Hawaiian restaurant POND Dalston is a visual knock out, taking a Victorian warehouse and shaking it up with an elongated bar, red leather booths that mimic volcanoes, paper pineapples and a cardboard shark. All this plus warm and attentive service that smacks of island hospitality. The man behind the surreally brilliant transformation of this corner of Gillett Square is the Reverend Byron Knight, who also co-founded Off Broadway and, incidentally, makes a Hawaiian shirt and a mohican look as if they are meant to be together.
POND Dalston serves New Hawaiian Cuisine – true fusion cooking which stems from a dizzying cultural synthesis, where Japanese, Thai and Filipino workers on sugar cane and pineapple estates encountered Portuguese missionaries bearing salt cod and doughnuts and Mexican rancheros who brought tortillas and an appetite for beef to the mix.
New Hawaiian Cuisine interprets these disparate elements with respect for fresh ingredients, as well as for odd island favourite Spam: Hawaii is the world’s biggest consumer of canned pork shoulder and pig butt. POND’s shared plates of sushi, sashimi and tender pulled pork are presented with delicacy and a gorgeous eye for colour and detail. Try your hand at their pineapple upside cake: see below. Brains-behind-the-bar Megs Miller has created a drinks menu to match: it’s a white bar, with no aged/coloured spirits. Mix your own POND special with Meg’s original recipe for Dalston Ti Punch (see below).
Byron himself is a Hackney/Hawaiian-esque one-man cultural fusion, with a Jewish father and a Japanese Buddhist mother. Brought up in Los Angeles, he dropped out of rabbinical school two weeks before his bar mitzvah and dived into punk rock culture – and work. He was working in construction at the age of 12, and had his own apartment by the time he was 15, moving up the restaurant food chain from waitering in a pizza place to managing a French Okinawan restaurant and seasonal Californian bistro Bay Wolf. There was also a stint as a born-again Christian preacher – thus the ‘reverend.’
At 27 Byron sold all his belongings and hit the road as an activist, visiting Cuba, teaching indigenous people in Chiapas in Mexico and living in Hawaii for a year, immersing himself in the islands’ sovereignty movement. He eventually lost his taste for activism, disillusioned by the lack of cohesion, and in a big about-turn worked for an investment banker in Hong Kong and an ex-mayor of New York.
Byron said adios to the USA under Bush, and hit Hackney to co-found Off Broadway and Duke’s with friends. He was nurturing no particular plans for a New Hawaiian restaurant, but when he walked into the unloved warehouse on Gillett Square he decided that’s what it should become. E voila! Hackney has one of its most ambitious, unusual and downright fun places to eat and drink: it’s hard to imagine necking a candyfloss negroni and sharing Spam sushi whilst being in a bad mood. Byron’s positive energy pervades the volcanic culinary eruption that is POND Dalston. And he’s now engaged in facilitating his staff members’ plans to run their own ventures. All we can say is ʻŌkole maluna – bottoms up!
POND has closed! Gone but not forgotten. You'll now find Jones & Sons in the lovely building on Gillett Square.
Pineapple upside down cake
POND serve their pineapple cake steamed, with lime foam, pickled pineapple and coconut and white rum ice cream. Here we have their basic cake recipe…
First, caramelise your pineapple!
- 1 pineapple
- 400g light brown sugar
- 5g salt
- 200ml pineapple juice
- 200ml water
- 20g fresh ginger, finely chopped
- 1 kaffir lime leaf
Cut the pineapple into rings and lay out in a shallow pan. Mix all the rest of the ingredients together and pour over the pineapple. Bring to the boil and simmer till the pineapple is slightly soft. Remove from liquid and allow to cool.
Cut out the core of the pineapple slices. Reserve the poaching liquid for the bottom of the cake. Store in the fridge for up to 3 days.
And now, the cake:
Makes 6 individual cakes; you will need 6 individual moulds or tins, around 7cm across
- softened butter
- reserved pineapple cooking liquor (see above)
- 6 caramelised pineapple slices (see above)
- 90g unsalted butter
- 55g caster sugar
- 55g light brown sugar
- 2 eggs
- 185g self-raising flour
- 60ml pineapple juice
Pre-heat oven to 160°C. Butter your tins/cake moulds. Place 2 dessert spoons of the pineapple cooking liquor in the bottom. Lay one slice of caramelised pineapplein each tin/mould, caramelised side down.
Beat butter and sugars till light and fluffy. Add eggs one by one and beat till homogenous. Add self-raising flour alternatively with the pineapple juice. Mix till all incorporated and smooth. Do not over-mix.
Pipe over the pineapple and fill to the top. Bake for 15 mins or until a skewer comes out clean.
Zest all the lemons (with a microplane/grater). Put the zest aside into a container. Juice the lemons. Measure the juice and add equal parts sugar. Add the same amount of sugar again to the zest, mix and leave overnight. Next day combine the zest sherbert with the lemon syrup. Strain off the zest and bottle.