Manhattans Project, POND, Dalston
I have to confess I was very unsure of what to expect from a cocktail residency in an East London Hawaiian restaurant… I had visions of hipsters shivering in a Tiki hut, downing sugary cocktails garnished with pineapple slices. I soon gave myself a sharp slap on the wrist for my nasty preconceptions. The vibe here is chilled, fun, authentic (without being overly earnest) and refreshingly laid back.
Housed in an airy Victorian warehouse in a secluded courtyard, POND serves great food and The Manhattans Project provides absolutely banging drinks. If I’d done my homework properly I would’ve read that the owners – Byron Knight and Felix Cohen are the brains behind Duke’s Brew and Que and the basement bar in Off Broadway respectively. Some serious credentials right there.
Dive straight in with a Manhattan, it would be rude not to and you won’t be disappointed. The menu promises ‘classic cocktails, done right’, and Felix stays true to his word. My favourite was the American Gothic, rye whiskey and Calvados with a little sugar and bitters, smoked with apple wood. Yum. The menu suggests you ‘Drink in silence then fuck on a bearskin rug.’ Well alright then. Spicy salmon maki rolls were fresh as could be and absolutely delicious, as was the Poke of ahi’ tuna & salmon with thai basil oil and coconut lime. Spam is apparently hugely popular in Hawaii, but here it comes all dressed up so it sounds and looks real purty – teriyaki glazed, or coated in dried shrimp with yuzu mayo. Still, for me spam is spam, and that’s one preconception I’m holding onto.
It’s a little tricky to find, so arrange to meet your date at Dalston Kingsland Station. Lead them onto Gillett Street which opens out into a square bustling with skateboarders, domino players and street dancers. Sit at the bar, peruse the witty menu and get stuck into the cocktails. The bar staff will merrily chat away so you need not fear any awkward silences. This place has good vibes, perfect for a first date.
The secluded location means it’s less busy than it should be, but that’s sure to change. Go now before everyone else catches on.