Forget grass skirts and pineapple pizzas, Pond has arrived to bring a new image of Hawaii to Dalston. Heading along to their opening party I confess I knew pretty much nothing about what to expect from this new offering from the blokes behind Dukes and Off Broadway. The restaurant fills a cavernous old Victorian warehouse decorated with the odd bicycle hanging from the ceiling and beakers filled with dry ice and the clientele, certainly at that opening night, were mostly made up of that pretty typical Dalston crowd (think beards and skinny jeans) which come with the territory. The atmosphere was noisy, raucous and lots of fun with a 1950’s soundtrack giving the whole place a faded rockabilly charm and the staff, in their obligatory Hawaiian shirts (the one nod to convention) doing a cracking job keeping everyone happy.
The concept behind the cooking seems to be to get away from the stereotypical image of Hawaiian food and really draw on the influence of the generations of immigrants from around the Pacific to the island resulting in the natural creation of fusion cuisine. The impact of Japanese cookery was particularly obvious as we tucked into a range of sushi on offer from the dedicated sushi bar but Maki roles filled with poke, a traditional Hawaiian raw fish salad, and Nigiri layered with Spam, pickled pear and apple weren’t quite what I would expect in your average Japanese restaurant! The Spam in particular was a recurring theme on the menu and is apparently a big part of Hawaiian food culture (its even on offer at their McDonalds!). I’d never tried it before but to taste it was meaty and a little spongy, sucking up the flavours of whatever it was pared with not unlike tofu. In particular the cabbage pancake with shrimp, pineapple and Spam had a gorgeously soft and tender texture with just the right balance of sharp fruit and savoury filling, even if I did have to repress singing the Viking Spam song from Monty Python!
Another highlight at Pond are the cocktails, again, nothing is served in a hollowed out coconut or studded with flowers, cocktails here are a serious business. I initially went for the “Duck Duck Goose”, a slightly surprising mix of vodka, sweet potato syrup, fresh lemon and table beer. Whilst to me this sounded first a bit like a game of “drink everything on the table” actually it really worked, resulting in what tasted like a particularly refreshing pint of beer with a bit of an extra kick. Other favourites from amongst the cocktail list included “A Dog’s Life”: FEW white dog whiskey, green tea syrup and tincture of lapsang souchong, basically an old fashioned but with a strong floral fragrance, and “Luscious Lana’i” which mixed St. Germain elderflower liqueur with Frog’s pineapple sorbet and Prosecco.
Overall my trip to the opening night of Pond was great fun, the food is quirky, surprising and delicious (I am a definite Spam convert), the drinks are inventive and well thought through and the atmosphere is vibrant and lively. Apparently a little bit of Hawaii is just what Dalston needed!