I am not a food scientist or a nutritionist. I do not delve into the intricate chemical compositions and affinities of ingredients, nor do I ponder upon how they affect my biology. I am aware of food science but only insofar as it helps explain what makes good cooking taste good, and how something delicious can manifest beyond the skill and pedigree of a cook. So, when someone talks to me about the benefits of a superfood, I am almost tempted to interrupt them mid-conversation about health benefits and nutrition to say, ‘Yeah, yeah, but how does it taste?’. If good food tastes, well, good, then surely by that logic superfood should indeed taste super, right? Right? Perhaps not.
You set yourself up for disappointment if you go in this way because the prefix is for the most part expressing the health benefits of certain ingredients. Superfood has been a large part of health food marketing campaigns because they promise supreme benefits that less nutrient dense food does not. And like most health food – or food conveyed to boost bodily function and prevent illness – they are not automatically associated with deliciousness. Superfood is not innately appealing, one does not pick up a raw acai berry and pop it in their mouth without realising this fact. Even blueberries can be polarising, which leaves not much hope for dark leafy greens and brain shaped walnuts, let alone cod liver oil.
Tremendous effort has been put into bridging this gap between flavour and nutrition to find a new way to attract people to this new form of cuisine. Dishes have been taken from cultures from Hawaii to Japan to find ways of combining superfoods to best appeal the palates of sceptical diners. But the good news seems to be spreading: that there are, in actuality, non-mythological foods you can eat and places you can go, where what you put into your mouth is not just tasty but incredibly good for you.
Nobody can really challenge the good feelings felt after eating a healthy meal. While one may feel satisfied after juicy cheeseburger, the intertwining of salt and fat and unctuous texture, fibrous and piquant superfood, generally speaking, makes you feel lighter and effervescent, spritely and energetic which is possibly why health nuts are so intolerable. The stigma and prejudice that envelopes superfood dining needs to be effaced, especially due to the growing global culture of obesity.
Pono in the city of Norwich localises many of the various superfood fads and popular recipes within a cosy space on upper-saint-giles. Their well-intentioned owners have seemingly ticked all the correct boxes for making the place a haven for the super and the healthy and the feel good. There was no way they could completely separate themselves from the hipster-ness of their undertaking, so I think they have chosen to embrace it instead – as most of the people are, since being a hipster is no longer fringe but rather mainstream. No matter what you choose to eat at this place, whether it is a wrap, smoothie or poke bowl, you are almost inevitably destined to feel rather pleasant after, despite the grimaces of your Whetherspoons baptised mates that have decided to join you and be unwillingly evangelised.
Eating superfood is like choosing to eat a particular cuisine. You are looking for a particular kind of experience, one that scraps at your insides, that takes a little longer than normal to chew, or no time at all. The vast poke bowls, pretty and colourful with ginger, cabbage, carrots, seeds and fish offer delightful arrays of texture and flavour to excite those that appreciate a little complexity. For those that don’t, at least it is healthy – a winning formula.
We tried a few different bits off the menu. The acai bowls, sweet and copiously filled in little coconut shell fashioned bowls are vibrant and moreish, the kind of thing that sets you up for the day better than coffee ever could. The amount of banana they put into the mixes here make it too heavy for our liking, but for those who have never had one of these before, Pono is not too bad a place to have your first go at the stuff.
Their peanut butter and banana toast was the kind treat you’d love to have ready for you as you roll out of bed. The cinnamon and almonds add a spicy crunch to the famous toast top duo, with the caramel sauce, salt-tinged, bringing that lovely rich sweetness. A moreish combination indeed, one I will most definitely replicate at home.
It just depends on what you value. The food at Pono tastes bright and perky. They do their superfood justice for the most part, and their vibe is comfortable and infectious. This is a sanctuary for people who enjoy the experience of decadent eating far less than that light and self-righteous feeling they get after polishing off a green smoothie bowl. Others who prefer to savour eating something rich and not-so-good for you, and enjoy feeling overfed and slow in their post-meal indulgent form, should visit Pono for a well-balanced detox.
Pono does decently on the spectrum of Norwich food establishments and gives you what it says on the tin. Their approach to food is not tentative but confident and has an air about it that is convincing in both flavour and style. While I am not quite ready to say I will be visiting Pono often, there is no doubt in my mind that I will be back for something fresh and delectable to give me that superfood élan.
Location: 15 St Giles St, Norwich NR2 1JL, UK