“Pond isn’t ideal for anyone who doesn’t like raw fish, but it does Japanese-Hawaiian with flair and bags of charm.” John Walsh, The Independent
Pond is a “New Hawaiian” restaurant which opened amid lots of hype last autumn. It was created by Byron Knight, the brains behind Duke’s Brew & Que in Haggerston and the Off Broadway cocktail bar. Knight is a Californian boy with an eclectic background (he has a mix of Japanese, Polish and Mexican heritage) who has spent over 30 years in front of house positions in American restaurants, having started cooking at the Shiro Japanese restaurant in Pasadena, before moving on to be head waiter at the Michelin-starred Japanese fusion restaurant Nobu in New York. When Pond opened the head chef was the improbably named Frog Wong, but he has since moved on and Knight is now also in charge of the menu. The restaurant is housed in a massive Victorian warehouse which was once used for all night raves; the space is really too large for a restaurant, we when visited there were vast swathes of unoccupied space around the bar.
The menu has a mix of small plates, mainly sushi and pokes (raw fish salads which are a bit like a crude ceviche) and larger dishes, including a whole sea bass and smoked pork with pineapple. There is a pervading spam theme throughout the menu……Hawaiians love spam, a legacy from the Yankee soldiers based there after the war.
We started with a tasty snacking dish of miso-glazed aubergine with pomegranates (£4) – the aubergine had been smothered in miso and then chargilled so it had a lovely smoky finish. Our other starter was some reasonable, but slightly clumsy, salmon maki rolls (£7) – the fish was pretty fresh and the rice well prepared but the sushi had been rolled sloppily.
Pulled beef salad (£5) added more smoky flavours to proceedings, the meat was a sticky and packed with flavour, but the tinned sweetcorn and sliced apple on the side didn’t do much for me.
We shared a main of kalua pork (£14.5) – kalua is a traditional Hawaiian word for cooking meat in an underground oven. The pork was really moist and smoky, it was served alongside a zesty coriander and lime dressing, it was a really nice little dish.
Verdict: fun, unusual food but it is going to be a challenge for the great Byron Knight to fill his vast dining room 7.5/10