Indian Summer at Potli, Hammersmith:
Zoe Perrett of The Spice Scribe is a woman on a mission. To educate London into the mysteries of Indian Cuisine. And, I’m quite happy to be educated – especially if it involves invitations to restaurants like Potli on King Street in Hammersmith. So, one evening last week I joined a number of food writers for an ‘Indian Market Kitchen’ experience. It was exceptionally hot and the introductory cocktail of a non-alcoholic berry crush was very welcome.
Even more welcome was the Tamarind and Basil Martini – a delicate cocktail with a careful balance sweet vermouth, Bombay sapphire, tamarind puree and basil which sounds unlikely on paper but tasted delicious.
And, as promised there were a whole selection of canapes or cocktail nibbles. I love Aloo Papri Chaat – these were flattened and rather easier to eat with fingers as canapes as a result.
I’m not entirely sure that my 5:2 Diet efforts will have been helped much by the Cashew Nut Pakoras and Mangodi (small lentil batter deep-fried dumplings), but I know I ate rather a lot of both, under the mistaken assumption that this was simply going to be canapes and cocktails
I also indulged in something that at least on the face of it might just have been a little healthier – this rather beautiful dish of Shakarkandi and Anar ke Chaat. It’s difficult to avoid eating too much of this type of food. All far too morish.
At this point, we decamped downstairs to sample some more of the restaurant’s menu. The steaming kitchen was a hive of activity and we soon discovered why. Dishes started to appear. The first three ‘from the Tokri of Chandni Chowk’ which google has translated for me to mean ‘from the basket of one of Delhi’s oldest markets – Chadni Chowk – Midnight Market’. These are all listed as fried, but were wonderfully light and crispy without any hint of greasiness. My personal favourite was the spicy Chilli Paneer – one of those dishes any carnivore would happily eat without missing their meat.
There were more mocktails for those who didn’t want alcohol and Indian wines for those who did. The mango masti is a mixture of fresh mango puree with apple juice, mint leaves and coconut cream. It looked stunning!
The other two dishes at this stage were ‘Chicken 65 – a traditional recipe of chicken coated in a flour batter, and onion bhajee that was like none I’ve tried before.
Starters arrived from the griddle – ‘Dishes of the Tawa of Chowrenghee Lane’ (I think that means the ladle of Chowrenghee Lane – an area in Delhi famous for its street food). Of course we all loved the ‘Drums of Heaven’ (lollipop style chicken wings) but perhaps the most notable for me was Shammi Kebab – a strange little soft meat patty that we were told was designed to feed the older, toothless generation of the streets of Delhi.
And, a selection of chicken tikkas ‘from the Tandoor of Aminabad’. I tasted the hariyali (mint and coriander), which needless to say was nothing like the chicken tikka you can buy from your local supermarket.
There was more to come! Three main courses. I personally particularly loved the Hyderabadi style kaachi mutton biryani. That may have been partly due to a fascination with the cooking process. Raw marinated meat and basmati rice is cooked together in a sealed pot with spices – Potli’s own blend – rose water and saffron, then garnished with fried onions and rose petals and served with a ‘Salan’ gravy of sesame, coconut, peanut and yoghurt. It was delicious with meltingly tender meat and perfectly cooked rice. And, to me, it was culinary magic.
The photograph, unfortunately, doesn’t show the biriyani. At the front is Pindi Channa – chickpeas simmered with tea leaves and tossed with onions, garlic, chillies, coriander and dry mango powder and above is a house speciality called Rattan Manjusha Kofta – paneer and shredded spinach dumplings stuffed with a selection of nuts, simmered in a tomato and cardamom sauce.
We finished the evening with masala chai, a strong black boiled tea, with milk and spices. An excellent tonic for the journey home.
Many thanks to Zoe, to Jay Gosh and to the team at Potli for a great night learning a little more about Indian food.
319-321 King Street
London w6 9NH