OK, we're far from sun-kissed tropical shores, but good Hawaiian food is closer than you think. Poké (raw fish salad) has seen a surge of popularity on London's food scene in the last couple of years and can now be frequently spotted sitting alongside sushi and sashimi on Pan-Asian menus around the capital.
But that's not all. While poké is easier than ever to find, with a little detective work it's also possible to root out deliciously smoky kalua pork and even Barack Obama's favourite burger. Here are the tastiest places in London to get in touch with your inner hula.
Colourful little bowls of marinated raw fish dotted with fresh vegetables, poké (pronounced "poh-kay”) is the Hawaiian appetiser currently giving sashimi a run for its money. Topped with pickles and sitting on black rice, Ahi Poké's bowls are a complete meal in a pot. Their signature dishes include ahi tuna and miso tofu, but they're more than willing to let you build your own poké with their vibrant sauces and toppings. We love the salmon poké with sesame shoyu dressing, kale salad and a spicy sriracha mayo. Hello there, healthy.
Ahi Poké have four locations in London: the original in Fitzrovia and then further sites in Victoria, Spitalfields and Bank. Check out the website for further details on where to find them.
A stylish Mayfair outfit, Black Roe positions itself as a simple poké bar, but don't be fooled says Londonist writer Ruth Hargreaves. In actual fact it's pretty close to fine dining, with an extensive Japanese-Hawaiian fusion menu that can either be enjoyed a la carte or as a multi-course tasting menu. Fresh, vibrant poké is of course on offer here (and done well), but move onto the mains menu and further treats await. Their Waimea'n lamb is an alternately sticky and crispy barbecued delight (the name originating from Waimea Bay), while those well-versed in Hawaiian fare will be delighted to find the centrepiece of many a family feast: kalua pig. The slow-cooking method means these tender pork belly pieces melt in the mouth with just a welcome crunch from the rendered fat atop it.
Black Roe, 4 Mill Street, Mayfair, W1S 2AX.
Chargrilling (on lava rock grills) sandwiches and burgers on Hawaii’s North Shore since 1975, Kua 'Aina have crossed the pond to set up two London branches on Goodge Street and Carnaby Street. A recommendation of Londonist writer Victoria Thomas, there's more than a touch of kitsch about their surf shack interiors but the menu's no joke, with a huge selection from mahi mahi fillet topped with Monterey Jack (yep, that's fish and cheese) to Obama's favourite bite, the avocado burger. It's also one of the only places to find the much-loved Loco Moco, consisting of fluffy white rice, burger patty, fried egg and gravy. Comfort food at its finest.
Kua 'Aina, 26 Foubert's Place, London, W1F and 40 Goodge Street, W1T 2QP.
A street food roamer that has recently found a permanent home in the City, Polu Poké frequently sees queues snaking out the door with punters hungry for a bowl of their lunchtime fish'n'rice combo. On the menu are all the goods you would expect: spicy tuna, yuzu salmon and miso tofu, but the extensive range of crunchy toppings and sauces make them firmly non-traditional. A poké twist, if you will. But the ingredients remain fresh as ever, and the pleasing range of vegan options means the queue only continues to grow.
Polu Poké, 117 Worship Street, EC2A 2BA.
Trader Vic's is something of a Park Lane institution, bringing Hawaiian touches to London since 1963. Its fusion of US, Mediterranean, Middle Eastern and Asian cuisine is recommended by Londonist's Victoria Thomas and combines classic with inventive in its Taste the World menu. It’s undoubtedly gimmicky in its tiki-theme, but inviting and cosy, with a gigantic cocktail menu to boot. Sit back, sip a 1944 Mai Tai (Vic himself invented this back in the day) and munch on wood-fired tako (octopus) with charred pineapple, or Hawaiian barbecued chicken served with spiced cauliflower and rice.
Trader Vic's, The London Hilton, 22 Park Lane, W1K 1BE.
Kaia at The Ned
If you're willing to pay the price for a poké bowl worthy of an Instagram crown, try this Asian-Pacific restaurant inside one of London's most prestigious hotels: The Ned. Tuna, salmon and veggie-friendly 'rainbow' bowls are all on offer with fresh ingredients packed full of flavour. This is high-quality poké, but the real draw here is in the exquisite presentation that makes each dish resemble a work of art. Myriad colours, textures and flavours nestle alongside each other in well-balanced harmony to result in a dish that that almost, almost, looks too good to eat.
Kaia at The Ned, 27 Poulty, EC2R 8AJ
This article was originally written by Victoria Thomas.