Within New Kingston's busy thoroughfares lies a beguiling oasis on Haining Road — The Coppers. Situated in the exact location where Heather's once was, The Coppers is another restaurant venture by Heather McKay. Yes, of Heather's fame. Only the bones of the original restaurant are recognisable. The Coppers may be McKay's second child (so to speak), but it's not in the shadow of the firstborn. It is blazing its own path and winning over folks with its unique charm. Just in its second month of operation (the doors opened in November), The Coppers already has the Corporate Area abuzz.
The restaurant's buzz-worthiness cannot solely be attributed to the “power of new”. A combination of things makes the business work; topping the list is the happy staff who want guests to relax, experience and savour. Whether you're tucked away in a corner, working on a laptop, or having a seven-hour ladies' 'lunch' (this happened, by the way), the staff will ensure that your visit is memorable.
Next on the ingredients list of the restaurant's recipe for success is its spaciousness that is especially welcomed during these times. The space is divided into three distinct areas — the bar, the garden and the cellar. The garden and cellar have separate menus. According to Executive Chef Ramesh Maragh, “The cellar offers a more intimate and formal experience.” However, just ask nicely if you'd like to have the cellar menu in the garden or at the bar. With two menus and over three dozen items, you'd think there's a whole kitchen brigade creating each beautiful and delicious dish. In actuality, it's Maragh, sous-chef Tashay Myers, and chef de partie Gavin Harriott.
The Coppers' dishes deliver a “taste of Jamaica and the world”. Each element is well-seasoned, including the vegetables and salads that garnish the plate. For our visit, Thursday Food savoured lobster, crab, sweet corn and three-cheese queso, the American smash burger, Chicken Kiev, Cabernet-braised oxtail crisp, a Japanese sticky pork bowl, and the international mixed grill.
It was challenging picking a favourite dish, so we didn't. The queso served with green plantain tostones, or garlic crostini, is the sort of dish that you'll squabble over. If there are more than two people dining, one won't suffice. The beautiful Tex-Mex flavours are beautifully pronounced and addictive. The American smash burger starts with two burger patties handmade by Chef Maragh every day. After grilling, each gets a slice of American cheddar, and the whole thing is tied together by a small mountain of onion rings, pickles, and a generous drizzle of the secret house sauce.
The frenched Chicken Kiev reminds you why this dish ruled the 70s and 80s. Stuffed with brie, parsley butter, dipped in panko and fried to a perfect crisp, this cellar menu dish deserves to be sung about. Though an appetiser, the Cabernet-braised oxtail crisp has flavours that linger most appealingly. The Japanese sticky pork bowl comprises a generous serving of soy ginger-braised pork belly, sautéed vegetables and moreish fried rice. But, if you want a dish that will repeatedly stamp your carnivore card, then the international mixed grill is for you. A grilled Port-glazed lamb chop, jerk chicken kebab, twice-cooked pork belly, and, get this, grilled filet mignon create a carnival of flavour and a feast for the eyes. You'll probably need to sit at the bar for a few cocktails after.
Bar manager Ikkie Beadle and his mixologists have created a praise-worthy cocktail programme. They approach cocktails with the same enthusiasm that the kitchen approaches the menus — another reason why the whole thing works well. Whether you're a fan of gin and Aperol, a caramel mudslide, an Amaretto sour, a tequila-based mojito, sorrel sangria, rum or mocktails, The Coppers has something that will delight. Hot tip: Ask for one of the Japanese whiskeys that you'd be hard-pressed to find elsewhere easily.
But, you better leave room for dessert! There's homemade gelato, a divine raspberry-almond tart, and a decadent brownie that deserves to be called something else after getting the Chef Maragh treatment.
After a four-hour lunch, Thursday Food sat pondering, eavesdropping and relishing the experience. The other diners, too, were delighted and, while attempting to get up after being well-fed, conveyed their regards to the chefs. What seemed like a hundred good-byes, thank yous, and see you soons were delivered by still smiling staff. Those arriving for the dinner service also greeted guests as they passed. Yes, they were also smiling. When asked what's behind all this happiness, McKay replied, “It's because we're a family.”
The Coppers family has struck gold at the site where it all began.
Address: 9 Haining Road, Kingston 5
For reservations: 876-672-7251
Opening hours: Monday through Saturday 11:00 am to 8:00 pm and Sundays 11:00 am to 7:00 pm