The Pawn has historically had mixed reviews: “the décor and setting are amazing, but the food doesn’t quite match,” they would say. Well, “they”, you can now eat your words (and The Pawn’s food too) for British chef Anthony Fletcher, trained by Tom Aikens, joined the team last year and has successfully thrown some magic into the mix, creating incredible British food that complements the gorgeous setting.
The setting really is gorgeous, housed inside one of Hong Kong’s few remaining heritage buildings. The Dining Room on the second floor is lovely and cosy, with rustic wooden tables and chairs, and a spacious balcony overlooking the bustling Johnston Road. It has a terribly British feel to it (said in my best Queen’s English accent), which is as far removed as possible from the busy Wan Chai street below.
While we nibbled on some snacks from The Living Room’s menu, we were recommended to try some Puro sparkling rosé from Movia winery in Slovenia. According to The Pawn’s beautiful and extensive Wine Journal (that’s correct: not list, but journal, complete with postcards, quotes and drawings), Ales Kristancic, the owner of Movia winery, is “making some of the strangest and most beautiful wines on the planet.” This particular sparking wine is stored upside down, so that the sediment collects in the neck of the bottle. The bottle is then opened with what looks not too dissimilar to a crow bar, under water; the sediment escapes into the water and you are left with an incredible sparkling rosé that is 100 percent like no other.
Going back to the snacks, the mini fish and chips are lovely, but the fantastic mini Cumberland sausages served alongside them were even better. These are first poached and then fried in a mixture of Worcester sauce and honey. Trust me, you absolutely have to try these.
The Devils on Horseback (for non-Brits: dates wrapped in streaky bacon) were delicious and strangely reminiscent of a crisp British Christmas.
I would seldom order radishes or olives, but Chef Anthony may have made a convert out of me, as both were amazing and begged me to go back for more.
That wasn’t even the first course! Our actual first course began with six beautiful Essex oysters. Oysters, admittedly, are slightly wasted on me, as I never enjoy them enough to back for seconds. For the real oyster lover, however, this is a good thing, as it meant he was able to go back for seconds… and thirds… and fourths.
The skilfully presented 42-degree Butter Poached Salmon was amazingly light and delicate, with the delicious chunks of pickled beetroot and lemon puree really serving to draw out its deeper flavours.
Again something I would never order is asparagus soup; this one however, with its creamy yet rustic texture, was divine, topped with a quail’s egg and crispy shallots to make a wonderful soothing yet summery dish.
I had my eye on the Ham Hock from the moment I looked at the menu. It was layered with chunky dried apricots and served atop a bed of onion purée and mustard fruits. Its gorgeous texture that fell apart in the mouth matched perfectly with the rustic crusty granary bread.
A Rack of Pork served with rustic apple sauce, roast potatoes and gravy was wonderful, yet even better was the 24-hour Berkshire Pork Belly with broad beans and garden peas. When the pork had been cooking for 24 hours, I knew it would be tender, but didn’t quite anticipate how tender and how full of flavour it would be, made the more so by the sweet rhubarb puree that accompanied it.
The Pan roasted sea bass with thin slivers of pickled fennel served on a bed of olive oil mashed potato with green beans and coriander had an ever so slightly Asian flavour to it and a definite summery freshness to match.
First prize would have to go to the Oxtail Cottage Pie. Designed for two to share, this could happily have served all four of us (given how much other food we had!). The slow-cooked oxtail was more than tender, melting at the slightest touch of a fork and infused with red wine and shallots. The Montgomery cheddar potato topping was creamy enough to complement the meat without stealing its thunder.
Somehow we still had room for dessert, starting with a White chocolate and ginger cheesecake with ginger brittle. The cheesecake itself was light and fluffy, verging on the texture of a mousse. The addition of the ginger drew away from the sickly sweetness that I often find with white chocolate.
Next up, carrot cake served with condensed milk ice cream. Although the cake was good, I was actually more impressed with the ice cream, and might even go as far as to say that I think my own carrot cake might be better. Chef Anthony, I challenge you to a carrot cake-off!
We were all surprised that our favourite of the three desserts was the Melon & Strawberry. This is made with vacuum-compressed watermelon and cantaloupe melon, topped with strawberry sorbet. It tasted like a juicier, healthier version of a watermelon Jolly Rancher. It is then finished with chocolate-mint leaves (think After Eight in leaf version) to give it an added refreshing yet decadent touch.
And then came the cheese; if there is a separate stomach for dessert, I think there is a third stomach for cheese. The Pawn’s cheese is flown in from Neal’s Yard in London. Of the four kinds we tried – Isle of Mull cheddar, Ogleshield, Innes goat’s cheese and Cashel Blue – it was the blue cheese, with its rich, creamy texture, that stole my heart.
The Pawn is not just your stereotypical British restaurant. The design is British, many of the ingredients and the flavours are British, but The Pawn goes so much deeper than just bangers and mash, with prices to match – it isn’t cheap as chips, but, really, what did you expect?!
62 Johnston Road
Tel: +852 2866 3444