Delish Eats: Pondi, Delicate French Cooking Meets Robust Indian Spices
May 16, 2023
Restaurant history: Pondi takes its name from the eponymous Pondicherry, a preserved former French colonial settlement in southern India that marries the subcontinent with the European giant. Opening in early 2020, Pondi opened as an intimate restaurant and still carries its aura for three years. It operates between George Kwok and Natalie Ngan.
Chef story: Executive Chef George Kwok went from university hall kitchen cooking at his alma mater in Bristol, a food hobbyist during his near-decade tenure in banking, to entering the industry as an apprentice at Akrame. Opening Brut with Camille Glass in 2017, George turned to Chef Taran Chadha to open Pondi.
What’s the vibe and venue like: Intimate, cosy and communal. Sat at the foot of Fuk Sau Lane in Sai Ying Pun, a small stretch reminiscent of European night-time scenes with clinking and bustling small talk, a dinner at Pondi sees the whole village dine in. It is a restaurant that has genuinely cured a homely atmosphere in a cute French-style locale.
How much does it cost: HK$500 for a six-course shared meal with three starters, three mains, and one dessert.
What is the menu about: The subtly of French cooking, seasonality, rich in fats, curated carefully with consideration for wine pairings, light mouthfeel, is paired with the spiced complexity of Indian food. Heavy spice and searing heat are spared to deliver light plates made for sharing.
What did we order: Avocado Mess, Dry-aged Beef Tartare, Duck Kanda Bhaji, Tofu Korma, Lamb Biryani, Fig Sticky Toffee Pudding.
Avocado Mess: Reminiscent of a traditional chaat, this avocado mess brings together umami-laden black chickpeas, sugary pomegranate, and charred corn, dressed in a yoghurt mix and served with papadums. A perfect starter employing a good mix of sugary syrup and umami from the vegetables.
Dry-aged Beef Tartare: This tartare dish introduced us to the French face of Pondi, serving a fine cut of imported mignon fillet fixed with an acidic and salivating sambal mayo and pickled watermelon skin, which brought sourness and texture to the dish. Mix the beef with the balsamic bulbs inside the puri, acting as a vehicle to enjoy the umami explosion.
Duck Kanda Bhaji: This dish is something I had never had before. A bhaji filled with a salty batter, sauteed onions, and a duck puree that offers a gamey, fatty flavour with the sour coconut gravy served beneath.
Tofu Korma: As mentioned previously in this piece, don’t expect rich Indian flavours in line with other Indian restaurants in Hong Kong. This is reflected in the light and coconut-forward Korma curry, which has a strong aroma of turmeric, garlic, and chilli. The dish does lack a textural bite, which I wish was included beyond the soft tofu.
Lamb Biryani: The shining star of the meal and a legitimate favourite for regulars at Pondi. The dirty rice mixed with bell peppers, onions and raisins offers a real sampling of the Indian side of Pondi, with traditional spices felt throughout each bite. Ask for extra chilli to elevate the plate.
What we liked: The duck starter and biriyani were strong to deliver great gamey flavours with added spice. The service from Sheela and Natalie is uniquely warm. They care about your meal. They’re friends too, dining with you, and serving a fine evening for you.
What we didn’t like: Choosing to sit outside had its drawbacks. I did have my first mosquito bite of the hot season in the city (it’s starting!), but this hardly drew us down in the dining experience. If you decide to dine at 6PM, the first seating of the night, prepare to be finished within two hours, as the second seating comes fast.
Location: Pondi, 14 Fuk Sau Ln, Sai Ying Pun, Hong Kong
Contact details: +852 6113 0195
This food review is based on a complimentary media tasting provided by Pondi in exchange for a truthful review and no compensation. The opinions expressed within represent the views of the author.
Enjoyed this article? Check out our previous Delish Eats reviews here.
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