Potli, literally translated as “food bundle”, is a humble name for such an exceptional restaurant. Priding itself on being the first Indian market kitchen in London, dinner at Potli is far from your average Cobra and curry experience.
I first came across Potli by accident, or perhaps due to the intervention of fate, expecting the King Street restaurant to be under the management of its predecessor. However, I was pleasantly surprised to find a new name, a new management team, and a brand new décor. Gone were the 70s-esque pink walls and the bizarre ceramic figurine of a salsa dancer. A concerted effort has been made to turn Potli into a contemporary space, combining modernity with an Indian twist. Charming photographs depicting the hustle and bustle of daily life in India line the wall next to the bar, while the seating areas includes booths dotted with cushions made by Indian artisans. Vintage tin signs and other small details such as stacks of bangles and sacks of spices on display are a feast for the eyes, and give Potli that edge which has allowed it to become such a popular restaurant since its recent opening.
The Chicken 65 is a house speciality and a must-have…
Having been warned over the phone that we might have to wait for a table, upon arrival my party of eight and I headed to the bar for an aperitif. As well as providing classic cocktails, Potli boasts several exotic martinis, from the Chilli-Ginger Martini to the Tamarind Martini. After much deliberation, however, I decided to try out the mocktail menu, ordering a Jhumri Taliaya – fresh mint with pineapple juice and a special spice mix. I’d never had anything like it, and though the spice mix was pretty potent and definitely an acquired taste, it nonetheless gets my vote for sheer originality.
The dining experience is equally unique, offering up conceptual dishes based upon those one might find in an Indian food bazaar. The Chicken 65 is a house speciality and a must-have – tender chicken in a crispy and tangy coating, delicately spiced to perfection. The Prawn Jhal Diye, which consisted of marinated king prawns lightly charred and wrapped in a banana leaf, was also a noteworthy starter.
…a house specialty not to be missed…
As I was with such a large group, we were able to order and share between us a substantial amount of dishes on the Main Menu. I was impressed by everything, but the Goan Pork Vindaloo was particularly exceptional, striking the perfect balance between the tanginess of the special vinegar marinade and the spiciness of the sauce. I must also mention at this stage the Prawn Narkel Diye, cooked in coconut water and coconut milk, flavoured with homemade mustard paste. The prawns were melt-in-the-mouth delicious, and the generous amount of sauce was perfect mopped up with a Peshawari Naan. Potli is also very vegetarian-friendly, and the Mirchi ka Salan – banana peppers cooked in a sesame, coconut, peanut and yoghurt gravy – is a house specialty not to be missed.
Dessert was a no-brainer for me, and at the end of our spectacular meal I sat eagerly awaiting my Cinnamon Spiced Chocolate Mousse. The mousse was thick and indulgent, almost like a truffle mixture, and the addition of cinnamon sugar to the dark chocolate gave the mousse warmth and sweetness. My fellow diners were equally impressed by their Shrikhand – sweetened yogurt flavoured with saffron, pistachio and green cardamom.
…inspired in particular by the subcontinent’s market kitchens.
Potli goes above and beyond the expectations of your average High Street Indian restaurant. The enthusiasm and passion of its owners can clearly be seen through their attention to detail, from the décor to the dishes. Though the restaurant puts an Indian spin on Western drinks and desserts, its savoury menu is very much an exploration of traditional Indian dishes, inspired in particular by the subcontinent’s market kitchens. The result is a welcome move away from the stereotypical korma and tikka dishes that too often take centre stage at Indian restaurants, in favour of some real gourmet treats.
Image courtesy of Potli