Worth the Wait? Following a massive 3 month makeover, the Pawn, housed in one of the last remaining historical buildings in Wan Chai, has finally reopened its doors. The newly revamped space is awash in clean modern lines, and gravitates heavily towards rendered cement and natural wood tones. Three small, open kitchens pump out the brand new menu developed by renowned British Chef Tom Aikens, while eccentric artworks by local artist Stanley Wong adorn the walls with Hong Kong’s own particular brand of whimsy. As per the original Pawn, the first floor is all about easy cocktails and moorish snacks, while the second floor houses the “formal” dining room. A fresh produce and herb roof top garden will soon stock the kitchens with plenty of seasonal ingredients. Thanks to the creative design of Press Room Group’s Co-Founder Alan Lo, the new vibe is both luxurious and comfortable, like walking into a modern, yet refined home.
The NEW Menu: Chef Tom Aikens describes the menu as “a balance between high end and also good honest British cooking”. We started the dinner with easy platters of charcuterie, a potpourri of Iberico shoulder, chorizo, pork rillettes, pickle, grape chutney and grilled toast ($295), followed by creamy, sinfully good house-made ricotta ($95) served with a pool of balsamic vinegar and olive oil. Despite watching our waistlines, we couldn’t resist going back for seconds and thirds on the ricotta, it was one addictive temptress.
Game meat is slowly creeping up on Hong Kong menus, and the juniper-marinated venison, served with beetroot snow and smoked beetroot with a pureed pea smear ($230), sounded absolutely festive.
On the lighter side, the scallop tartare bejeweled with piquillo pepper and Iberico ham ($230) made for a sweet, refreshing appetizer.
Our relatively light starters balanced out our gluttonous mains. The brined pork belly with fermented grain and a botanical miso glaze ($250) arrived under a bed of crisp onion rings, and had gloriously crunchy crackling. However, it was a tad on the gamey side for our preference.
A classic comfort food, the macaroni cheese ($130) with braised beef (for an additional $70) was so decadently creamy, that it would fare better as a sharing dish to spread the wealth (and fat).
The pièce de résistance of our evening was the short rib, slow-braised on the bone with miso and marmite, blanketed in a succulent layer of shredded brisket, and served alongside melting marrow and crisp shallot ($495). The menu reads that it’s a sharing dish for two, but we ballpark four individuals, easily. The beef oozed luscious juices, that coated the inside of our mouths with buttery meatiness. This was definitely the “winner” of the evening.
It isn’t a meal without dessert, and we sampled a variety, including a violet and chocolate eclair ($80), a curiously named “chocolate textures” ($80), a lime leaf and basil panna cotta ($80) and a sticky toffee pudding with date ice cream ($60). The violet eclair was rather heavily perfumed for our taste, while the mysterious sour, perfumey notes in the chocolate textures surprised us, but not in a good way. The lime leaf and basil panna cotta, layered with macerated strawberries and black olive dust, was the saving grace, and the sticky toffee pudding, although predictable, was the perfect comfort dessert for Hong Kong’s cool autumn nights.
Verdict: A “refined” departure from the old Pawn, the revamped venue definitely takes on a more fine dining demeanor. We lament the loss of classic hangout foods but delight in new introductions such as the short rib and mac n’ cheese. We’re curious to see how the new Pawn grows into its identity, and redefines itself as a more up-market establishment. Because, right now, it feels like the residential crowd still craves for a more relaxed environment, and prefers the casual menu at the bar instead of more refined dining.
The Pawn, 62 Johnston Road, Wan Chai, 2866 3444
Opening Hours: Lunch (Tue-Fri) 12noon – 2:30pm, Dinner (Sun-Thurs) 6:30pm – 10pm, (Fri-Sat) 6:30pm – 10:30pm, Brunch (Sat-Sun) 12noon – 2:30pm