When we read about a new Hawaiian restaurant opening up in Dalston, we were curious since neither of us had ever tasted the cuisine before! So, one cold Monday night, we headed to the area and - after a bit of google mapping - we got to our destination to taste a blend of interesting dishes. It was worth our time, not so much our money, and we’d say give this place a try if you like new things and have money to spare. Otherwise it's probably better to hold onto your wallet for a more fulfilling experience.
The food at Pond Dalston is certainly not bad but it just lacks that 'wow' factor and certainly punches above its weight in the price department. The dishes are interesting but not tasty enough to make a lasting impression for another visit. The menu is concise, which is nice, but the dishes together don’t make much sense and don’t all go together that well. Hawaiian cuisine is not very well known in England but it is basically a combination of Japanese, Thai and Chinese food and the menu at Pond is predominantly the former. We had ‘Poke Pines’ - tuna & salmon marinated in coconut and lime with thai basil oil, topped with tobiko, ‘Japanese Aubergine’ - fried, pickled & marinated with bonito, green chili, pea shoots and edamame, ‘Nhc Rice’ - wok-fried brown rice with ginger, wakame, bean sprouts, egg yolk and sesame seeds and finally, ‘Whole Seabass’ - with green coconut curry prawns, baked taro and green beans. The presentation of the food we ordered was excellent with each dish looking very elegant and well put together. The flavours of the dishes were very interesting indeed and contained lots of unusual ingredient combinations, something typical of fusion cuisine. Unfortunately the flavours didn’t always work that well together in the dishes themselves and all the dishes together didn’t work that well at all, it felt like we were ordering a bunch of dishes from different cuisines and restaurants. One other problem with the food was the order of the service. The waitress told us that the dishes come out of the kitchen when they are ready which we thought might be fine but the wait between them was a bit too long and left us eating our main course without having any sides to eat with it which was a bit disappointing considering how quiet the restaurant was at the time.
Pond is set within a Victorian warehouse, which makes for a rather large space with a bar and a separate seating area inside. Although it is right across from Vortex Jazz Club, the place is still a bit difficult to find since you reach the restaurant door through a gated entrance that is dark, uninviting and a bit dodgy. Once you get in, however, things lighten up and the industrial atmosphere and the dim lights grow on you. If you like your dining spaces authentic and regional however, nothing in the décor says Hawaiian - it could have easily been a fancy burger joint and follows the template for almost every new restaurant space that opens around the gentrified areas of London.
We were impressed with the service the most. Everyone was attentive and warm. However, to fairly judge, it would have been good to see when the place is a bit more crowded. When we were dining, there were four tables present and the place was probably over-staffed.
No wonder people are talking about Dalston suffering from the same fate as Shoreditch with people moving out further north. Pond might have been reasonably priced for a Central London location but it still doesn’t quite feel right for Dalston. We paid £30 per head for 2 starters, 1 main, 1 side and 1 can of beer each. It is not exactly expensive but it is not cheap either and the fact that the food does not live up to the bill made it a little more disappointing. We notice that they have introduced a fixed price sample menu of £30 for two between Monday and Wednesday, perhaps due to the non-existing customers early in the week, and you should make use of that if you feel like giving this place a try.
Find out more about Pond Dalston here.