New Punjab Club

soysoysoysoyhalf.pngsoygrey.png

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.

IMG_1082.jpgThe 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.

IMG_1088Upon 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

2 thoughts on “New Punjab Club

  1. To be honest you are trying to be too many people at once ! Giles Coren , Jay Rayner and Grace Dent all rolled in one !
    And I am very confused by the end of it all ! To be honest Gymkhana doesn’t have peers on expense accounts throwing there weight around. And the food at New Punjab Club is anything but outdated. Keeping things simple is most difficult as is evident from your own attempt at journalism .
    If you are apologetic about your colonial heritage and the atrocities committed by the empire then do it at the appropriate platform. And what have you got against corduroys ? The inability to carry off one probably ?

    1. Sir, thank you for your response and I’m sorry my review didn’t meet with your approval. You’re right, I do try to take inspiration from the names you mention above, but I don’t for one moment believe I attain anywhere near their level of clarity and wit. On this occasion the lines about colonialism were probably an error of judgement.
      I try to offer a balanced assessment of the restaurants I visit and, as I hopefully conveyed in the piece, there is a huge amount to like about Punjab Club. However, I would be remiss not to mention what I believe to be the weaknesses. But, please don’t think I do so lightly – I am very aware of passion and effort that goes into running a restaurant and I applaud you on a very successful first year.

Leave a Reply