It can often be difficult as a British expatriate in Hong Kong. With increasing frequency I’m reminded of my dear little island’s unsavory activity during the colonial area. In fairness, it’s not my nation’s finest hour. Heroin, smallpox and condensed milk are by no means a reasonable exchange for the plundering of 10billion square kilometers of land.
The same criticism can also be levelled at our relationship with the Indian subcontinent. There is, however, one indelible saving grace; I challenge anyone to name a better cultural exchange than cricket for curry and curry for cricket.
However, New Punjab Club’s interpretation of Raj-era-themed India is a timely reminder that, no matter how incredible the food, there’s a thin line between cultural homage and misappropriation of heritage. For the most part, Punjab Club gets it’s right. But the undignified fancy-dress Maharaj on the door was an uncomfortable and unnecessary start to our Punjab Club experience.
Once in Wyndham Street’s hottest restaurant, we were presented with an awkward seating arrangement, a 15 minute wait for our table and a feeble attempt at a gin and tonic experience. But things got better.
Our first dish, samosa chaat, was a bowl full of obscenely good stuff. Pieces of flakey samosa lie submerged in a pond of creamy yogurt and tart tamarind. Crispy noodles, pomegranate seeds and fresh onion make cause the dish to pop, zing and sing.
The chaat gives much needed purpose to the rather lackluster butter naan. This was slightly greasy but sadly not with sweet, artery-clogging butter. The dough was, well, doughy, missing the scorched blisters that should have been delivered by one of the restaurant’s two tandoori ovens. My advice would be to give one of the roti a go instead.
The milk buns that accompanied the Keema Pau did have the sweet buttery taste I desired. And the spiced minced mutton of the keema was also damned good. But, not quite as good as the Bindass equivalent, that remains in my top five Hong Kong dishes.
The famed lamb chop just lived up to its billing. Crumbly blackened spice and clinged to the outside of the chop. Inside the meat was bloody and succulent. It took a lot of self-control to prevent myself from gnawing at the bone.
Upon writing this review I had to ask Mrs. A whether we had a dal dish. Apparently we did. I don’t remember it. Make of that what you will.
Perhaps I was distracted by the atmosphere. What Black sheep really specializes in – more than the food even – is atmosphere. The room was buzzy, the music was cool and the staff went about their business with charm and flair.
We finished the evening with sticky toffee pudding. Now, that beautiful, sweet stodgy creation is my absolute favorite dessert bar none. But the Pubjab Club’s much lauded version was only ok. Ending on this slightly damp note perhaps left me with an unduly negative impression of New Punjab Club.
I’m a massive advocate of the Black Sheep Group. No one is doing more to progress the Hong Kong dining scene than Syed Asim Hussain and Christopher Mark. But for all its plaudits, I can’t help but feel the New Punjab Club represents a slight misstep. They had the opportunity to present a truly modern interpretation of Punjabi cuisine. Instead, we have a living museum piece.
This is not entirely surprising when you consider head chef, Palash Mitra, cut his teeth at Gymkhana. Gymkhana is a colonial-era-inspired Punjabi restaurant in Mayfair, frequented by British backbench politicians who delight in telling the coolies to fetch more ice while spunking their expenses on more chicken tikka masala than you can shake a peerage at. If Boris Johnson did Punjabi restaurants it would probably feel a little like the Gymkhana. Punjab Club isn’t quite in that realm, but it gets a little too close for comfort.
How much? $1,473 for two
Where? World Wide Commercial Building, 34 Wyndham St, Central
Who goes? Too many people wearing corduroy