The Pawn

The Pawn

Where:
The Pawn
62 Johnston Road
Wan Chai, Hong Kong

Phone:
+852 2866 3444

Price:
Mains and starters are around HKD170 – HKD250 each.  I’d estimate HKD400-500 a person for three courses, without booze.

The deal:
When The Pawn underwent renovations it made the biggest fucking deal ever in the history of all motherfucking restaurant renovations in HK (citation needed). There was the furniture sale, the final call for drinks and then began their intense marketing blitz, replete with obnoxious hashtag #IMWORTHTHEWAIT plastered across their facade which has now changed gears to #THEWAITISOVER.  I seemed unable to read anything on any of the HK lifestyle/food press that wasn’t talking about Tom Aikens.  No seriously, did you fucking hear that Tom Aikens is coming out to Hong Kong to reference Modern Britain while using goddamn local ingredients and Asian spices?  There’s going to be ‘botanicals’ (yes, definitely a superior choice to using ‘plants’) grown on The Pawn’s rooftop garden (local herbs! Salad greens! Flowers!). No I don’t think you fucking understand – TOM AIKENS who has restaurants which have MICHELIN STARS (lolz, whatevs, just come to HK, we give that shit out in the immigration line) is coming from BRITAIN to steer The Pawn into an exciting new direction by taking shit over. Tom got so fucking excited he had to tweet everything TWICE (Y U DO THIS TOM? Y U DO THIS TOM?):

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WAHHHHHHHHHHH TOM’S MARKETING MANAGER, LURN 2 TWEET.

But fair play to their marketing team, cause I definitely did not miss the fucking memo that The Pawn was reopening and I was even watching nostalgic promotional videos (tram – CHECK. Historical HK photos – CHECK. Outside shot of the old Pawn shop sign – CHECK.  Artistic blur and street scene slowed down – CHECK.  Hong Kong guy wearing a white shirt sitting in his stylish library, flipping slowly through books on HK history – CHECK) about how The Pawn is the “voice in the neighbourhood” which redefined what the new Wan Chai is today. Whoaaaaa turn it up The Pawn, you’ve got a hardcore case of ratemyself dot com happening.

In respect of the old Pawn, it used to get mixed reviews from my homies. However, I’ve been more than a handful of times and personally gave it a fuck yeahhhh for a casual spot or when I wanted to take visitors to HK somewhere that had a specific old HK feel to it but they were just tapped out on noodles and dumplings.  The food was generally fucking solid if you were after British style eats and always reliable for balcony drinks. I’ve even had a Christmas dinner there once which hit that traditional festive Christmas thing spot on (fuck yeah, mince pies and mulled wine). This is despite the horrific fact I was forced to have boring as fuck turkey breast meat because not a single superior fuck yeah leg or thigh was available – yes, you better believe I called ahead of time just to fucking check.

The new Pawn has gone all modern dark grey walls, pale wood furniture, lamp shades with plants botanicals on it and stainless steel pots of fresh herbs botanicals on the table. It ain’t got that quirky old shit anymore but it felt a bit soulless to me, almost feeling like I was eating in a display for a furniture store. The menu is not large but the price points certainly are. There are a number of starters which are HKD200+ (and as evidenced by other sites, it looks like food for ants time – check the HKD230 venison starter back which looks fucking tiny) and some mains are even cheaper than starters.

It becomes pretty fucking apparent that The Pawn’s service is not on the fast track to success, resembling the speed of your average shopper in Causeway Bay on a Sunday, having a slow as fuck amble while ensuring that under any circumstances no eye contact is made with any outside surroundings or other people, keeping the gaze solely focussed on their mobile phone.  For a start, I waited for fucking aaaaaaaaages to order a glass of wine while I waited for Ms Chowdown as I made plenty of thirsty face at the passing waiters, who instead elected to diligently set up glassware for empty tables.  Given the economic considerations of the starters/mains, Ms Chowdown and I went for two mains to share – opting for the beef short rib to share and the duck bolognese.  After waiting another eternity  to place our orders, it took 15 minutes for the waitstaff to come back and inform us that the beef short rib was sold out so would we like to order something else.  Y U take 15 minutes??  We ordered the brined pork belly instead.

After more waiting for the bread to arrive, it offered sourdough and my continued nemesis, brioche toast.  Look, I have nothing against brioche when it’s done well but it seems fucking rare anywhere outside of France.  Why try and be fucking fancier than normal bread if you end up fucking shit up with dry-ass lame-o brioche bread?  The Pawn’s brioche toast was dry, flavourless and entirely unexciting and was a total FUCK NO for me.  I don’t even know if Nutella would have saved it.

The brined pork belly looked fucking awesome when it arrived – pretty as fuck without being unnecessarily fussy.  Two pieces of belly on top of a bed of fermented grains with fried onion rings.  The pork belly was coated with a ‘botanical’ miso glaze.  I have no fucking idea why The Pawn is so obsessed with the word “botanical” – maybe you can charge more for botanical sauce vs herb sauce?  Despite the choices in nomenclature, this was a solid FUCK YEAHHHH, with the crackling being super fucking crispy (I know, pork belly wank).  The duck bolognese was less exciting and Ms Chowdown and I aren’t sure whether the menu description really had us geared up what appeared.  It was essentially a duck shepherd’s pie, duck mince with potato mash on top (made with duck confit) and some cheese.  It wasn’t fucking terrible but it was a bit one note (both in taste and texture) and by the end of the dish, it just wasn’t that interesting anymore.  If I’d ordered this as a main just for myself, I’d have been disappointed as fuck.  No vegetables botanicals come with the mains, so you’re gonna have to order sides.

The restaurant manager or a more senior restaurant homie stopped in to ask how everything was going and I’m all about telling a restaurant when shit isn’t right at the time, versus saying “Oh my god, it’s all fabulous!” and then writing anonymous blogs online.  So after telling them that their service wasn’t snappy enough and asking why did it take 15 minutes to let us know something was sold out, he was really genuinely apologetic and asked whether we wanted a complimentary glass of wine (fuck yeah, I declined but I gotta note the fucking effort) and we ordered a sticky toffee pudding instead.  Pudding was a traditional style toffee pudding and was a fuck yeahhhh.  But that said, any British influenced establishment that can’t execute a toffee pudding should just close down immediately.  The Pawn actually comped it for us later, which was a nice fucking touch.

However, despite the feedback, it was’t like service took a turn for the better.  We waited for-fucking-ever for them to see us and bring us the bill.  When the bill arrived it was littered with errors (double charged us for the wine, added a bottle of water we didn’t have and had the wrong main).  Waited forever again for someone to notice us, discuss the bill, correct it and bring it back.  Finally, shit got sorted – but fuck me, I expected more from The Pawn given that it’s an established restaurant and a renovation shouldn’t affect service levels to the point where you’re laughing at the table because shit is really that laughably bad.  Even if you comp me dessert.

Verdict:

Per their hashtag, #thewaitisover for The Pawns’s renovation but you’re still going to be fucking waiting for fuck no service and largely average food (with botanicals).  FUCK NO.

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