For many years Tandoori Nights was one of the most prominent restaurants of the cluster of Indian restaurants on Hammersmith’s King Street, though it never offered anything more than very ordinary high street fare. Now it has finally gone to meet its maker, and the premises has been transformed into Potli, which characterises itself as serving Indian market food, though the lengthy menu has plenty of more traditional high street dishes as well. The business is owned by two friends who met in India at catering school: Uttam Tripathy runs the front of house and Jay Ghosh the kitchen. A potli, incidentally, is a little pouch containing spices, used by cooks in India much as a bouqet garni is used by French cooks.
There was a short wine list, ranging from £14 to £35 in price. Examples included Mill Cellars Shiraz 2010 at £18 for a wine that appears in the high street for about a fiver, Don Jacobo Rioja Crianza Tinto, Bodegas Corral at £25 for a wine that retails at £8, up to Château Lyonnat Lussac Saint-Émilion 2006 at £35 for a wine that sells for £13. There were as many sparkling wines listed as there are white wines with, somewhat out of character for the list, Louis Roederer Cristal 2004 at £195; this is, in relative terms, not very heavily marked up from its retail price of £135.
The dining room a wooden floor and is quite dimly lit, with no tablecloths and cushions on the banquette seating. Recorded piano music played in the background. Tables were tiny and packed together, so small that it was difficult to fit the dishes on to the table. A bhel poori (£3) was disappointing, just puffed rice and pieces of tomato, onion and cucumber with, in this version, peanuts. The key to a good bhel poori is to get enough moisture from the chutneys used, and here there was so little chutney that what was used was lost without trace, resulting in a very dry dish, essentially just a few bits of puffed rice with salad (10/20). Better was aloo tikki (£4.25), in this case the fried potato cake served to one side of the chickpea masala. The chickpeas were tender and the spicing of the masala was decent (12/20).
Chicken jhalfrezi (£8) was a lacklustre version of the standard dish, the chicken pieces cooked with pepper, onions, green chillies, coriander and lime in a tomato sauce. The main issue was that the chicken pieces themselves were dry from overcooking and had little taste (10/20). Better were the two vegetable side dishes. Aloo jeera (£4) had baby potatoes that were properly cooked, stir-fried with ginger, garlic, crushed pepper and, above all, cumin. The spice blend was reasonable here (12/20). Also acceptable was a channa (£4), with fairly tender chickpeas cooked with onions, garlic, chillies, coriander and dried mango powder (12/20). Tilapia fillets were marinated in spices (garlic, ginger, mustard) before cooking on the griddle and garnished with coriander and lemon. The fish was cooked reasonably well, though the spicing could have been more vibrant (11/20). Naan was adequate (11/20) though it could have been a more supple in texture.
Service was pleasant enough. The bill came to £29 per person. This is not excessive, but the issue for me was not the price but the quality of the cooking. I can just about justify a 11/20 score given that it is still better than many of the other local Indian places, but it is still not what I had hoped for. This restaurant is within walking distance of my house, yet I still am not inclined to go back.