Booking a specialty restaurant meal during a cruise is one quick way to take your holiday experience to the next level - and the two restaurants unique to the Majestic Princess are no exception to this rule. While they’re not the only specialty restaurants onboard (Crown Grill also holds that honour) Harmony and La Mer can only be found on the Majestic Princess, and both of them are 100% must-savour experiences. Each one is very different from the other, but both give guests the chance to try Michelin-star calibre cuisine at a fraction of the price you’d pay on land.
The Majestic Princess was originally designed with Chinese cruisers in mind, so it’s no surprise that one of her most well-loved specialty restaurants takes its influences from that part of the world. Harmony puts a fresh spin on traditional Cantonese cuisine, with a menu crafted by Chef Richard Chen - the former chef of Wing Lei, the very first Chinese restaurant in North America to pick up a Michelin star. With that kind of pedigree behind it, Harmony has a lot to live up to - and it’s more than up to the task.
The first thing that stood out to me about Harmony was how many choices I had. This isn’t your standard ‘choose a starter, main and dessert’ type restaurant. The menu features 5 very generously-sized courses, with plenty of selection available for each one. I chose to start with a sampler dish which included jellyfish, beef tendon and BBQ pork (mostly because I was really curious to try the jellyfish) but there are plenty of appealing options for those with less adventurous taste buds. For example, my colleague Charlotte decided to go for the Peking duck salad, which nailed the traditional dish’s distinctive flavour. Side note: the jellyfish was actually very tasty - would definitely recommend.
The soup course was probably the only part of the meal which didn’t wow me, but both the roasted duck soup and the Cantonese herbal soup of the day were still very flavourful. The main was up next. I picked out a melt-in-your-mouth pork belly with star anise and rock sugar while Charlotte went for a chicken dish with shallots and Sichuan sun-dried peppers. Both were delicious (and yes, those peppers packed a punch) though I personally think I backed a winner with the pork belly - star anise was the perfect complement to the succulent pork.
Next up was the rice/vegetable/noodle course where I learned that even a dish with the unremarkable name of ‘Diced salty fish fried rice’ could be a flavour sensation. The minced beef fried rice with shrimp paste also exceeded expectations. Finally it was time for dessert. I went for the red bean crème brûlée, because honestly if crème brûlée is on the dessert menu I’m going to pick it every time. The top didn’t have the hard crisped surface which I’ve come to expect from this dessert but there’s no denying that the flavours were on point. Charlotte ordered the mango sago soup with pistachio gelato - a wonderfully refreshing way to round out the meal. I’m not usually a fan of pistachio flavoured desserts, but even I had to admit that the gelato was out of this world, pairing perfectly with the mango.
For a very reasonable AUD$35 per head, Harmony was an incredibly impressive culinary journey. Charlotte went so far as to single it out as her #1 highlight aboard the Majestic Princess, which is really saying something given the range of amazing experiences on offer.
When I read that La Mer was a casual French bistro-style restaurant, I wasn’t really sure what to expect. I’ve tried bistro dining a few times and have never been very impressed, so I went in with mixed expectations, despite the menu having been designed by Emmanuel Renaut, a famed French chef with three Michelin stars to his name. Those expectations were blown out of the water the moment that the bienvenue (welcome) dishes came out. While the deep fried polenta sticks and accompanying sauces were definitely tasty, it was the goat cheese covered in olive paste, crafted to look just like olives, that had me falling in love with La Mer before I’d even ordered an appetiser.
My first selection was escargot with wild mushrooms and black garlic custard, while Charlotte went for the handcut tuna. The escargot deftly balanced savoury and creamy flavours, and the fresh tuna was excellent quality - although strictly for those who don’t have a problem with enjoying their fish raw. When it came to the mains we decided to try the seared duck breast and the filet mignon. The creamy polenta which came with the duck was underwhelming but the dish really didn’t need it: the meat itself and its accompanying gravy were excellent on their own. The filet mignon was exquisite - perfectly cooked and almost melting with tenderness.
Which brought us to the much anticipated dessert. Charlotte opted for a dish from Princess’ Chocolate Journeys range: a layered dome which looked almost too perfect to eat. Tart blueberry at the centre perfectly offset the richness of the sweeter outer layers, making for a dessert that managed to be rich without becoming cloying. For myself, I picked out a citrus pulp jelly. It definitely wasn’t about to win any beauty contests, but the refreshing zingy flavours were exactly how I wanted to round out my La Mer experience.
At $AUD45 per head, La Mer was slightly more pricey than Harmony but given the standard of the food, I was more than happy with the cost. For me, this was hands down the best dining experience aboard the Majestic Princess, and I’d recommend that anyone cruising aboard the Majestic try a meal here at least once.
Both Harmony and La Mer left me stunned by their sheer quality and imagination, and on both counts we enjoyed excellent service with a real personal touch which made the experience even better. While the Majestic Princess has more than enough free dining options, it’s worth planning one or more special evenings where you treat yourself to dining that’s a cut above. This vessel is the only place on Earth that you can try these two excellent restaurants, so take a look at where the Majestic Princess could sweep you away to and start preparing your palate for culinary greatness.