The Mustard-Crusted Lamb Duo with Espresso-Caramalized Pearl Onions. *Photo by Sarah Lagan
The Mustard-Crusted Lamb Duo with Espresso-Caramalized Pearl Onions. *Photo by Sarah Lagan

Celebrity chef Marcus Samuelsson is holding his cards close to his chest...

Despite much badgering from this reporter, he is loathe to reveal what his permanent restaurant will carry on its menu when it opens at the Fairmont Hamilton Princess in May next year. The furthest he would go was to say that seafood and local produce will rule the roost and that the final menu will bear little resemblance to the one seen at his pop-up restaurant. This doesn’t quite render a review of the pop-up restaurant irrelevant — there are plenty of qualities that will undoubtedly carry over. 

Firstly, the vibrant and informal atmosphere is unlikely to be going anywhere. During an invited dinner last week, the restaurant was bustling and all the diners seemed to have their tables full of small dishes to share. 

This, of course, generated lots of excitable chatter as the guests exchanged opinions about the food. 

There is a real excitement surrounding this restaurant and it’s not just because it has a celebrity at its helm. Regardless of the local influences, the menu is pretty unique for the island and people seem hungry for it. 

Another great feature that is unlikely to change with the permanent restaurant is that the basics are done to perfection. 

The Parmesan Herb Fries are crisp to the bite with no excess oil and plenty of flavour. 

The Horseradish Mashed Potatoes with Chives are a winner — the creamiest potatoes you can imagine, with a perfect balance of flavours. 

Then, as my fellow dinner guests fought over the Mighty Mac ‘n’ Cheese, I cradled the bowl with the delicate Coconut Creamed Spinach. 

Getting the basics right speaks volumes. There are plenty of quality restaurants that rest on their laurels — the mains are fantasic and the sides are an afterthought. 

Among the other dishes that stood out for me were the Seared Watermelon with Goats Cheese, Arugula and Pistachio Pesto  (is there anything more refreshing?), the Fish Chowder Croquettes with Rum Aioli (yes, that’s rum in your garlic — a must try) and the Mustard-Crusted Lamb with Espresso-Caramalized Pearl Onions (a perfectly rich and sticky accompaniment).