We all know by now that in this city it’s necessary to look beyond what the eye can see to find some real treasures. There are beautiful private kitchens tucked inside hideous factory buildings; there are quirky bars hidden behind wet markets; and now there is Mrs. Pound, a very cool Asian restaurant inside what looks like a traditional Chinese stamp shop.
As you walk along Sheung Wan’s Pound Lane, if you don’t know what you’re looking for, it’s easy to walk straight past Mrs. Pound – unless of course you have a particular interest in Chinese stamps. One of these stamps (or chops, if you like) opens a sliding door into the treasure trove that is Mrs. Pound, complete with fuchsia walls and booths, movie star mirrors hanging from the ceiling and all sorts of tacky yet wonderful little trinkets.
There’s a fun little story behind who this Mrs. Pound actually is: a burlesque dancer who made her fame in the 1950s and travelled the world on the arms of different suitors, before disappearing from the public eye in the height of her fame. Rumour has it, she ran away with her lover Mr. Ming, a conservative, wealthy gentleman from Hong Kong. A very generous man, Mr. Ming gave Mrs. Pound his favourite stamp shop for her to make her own, to hide her from his highly conservative family and to keep her location a secret.
The menu is therefore a playful take on Asian street food, reinterpreted through Mrs. Pound’s eyes, highlighting flavours from all the countries she visited on her travels as a dancer. Yes, we know it’s a silly story, but it’s still a fun one that gives the place even more character than it already has.
We started by trying all of the four skewers – Bulgogi pork belly, Xinjiang spiced lamb, garlic king prawn and lemongrass chicken meatball – each of which was absolutely fantastic. The flavours were seriously interesting and unique, whilst the meat (or seafood) was all cooked to perfection, remaining juicy and tender. It would be very difficult to pick a favourite, but I think it would have to be the lamb skewer; whoever took Mrs. Pound to Xinjiang must have been pretty special.
We followed these with the sriracha street corn, another winning dish. The juicy grilled corn was rubbed in sriracha kewpie mayo, sprinkled in seaweed and covered in pecorino cheese – simple but excellent.
The tuna larb, served with fresh iceberg lettuce was intense and satisfyingly spicy. I think the chef might have been a little heavy-handed on the sugar, but it was nonetheless delicious.
Char siu bao is one of my favourite things in the world. Mrs. Pound’s rendang bao is an incredible fusion of melt-in-the-mouth beef rendang, smothered in char siu sauce and encased in a Mrs. Pound-branded soft fluffy bun. We initially just had one to share, but immediately decided one was nowhere near enough.
If you’re a fan of traditional Malaysian laksa and traditional Korean bimbimbap, then you’ll no doubt appreciate Mrs. Pound’s laksa bimbimbap. Here you still get the delicious, aromatic flavours of a laksa, but in the form of a bimbimbap, served of course in a piping hot stone.
Since they were all out of Mr. Ming’s affogato, we finished instead with a slice of Thai milk tea cake. This was soft, fluffy, sweet and comforting in a way that for some reason reminded me of being five years old.
Mrs. Pound’s only downside was the service. The staff, clad in their funky floral shirts, were all very friendly, yet even though they were physically present, they just weren’t very attentive. As I said, though, this is the only downside.
Prices are pretty fair, with smaller dishes all under $100 and bigger ones mostly under $200. I almost wish we could keep this place a secret and not tell everyone about it, but sometimes secrets are just too good to keep…
Mrs. Pound, 6 Pound Lane, Sheung Wan, Hong Kong, 3426 3949, www.facebook.com/MrsPoundHK
Reservations are only possible for groups of six or more.
P.S. Look for the glowing stamp!