The combination of the words ‘theme’ and ‘restaurant’ would usually be enough to send most self-respecting gourmands running for the hills but, here in our funny old metropolis, there’s often an exception to any rule.
Pond in Dalston is one such place- a homage to the Hawaiian dining craze sweeping across America, or from “across The Pond”, and certainly no relation to the downmarket ‘tiki huts’ blighting the landscapes of suburbia.
A mere nipper, this gastronomic ode to tropical paradise is not even six months old and feels as fresh as its cuisine- Byron Knight, he who brought us the State-side inspired ‘Off Broadway’ and BBQ joint ‘Duke’s Brew and Que’, is the brains behind this particular Aloha-shirt attired offering, making Pond London’s first official New Hawaiian Cuisine (NHC) restaurant.
As with all great East-End eating experiences, our visit to Pond brings us to a fantastic Victorian warehouse; vintage on the outside but oh so modern within- , all industrial brickwork and spotlighting with the handy addition of some ambiently-lit booths at the back for making naughty eyes at better halves over stunning cocktails. Speaking of which, boy, were they ever stunning! The drinks menu here is a major draw with the Blanco tequila, Mezcal, Apricot Brandy, cloudy apple and fresh lemon laden ‘I Forgot… to Remember To Forget’ being one to… erm… remember. Full marks must also be awarded to ‘A Dog’s Life’, a new twist on an old fashioned with a fantastic smoky lapsangsouchong aftertaste.
If you’re expecting Spam, Spam and more Spam then best get back to your Monty Python boxsets as, though it makes a couple of appearances on the menu (most memorably on a plate of teriyaki-smothered musubi), this retro canned WWII staple is by no means the leading lady. The food here at Pond is as inspired by its Japanese and Korean neighbours on the other side of the North Pacific as by its proximity to the rest of the US of A. These are, for the most part, light bites- as easily enjoyed in the bar area as an upmarket accompaniment to your beverages as a full-on sit down experience.
On our visit, we engaged in some positively classic salmon and king prawn maki rolls, perfectly flavoured teriyaki vegetables and an absolutely out of this world plate of sizzling whole catfish, simply but impeccably dressed with ginger, shallots and a tart ponzu.
We didn’t get stuck into the meatier end of the menu on this particular trip but we hear from a reliable little birdy that the Habanero Beef Rib is a must-try for next time- a dish that even Fred Flinstone himself would be satisfied by.
Dessert options are kept to a simple trio of Pineapple Cake (but of course), Chocolate Tart and Baked Cheesecake- having tried the latter two, I can safely say they are worth saving room for. The miso butterscotch sauce with the tart is an original and welcome touch with the sour citrus tang of yuzu kicking the cheesecake up a gear.
The staff were absolutely on point with the manager ensuring that each and every guest was made to feel welcome and special, no mean feat in London’s sometimes jaded restaurant scene.
If leis and cocktails with a distinctly neon glow are what you’re looking for in a Hawaiian-themed eatery then Pond is not the place for you. If however, you’re seeking a true authentic Pacific taste experience without having to fly 18 hours for the privilege than maybe it’s time for you and Pond to say ‘aloha’.