Not just a bag of spices

Posted on Back of House Dec 2011 - by Tandoori Editor
Not just a bag of spices

Potli is a dream come true for old college friends Jay Ghosh, the chef, and front of house manager Uttam Tripathy. Ghosh talks to Tandoori.


According to Jay Ghosh, head chef and joint managing director of the newly opened Potli, in west London, the restaurant name derives from the true sense of the word:  a spice bag made of muslin.
Then again, what Potli is trying to do isn’t just about spices, but to bring to its menu a reflection of the mixed and varied cuisines of India. In addition, it’s infusing its cooking with a flavour of some of the country’s main market areas. Hardly a surprise then that the term “market kitchen” has been much used by the restaurant.
“What I wanted to do at the restaurant,” says Ghosh, “was to serve wholesome, unpretentious food without too many garnishes yet have dishes that were highly flavoursome and full of taste and aroma. That way, with good service being the other important factor, you are near guaranteed repeat custom.”
Though at first glance Potli’s menu seems quite familiar, look closely and you’ll be pleasantly surprised. Ghosh explains further and is at pains to point out that the intention was never to be too niche.
“Coming up with the right menu was one of the most difficult and time consuming aspects of the whole restaurant concept,” he admits. “I had anywhere of up to eight different versions of the menu before deciding on the definitive one. The Indian cookery repertoire criss-crosses so many different regions that one has to be very selective.
What I then did was to focus on key places that put an emphasis on markets, ranging from Hyderabad to Mumbay and Kolkata, and select dishes which were very iconic to those areas. At the same time, one had to take a populist stance as well and give customers what they want. There is of course a huge spectrum of dishes that we can still incorporate and hopefully I’ll be doing that in forthcoming revisions of the menu.”
So even when Potli’s menu offers up standards such as tandoori items and kormas and jhalfrezis, there are surprises in-store: methi gota, pathar ke gosht, Goan pork vindaloo, mirchi ka salan and even dhaba style handi curries served on the bone.
Born in Kolkata, Ghosh notes that right from a young age, he instinctively knew what good food was about. As he admits, despite his mother not exactly welcoming him into the kitchen, he managed to pick up enough tips from her about basic cookery skills to stand him in good stead for the future.
“Food and hotels and restaurants always intrigued me,” states Ghosh, even though none of my family were ever associated with that world. As I grew up, whenever my friends and I would go out, I was the one they would rely on to pick the right place to eat at and the right fishes.”
While his parents had ambitions for him to become a doctor or an engineer, Ghosh persuaded them that he would be better off following his dreams and entering hotel management, which he passed the entrance exams for with flying colours, in Madras. Stints with the Oberoi hotel group followed at various prestigious properties of the group before Ghosh arrived in the UK in 2001.
By chance, also arriving into the UK the same year was Ghosh’s old college friend Uttam Tripathy, who, along with the former, is joint managing director and heads front of house operations at Potli.“Uttam and I had always talked about opening a restaurant one day and I’m so proud that we’ve done it!”
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