319-321 King Street,London,W6 9NH
020 8741 4328/www.potli.co.uk
I spent my early childhood in the Hammersmith area so any trip back is particularly evocative for me. It was the 1960s and I remember going to the market with my tiny Greek grandmother. She had very firm ideas about which traders supplied the best produce and would act as if she was at a street market in Athens’ Plaka district, selecting her veg by hand in a way that was unheard of in those days in the UK. By the 1970s and slightly further down King St emerged Hammersmith’s famous Curry Lane. This destination stretch of restaurants gave well-heeled West Londoners the opportunity to indulge their need for culinary heat and spice without heading out to the rawer streets of Southall.
On the site that used to house Tandoori Nights, one of the most iconic of those early curry houses, sits Potli and I have been invited to a tasting of their new summer menu by Zoe Perrett, The Spice Scribe, one of the most informed, engaging and articulate advocates for Indian food in London.
The food at Potli is inspired by some of India’s most famous street-food destinations, from Chandni Chowk in Delhi, the birth place of Chicken Tikka Masala, to Mumbai’s Chowpatty Beach and Chowrenghee Lane. But sadly we aren’t standing in the bustle of an Indian marketplace but are instead in W6 on a beautiful summer’s evening consoling ourselves by sipping Tamarind & Basil Martinis (£7.50). This was an elegant and well-balanced martini, the sour tang of the tamarind balanced by the vegetal sweetness of the basil and vermouth.
And then the food started to come…
Aloo Papri Chaat are spiced potatoes and savoury fritters laced with date and tamarind relish, mint and coriander chutney, whipped yoghurt and topped with crispy vermicelli. . I adore them and these were crunchy and soft, sour and sweet, hot and cold all at the same time- a great mouth feel and taste.
Chilli Paneer, India’s answer to beancurd, was beautifully moist in an Indo – Chinese influenced sauce of chilli and garlic, served with peppers and spring onions
By now we were downing glasses of a Chenin Blanc from the Fratelli Vineyard in Pune. I really struggle with matching wines to Indian food and this was a good match, floral and citrussy, robust to stand up to the spice and heat without being overpowering
Drums of heaven were chicken wings, lollipop style, in an improvised Hakka style Indo – Chinese inspired dish. They had real depth of flavour.
Shakarkhandi and Anar ke Chaat was a mix of sweet potato and fresh pomegranate in a tangy relish tossed with coconut flakes and chaat masala. Fresh pomegranate is turning up on so many menus now it is in danger of becoming a cliche, but I love its texture and acid sweetness against the enveloping warmth of the sweet potato.
Cashew nut pakoras, clusters of deep-fried, spice-battered cashew nuts were so moreish I had to be told to stop eating them…
Onion bhajee were fresh and crisp, served with coriander.
Sadly I had to leave the Indian Summer event at Potli before the mains appeared as even The Hedonist has to work sometimes. I will definitely go back. There is a real commitment to authenticity and quality and I want to see if that is articulated through the rest of the menu. But if you are looking for some authentic Indian street tastes in Hammersmith you should give Potli a spin.