Wonderland at the Harmony of the Seas:
Intrigued and apprehensive, I made my way to the IceTank for the dry run dinner for Harmony of the Seas, Royal Caribbean’s soon to be launched cruise ship. Wonderland is a concept I came across on Anthem of the Seas – but, it was closed for most our taster trip. The venue is one I know well, it’s often used for cookery demonstrations and is, as the name Ice Tank suggests, a stark, white warehouse type building. As I approached, I could see the red carpet, leading into the now transformed Wonderland.
While the fantastical lighting made photography particularly tricky it did create a fairytale ambience. I could imagine the impact of walking into Wonderland on board the Harmony of the Seas, the latest of the Royal Caribbean cruise ships. The restaurant is an intimate 62 seat restaurant – on a a ship that will hold over 6,100 guests and is the length of four football pitches. Wonderland is intended to create an edgy and surreal atmosphere, with food to complement the setting. We were invited along for an eight course taster of what guests on board will be able to experience.
We started with canapes and cocktails – liquid marzana olives and crispy crab cones before taking our seats to learn a little more from Royal Caribbean VP of food and beverage operations, John Suley about the concept behind Wonderland.
The menu is themed by elements – Sun, Ice, Fire, Sea and Earth – with dishes like ‘Tomato Water’ coming under the Sun section, while ‘Terroir Beef with river stone potatoes and bordelaise sauce’ sits in Earth.
This rather beautiful plateful is ‘Baby Vegetables in the Garden’ – a delicious mixture of tiny, al-dente vegetables in a ‘soil’ made of black rice
I don’t generally like eggs, but I really enjoyed this ‘buffalo chicken egg’ which was served with just a little hot sauce and crumbs of blue cheese. It arrived under the cover of a glass cloche full of smoke and was about as far away from those ‘Devilled Eggs’ our mothers used to serve for buffet parties.
Sashimi of tuna came with a piquant and light yuzu dressing.
Halibut cooked in clear paper with mushrooms, potatoes and bacon, was quite substantial and for me, the theatre of serving the dish in cellophane didn’t quite work. Perhaps it was the lighting, perhaps the challenge of serving a large room of guests simultaneously, without the benefit of a professional kitchen, or perhaps just the fact that the bomb-shaped parcel seemed to distort the ingredients
But, if the halibut wasn’t a great success for me, I did really love the Berkshire pork belly with apples and crackling – served quite simply but cooked to perfection
Dessert was a syringe type contraption holding a very light, deep valharona chocolate mousse.
Director of Culinary for Royal Caribbean Chef Michael Gilligan has a stellar heritage, with stints at Le Manoir Aux Quatr’ Saisons, New York’s Ritz Carlton Hotel, De Niro’s Miriad Restaurant Group and the Conrad Miami. Now overseeing the entire Royal Caribbean culinary offering, he is aiming to prove that food at sea can be just as good as any land-locked restaurant. I suspect Wonderland is his own ‘baby’ – the food is imaginative and challenging.
The Harmony of the Seas launches in May and I’ll look forward to hearing more of how the challenge is met.
Disclaimer: I was a guest of Royal Caribbean but was not obliged to write a favourable review.