What: A pop-up version of iconic Chinese restaurant Poon’s. Launched way back in the 70s, Poon’s grew to seven sites and is considered by many to be one of London’s most influential Chinese restaurants. The Covent Garden restaurant in particular broke the mold with its open kitchen, bare brickwork and avoidance of Chinese restaurant design clichés.
Who: Amy Poon. She has left a career in advertising to follow in her parent’s footsteps. Now in his mid 70s, founder Bill Poon has been roped in as a consultant and is down to cook a special legacy dinner next month. The Poons are well-connected, with a number of big name investors associated with the relaunch including Justin Kennedy and Loh Lik Peng. The project has been in the offing for the past three years but was derailed by Brexit. Amy is hoping that the pop-up will attract backing for a string of permanent locations.
The vibe: The space looks more like a permanent restaurant that a three-month pop-up and - like the original Poon’s restaurant - is a dragon and phoenix-free zone. That said, there are a fair few Chinese references, as well as memorabilia and framed pictures and newspaper cutting pertaining to the original Poon’s restaurants. Located underneath a block of flats on the Clerkenwell-Islington border, the restaurant is unlicensed with an £8 corkage fee.
The food: The menu at the pop-up is a little bit of a departure from what came before in that it has been designed for chefs without extensive experience of Chinese kitchens. Reliance on chefs trained in China would push up labour costs and make rolling out a tall order. Fans of the original restaurants will be pleased to see a number of classic Poon’s dishes including claypot rice with Poon’s brand wind-dried meats; wontons tossed in red chili oil; and zha jiang mien, the classic Beijing street food dish of noodles topped with raw vegetables and pork cooked in fermented soybean paste. Other dishes include thousand-year-old “pi dan” egg with preserved ginger; pan-fried diced vegetable guo tie; and beggar’s bowl hakka pork belly.
Cos cutting exercise: Poon’s wind-dried bacon san choy bao
And another thing: As well as opening more restaurants, Amy is hoping to expand on her family’s range of Poon’s branded products. “A trip to a Chinese supermarket can be a daunting experience for some,” she says. “In fact my friends often ask me to accompany them because it can be difficult to find what you’re after. The idea is for future Poon’s restaurants to have a retail element.”