Hawai­ian dishes of raw fish ar­rive in Ca­nary Wharf

We chat to Hawai­ian food chain founder as the Wharf gets Pa­cific with its raw fish

The Wharf - - Front Page - Laura En­field

Trained art ex­pert James Gould-Porter doesn’t ex­actly look like he runs a Hawai­ian res­tau­rant brand. In­stead of a brightly pat­terned shirt and san­dals, he is wrapped up in a sheepskin jacket and suede boots, look­ing more like a young Oliver Stone than the head of a bur­geon­ing food busi­ness.

“We’re stay­ing far away from grass skirts and Hula dancers,” said the 26-year-old cast­ing his eye over the Cross­rail Place unit about to be­come his third Is­land Poke branch. “Kitsch aloha is not us at all.

“We are try­ing to pay homage to Hawaii but not ram ob­vi­ous stereo­types down peo­ple’s throats.”

There are nods to the trop­i­cal is­lands though. Bright win­dow wraps con­ceal the space’s trans­for­ma­tion into a “grab and go” venue, serv­ing up bowls of Hawai­ian poke made with raw fish.

And the fin­ished res­tau­rant will have swing­ing win­dow seats for those who want to “be trans­ported to the Pa­cific” as they dine in.

But James ex­pects most of his trade to come from the busy break­fast and lunch crowd.

From 8am it will serve up Hawai­ian Kona cof­fee as well as acai berries blended with fruit, al­mond milk and top­pings such as agave syrup, co­conut shav­ings, chia seeds, goji berries, raw co­coa nibs or gluten free muesli.

At lunch it will switch to poke bowls which James de­scribes as “de­con­structed, in­ter­ac­tive sushi”.

House Bowls will be £7.85 and Build Your Own £8.85, both com­ing with 100g of ei­ther Scot­tish or Nor­we­gian salmon and line caught yel­lowfin tuna that has been su­per-frozen – not by Su­per­man’s breath but by be­ing taken down to -65C.

“There’s a bit of a stigma to eat­ing frozen fish,” said James. “But when it comes to eat­ing raw su­per-frozen locks in the fresh­ness and kills any po­ten­tial par­a­sites.

“That means you can eat it when you’re preg­nant.”

The fish, or roasted beet­root for vege­tar­i­ans, sits on a base of sushi rice, brown rice, leafy greens or raw slaw and is fin­ished with spring onion, sesame seeds and the cus­tomer’s choice of 14 top­pings such as Furikake (a Ja­panese sea­son­ing made from dried fish), burnt sweet­corn and spiced macadamia nuts.

A choice of pineap­ple chilli or yuzu mango salsa is the fi­nal touch.

“You get that Yin and Yang be­tween the sweet and the savoury,” said James who is col­lab­o­rat­ing with Gi­ant Robot trader Yum Bun on a spe­cial­ity bowl.

He first ate poke aged eight when vis­it­ing his aunt in Hawaii.

“All the lo­cal kids stopped at this road­side poke shack,” he said. “It re­ally res­onated with me see­ing them go mad for this strange rice and raw fish dish.

“I thought it was bizarre but de­li­cious.”

He went on to study art his­tory and land a job at Bon­hams auc­tion house spe­cial­is­ing in con­tem­po­rary mid­dle east­ern art.

But in 2016 he quit his job and got a loan to pur­sue his pas­sion – start­ing out with early morn­ing vis­its to Billings­gate to buy fish he served at street stalls and to com­pa­nies in­clud­ing Google.

He opened his first Is­land Poke in Kingly Street, Soho, a year ago. Broadgate Cir­cle fol­lowed in Au­gust

We are try­ing to pay homage to Hawaii but not ram ob­vi­ous stereo­types down peo­ple’s throats James Gould-Porter, Is­land Poke

and the Ca­nary Wharf branch is due to launch on De­cem­ber 11.

James said he wanted to avoid the “cut and paste” ap­proach of other brands such as Pret, Eat and Itsu.

“Ca­nary Wharf is go­ing through a bit of a shake up,” he said. “They have all their high street brands and what we can of­fer is some­thing dif­fer­ent.

“We are not a clas­si­cal hos­pi­tal­ity out­fit. We treat cus­tomers like best friends.

“It sounds a bit corny but we are try­ing to stay true to that as we move fur­ther east.”

Go to is­land­poke.co.uk for more in­for­ma­tion.

James gave up a ca­reer with Bon­hams to fol­low his dream by cre­at­ing a food busi­ness MATT GRAYSON

Is­land Poke is ex­pected to open on De­cem­ber 11 in Cross­rail Place serv­ing raw fish with a se­lec­tion of 14 top­pings

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