Hong Kong is full of pomp and circumstance when it comes to restaurants by celebrity chefs. Take a look around and you’ll find installations by Gordon Ramsey, Joel Robuchon, Nobu Matsuhisa, Michael White, even Richard Sandoval of Raya fame is here. So when my friends want to take me to brunch at English Michelin chef Tom Aikens’ restaurant, The Pawn, I’m more than excited.
The restaurant is unique in that it is housed in an old pawn shop — hence its name. Old buildings such as these are typically knocked down to make way for the new, like in Vegas, so I am happy to see that the old pawn shop on Johnston Road remains with its original facade in place. The entrance is hidden off the side street. A strange elevator takes you up, but once the doors open, step outside and you’ll find a chic, modern, setting offering both inside and outside seating for whatever suits your fancy.
The brunch is HK$498 (USD64) which includes unlimited soft drinks, juices and smoothies. The HK$598 (USD77) option gives you Moet & Chandon champagne, wines, Bloody Marys and a host of non-alcoholic beverages as well. In Hong Kong, there are no free refills on coffee, tea, soft drinks. Each glass is charged accordingly.
Start with a smoothie, or juice. There is an array to choose from and your server will be happy to help you out with this.
Brunch begins with an array of appetizers for the table to share. Coronation Chicken Salad with Gem Lettuce, Almonds is a bowl of tender leaves topped with discs of chicken. The salad is way over-dressed, but overall, it is pleasant with decent flavors.
Lobster Macaroni Cheese is a baked mac n cheese possessing good color. However, it is dry and lacks the creaminess a good mac n cheese should possess. Some bits are hard and there isn’t enough cheese throughout to envelop the macaroni.
I love ceviche, but unfortunately, Market Fish Ceviche, Tiger’s Milk is poorly executed. The slices of fish require more time in the leche de tigre (cracks me up that the literal translation of ‘tiger’s milk’ is used on menus throughout Hong Kong) and it is obvious the fish has not completely been immersed in the marinade. Some areas are marinated, while others are not. The marinade itself needs more lime juice and salt, but also, a little more time for the flavor to be infused INTO the fish.
Avocado on Wheat Toast is my favorite of the four appetizers. The bread is flavorful and the mashed avocado is fresh and well-seasoned. However, even my teenage son makes a mean avocado on toast, so not a lot of technique is required in the execution of this dish.
Moving on to main courses, we choose three from the four options. Herb Roasted Chicken, Bread Sauce, Roasted Carrots, Creamed Mash consists of half a roast chicken, accompanied by mashed potatoes and carrots. There is an obvious pink hue on the chicken from brining, however, the roasting process has not resulted in a brown, crispy skin. In fact, the chicken looks anemic and the skin is rubbery. The mashed potatoes are dry and dense, requiring a little more butter, cream, and a whole lot more whipping to give it a fluffier texture. The carrots are also underwhelming.
Roasted Sirloin Steak, Yorkshire Pudding, Horseradish Cream is another disappointment. While the steak is a perfect medium rare, it is desperately in need of salt. I pour a little jus over it, but it isn’t much better. The Yorkshire pudding is hard as a rock, resembling a day (or two) old popover. I love Yorkshire pudding and usually cannot get enough of it, however, I find it difficult to swallow the bite that is already in my mouth. The potatoes are way overcooked as the hard exterior has separated from the softer interior. The only redeeming factor is the horseradish cream which is flavorful and packed with that spicy kick.
Full English Breakfast with Homemade Sausages, Black Pudding, Bacon, Fried Egg, Baked Beans, Grilled Tomato and Mushrooms is our third pick. The plate arrives and the presentation is dismal. The sausage breaks apart the minute the skin is pierced, leaving a pile of ground meat on the plate. The black pudding is a hockey puck, so hard that it takes a lot of elbow grease to cut into it. The baked beans taste like the Heinz version I get in a can. The English breakfast is what I’m gauging an Englishman on and sadly, I’m expecting a much higher standard than this, especially from a Michelin chef.
The manager senses something is up and comes over to talk to us. My friends are diplomatic and stay quiet. I am too for a minute and then I am unable to contain myself any longer. He is apologetic and offers to bring us Egg Royale, essentially, a smoked salmon Benedict — the fourth offering from the menu. The minute I see the plate, I knew the Hollandaise sauce had not been executed properly. The sauce is too dark and its consistency is cloyingly goopey. Nevertheless, it is still the best of the four even though the muffin is soft in some spots and toasted on others.
A dessert buffet is offered with sweet treats including meringue pie, various muffins, brownies, tarts and my favorite, a treacle bar with rich flavors of molasses.
End with some fresh mint tea which we are told uses freshly picked mint from their garden.
Service at The Pawn is attentive and pleasant, however, it has a very long way to go when it comes to offering a stellar menu to customers. It surely does not help when Chef Aikens is not overseeing his kitchen and relying on line cooks to churn out the dishes. I am certain no chef would have sent out plates like the ones we received, especially not an award-winning chef.
62 Johnston Road
Tel: +852 2866 3444