While sticking close to a tried-and-true posh pub-grub formula, the menu at The Pawn looked promising, and since we didn’t sit down to eat until 8.30, it meant we were ravenous. After a few drinks at the bar we were more than ready to head upstairs.
The starters looked impressive but left us with mixed feelings. The house-made ricotta with olive oil, dried herbs and balsamic had the table engaged in a debate about whether or not it was actually dressed up Philadelphia cheese; it also could have done with more bread to scoop it up with. The celery and apple soup was a special from the seasonal menu, and it was a nice mix of textures; again, though, some bread on the side would’ve been welcome. The licorice-smoked mackerel with coriander emulsion and sudachi was not only very pretty but also very tasty, the sudachi (a small green citrus fruit) adding a clean and tangy touch.
The table was again divided on the mains. The red-wine risotto with braised red-wine shallot and shallot crisps was another dish from the seasonal menu. The serving was small but it still could have done with something green on the plate; red wine was the dominant flavour – fortunately it tasted like a quality bottle. The baked grouper with butternut squash puree and sage was full of flavour but also small, and arriving in a bowl instead of on a plate, it felt more like an entrée than a main. The scallop, celeriac puree and black pudding crumb was too salty, which meant that the beautifully cooked scallops were overpowered.
Two members of the group ordered steaks, which were perfectly cooked – “divine” in the words of one diner. While the chunky chips on the side were undercooked, the side of green beans was crisp and fresh, and eagerly shared amongst those of us who didn’t have the foresight to order a side dish.
Desserts were quite special, and polished off rather quickly. The sticky toffee pudding was surprisingly light and complemented beautifully by the date ice cream. The “textures of chocolate” looked as good as it tasted.
Despite it being late on a Monday night, and the restaurant not being full, service was a little on the slow side. By the time our desserts arrived it was 10.30pm and the kitchen staff were getting ready to go home. We did get a complimentary cocktail, and we were all very impressed by the drinks menu, but had we not been drinking the overall experience may have been a little underwhelming.
As for The Pawn pre-renovation versus post-renovation – well, most of us were firm fans before. The new space is lovely, sleek and cool but the general consensus was that it has lost some of its unique and quirky charm. For those of us who had never been before it was an interesting meal, but it did feel like we were dining in a very new restaurant as opposed to one that is well established. Hopefully, once the team settles in and gets used to the new interior, it will be a nice place for a decent meal any day of the week.
Must-try dish: Any of the steaks
The Pawn, 62 Johnston Road, Wan Chai, 2866 3444