is a restaurant that you’ll likely want as your local.
Potli has an enviable location on King Street. It has a fleet of buses
rolling past the door and is within walking distance of several
Underground stations in both Hammersmith and Chiswick, so its catchment
area is huge. The facade is light and contemporary and Potli is blessed
with a wide pavement area which will be decked with tables and chairs
in the warmer (we hope) months.
The bar at Potli is quite a draw: not only is it just about the first
feature you see but it’s also a magnet for those who want to enjoy some
distinct and striking cocktails, and perhaps a starter
while waiting for friends. The restaurant
only been open a few months but its reputation has
grown, not only for its food but also for its cocktails. It is
banishing the myth that six pints of larger is the acceptable beverage
option. Indian food and alcohol pairing has come of age
at Potli. They offer a menu of both exotic and classic cocktails at
£7 or less, which makes this a classy rendezvous for
them-in-the-know. There is also plenty of choice for those who
want a simple aperitif – Prosecco is less than £5 per glass.
The restaurant has neutral-coloured walls hung with Indian chachkies
and artwork. The banquettes splash vivid green and the hessian cushion
covers introduce that textile theme that is continued on menus and
blinds. Dark wood tables are set with brass chutney carriers, and even
the cutlery is rustic and wrought. There are lots of thoughtful design
elements at Potli that contrive to give an agreeably casual backdrop to
some high-end food.
We arrived at 7pm and the restaurant was quiet, but it seems that was
the lull before the regular storm of diners, who turned up in couples,
groups and shoals shortly thereafter; a mix of both Asians and
Europeans and all seemed familiar with the menu. A good sign for even a
long-established restaurant, and an accolade for a relatively new opening.
A Chilli-Ginger Martini – a spice-infused house special
made with fresh chilli, crushed fresh ginger and vodka – was my
libation and it was a cracker. That chilli really did pop and the
ginger added a warming mellow glow. A must-try cocktail.
The Potli is, unsurprisingly, the signature cocktail here. Basil,
cardamom, limoncello and Hendricks’s gin are mixed to give an aromatic
drink that is unmistakably Indian-inspired, and was very much
appreciated by my guest. The cardamom was evident, with basil giving a
verdant accent. Truly unique and worthy of a second glass.
The food here takes its cue from celebrated markets and street stalls
across India. They each have their specialities and many of those have
found their way onto the Potli menu; so we grazed by course and by geographic location.
Chowpatty is the popular beach in Mumbai which is celebrated for its
street food stalls. We ordered the Bhel Puri which is a Mumbai -style
puffed rice dish made with roasted peanuts, finely chopped onions,
tomatoes, cucumber and served with chutneys. We enjoyed this with our
drinks while waiting for our starters. The combination of textures
tastes is moreish.
Chandni Chowk is an ancient corner in the heart of Delhi and is said to
serve some of the best Indian marketplace food. Chicken 65 is a
dish that is increasingly found on menus here in London. It’s a
preparation of chicken strips, coated in batter which is flavoured with
crushed black pepper and fried curry leaves. This is just the starter
to order if you visit for only a drink and a snack. The dish got its
curious name not from the number of spices used but because it was
number 65 on a menu: Chicken 65 is alleged to have been a dish found in
a military canteen. Their menu made no mention of meat, to avoid
offending the largely vegetarian local population; when the soldiers
wanted chicken they ordered item number 65 ...or so the story goes.
Aminabad is the most famous market in Old Lucknow, known to have been
around since the days of the Mughal Empire and noted for its kebabs and
tandoori dishes. Bharwan Shimla Mirch is beautiful to look at and
delicious – a whole red pepper is grilled in the tandoor to give
delicate flecks of char. It’s stuffed with onions, mashed potatoes,
sultanas and paneer: a mild and comforting dish.
Prawn Jhal Diye sounded intriguing. This hails from Chowrenghee Lane,
the iconic street food neighbourhood in the centre of Kolkata
(Calcutta). Indian Ocean king prawns in a spicy marinade are wrapped in
banana leaves and charred. The chef has a deft
hand when it comes to this delicate seafood. Prawns can so easily turn
to rubber when over-exposed to heat but this was moist and well
flavoured. A definite signature dish.
Our tour continued with Goan Prawn Balchao. This must be one of
the most popular dishes from that region and is made of king prawns,
spiced with Potli balchao masala, and cooked with cloves, chillies and
black pepper along with vinegar – not a common ingredient in India but
that’s the Portuguese influence. A delight with some Roti bread to mop
up the sauce.
Shrikhand is a traditional dessert of sweetened hung yogurt flavoured
with saffron, pistachio and cardamom. It made a light yet rich end to a
delightful meal. We ordered tea alongside and Potli offers not only the
ubiquitous Masala Chai (spiced tea with milk) but also Kali Chai which
is black tea with black salt and peppercorns, and no milk. This was
refreshing and not over-spiced.
Potli is a winner in every regard. The owners have a passion for good
food. The chef, Jay, is Oberoi-trained as are many of the most visible
Indian chefs in London – yes, those guys you have seen on TV. Potli is
a casual restaurant but that term only applies to the ambiance that is
cosy and embracing. The food is as good as you will find anywhere in
London, even in restaurants with chandeliers ...and then there are
Potli - An Indian market kitchen
319-321 King Street, Hammersmith, London, W6 9NH
Phone: 020 8741 4328 / 020 8741 5321
Visit Potli here
Ravenscourt Park or Stamford Brook: 3-4 minutes walk
Hammersmith: 8-10 minutes walk