Not too long ago, locals' perception of British food consisted of fish and chips, cottage pies, and bangers and mash. The Pawn opened its doors to diners in 2008 and indeed a lot of people associate the restaurant with excellent fish and chips. Head chef Anthony Fletcher joined the team in August 2011, and he believes Hong Kong is ready for some sophisticated British fare. Using only the finest and freshest ingredients, Chef Anthony has revised the entire selection, from starters to desserts.
The new menu caters to the more discerning palate while remaining hearty and traditional as before. Modern British fare is produce-focused; good food starts with quality ingredients. Embodying this back-to-basic philosophy, Chef Anthony only uses fresh greens and seasonal fruits. Free-range poultry and organic produce are also featured on the menu. The ingredients are sourced from farmers and producers that adopt a high-welfare and sustainable farming method. This is not just a fashionable move. With fresh produce, there are health complications associated with the use of chemicals in farming. With livestocks, only the basic inoculations should be administered and the way it goes is that the happier they are, the healthier they get. That means better nutrition for us.
Chef Anthony trained under celebrity chef Tom Aiken in the UK before coming to Hong Kong. In addition to environmentally-responsible produce, his cooking is about the balance of flavours and tastes. For instance, one can find sweetness and sourness present in a dish, and he likes to excite his diners' taste buds with various textures. Let's take a look at some of the new dishes that he has introduced.
For a light and refreshing starter, give the 42-Degree Butter Poached Salmon a try. The presentation is a delight with lovely colours such as light pink, deep purple, buttercup yellow, and different shades of green, bursting on the plate. It tells you spring is here. The salmon fillet is first trimmed before being immersed in 42 degree water inside a vacuum pack with butter for 20 minutes, so that the butter penetrates into the flesh. The beautiful light pink colour of the salmon signifies that while it is cooked, the protein has not been destroyed. As a result, the flesh is still quite firm and smooth.
While this seems like a simple dish, different textures and tastes are at play: the delightful lemon purée on the side gives a degree of tartness that compliments the greasiness of the salmon, whereas the pickled beetroots are sour and sweet. The buckler sorrel is a green from the UK that is slightly peppery, similar to arugula, and along with the coriander leaves, they cut down the fishy taste of the salmon. The crunchiness of the braised leeks and beetroots is a stark contrast to the soft and rich texture of the salmon.
Another poached starter is the Sauternes Poached Foie Gras but this one is vastly different. Marinated overnight in a heavenly concoction of brandy, sweet wine and milk (to take away the bitterness of the foie gras), the foie gras is then wrapped in cling film before being poached in a Sauternes bath at low temperature for 10 minutes. The cling film is poked so that the Sauternes can infiltrate into the foie gras. Afterwards, it is plunged into ice water to hold the shape. Just before serving, it is cut into discs, then encased in a gingerbread coating.
To add a touch of acidity, pineapple purée is introduced, along with Sauternes jelly and pickled grapes. The chilled foie gras is firm and has a mesmerising taste of Sauternes. Both the pickled grapes and jelly balance the richness of the foie gras nicely, and the pineapple purée provides just a hint of acidity that is subtle and rounds off the dish perfectly. There is a beautiful after-taste of Sauternes that lingers on until the main course arrives.
Options for mains include a variety of roasts, typical British Sunday lunch food. The Rack of Free-range Berkshire Pork is rubbed with sage, garlic, olive oil and wholegrain mustard and marinated in a vacuum pack for 3 days. The thick slab of pork is served bone-in on a wooden carving board with roast potatoes, chunky apple sauce and thyme gravy on the side. It looks like a refined home-cooked dish that would bring back memories for those who miss their mothers' cooking.
While it is a clean and uncomplicated dish, what makes it stand out is the fact that it is prepared splendidly. Superb quality meat grilled until just cooked, with the juices locked inside the caramelised crust so that the meat is moist and succulent. Feel free to use your fingers when working with the bone; that is the best part. The apple purée with pieces of apple inside adds a bit of crunch and cuts through the grease from the pork. The gravy, in my opinion, is really optional when the meat is so juicy.
To complete the dining experience, Chef Anthony has created a series of new mouthwatering desserts. The tempting selection includes Cold Chocolate Fondant, which will no doubt be a big hit with chocolate lovers. To make the cold fondant, syrup at 120 degrees is slowly added to a whipped mixture of egg yolk and sugar. Chocolate is added to give it the flavour. This concoction is then poured into a mold with a chocolate biscuit base. A piece of frozen raspberry purée, made with raspberry, sugar and vanilla, is placed in the middle to form the centre. It is then placed in the fridge so that the chocolate mousse will start to solidify whereas the raspberry purée will start to melt.
To make the raspberry sorbet on the side, the kitchen team micro-purée frozen raspberries so that there are no crystals in it. It is essentially freshly-churned sorbet so it is light, fluffy and soft. This cold version of chocolate fondant is right in time for the warm weather.
Chef Anthony also revealed that the menu will be updated frequently to make use of seasonal ingredients and to keep the food exciting. The Pawn is open for lunch and dinner throughout the week. Brunch menu is available at weekends.