Dalston is rapidly becoming the place to go for adventurous foodies, bored of the endless chains opening up across the city. By the time you arrive at POND you’ll have already had a bit of an adventure, and not the most glamorous; out of the train station, off the main road, through a lively square (think dominoes and jukeboxes) and into their fairylit courtyard. The location is probably both a blessing and a curse, the venue resembling a pop-up which has extended its stay due to popular demand.
A well-travelled concept with less well travelled (read local) ingredients, the menu is inspired by Hawaiian migrants who brought over with them Vietnamese, Korean and Indonesian cuisines. Perhaps not having any expectations of the night allowed my open mind to be wooed but even if I’d heard how good the food was (I prefer to not read other reviews before a visit) I think I’d still have been as impressed.
The advised main each plus two sides would’ve probably been enough for twice as many people but I’m glad we ordered so much because it was just so good. Poke Pine we ordered mainly because of it’s name but the cubed salmon and tuna (resemblant of ceviche) was a good little appetiser. The dishes came as and when they were ready so to keep little Poke Pine company came tuna maki, garlic and ginger seaweed salad and a gorgeously sweet roasted eggplant with honey miso dressing, samphire and pomegranate seeds. We probably could have stopped there and then but the mains arrived; a beast of a catfish, crispy skin slotted with ginger in a soy, chilli and coriander sauce and then the perfectly chargrilled Hilo Chicken. The catfish was a highlight but only a special, so if it’s on the menu when you are there, nab it.
Manhattans Project have now settled in to a three month residency at POND. Their quirky cocktail menu features all the classics, but not as you know them. Head bartender Felix Cohen gave me a preview of a special they are running for London Cocktail Week, mainly because I asked for a recommendation with gin and he was excited to present me with the greenest drink I’ve ever seen; The Green Bell Pepper Gin Sour. Left by the previous bartender but without a recipe, Felix stirred and shook until he was happy with his response. So happy in fact that he’s considering making it a permanent feature alongside the Boozy Hot Ribena, Lapsang Martinez and Chartreuse Chocolate, whose description reads ‘Less hug-in-a-mug, more cheeky fumble in the snow’.
Waiters worried the music was a bit too loud for us but for a late Friday night reservation, it actually seemed to fit the occasion and despite the waiters in Hawaiian shirts the only sign of a pineapple was in the logo. POND is the hipster version of Tiki; cool not cringe and it’s one backstreet I will, in future, go out of my way to go down.