Hav & Mar restaurant is a new temple for Black arts and culture in New York

Hav & Mar, a new art-focused seafood restaurant in New York, is the brainchild of chef Marcus Samuelsson and artist Derrick Adams

Artwork Black mermaids by Derrick Adams on wooden wall at Hav & Mar restaurant in New York
Derrick Adams’ Black mermaids adorn the interiors at Hav & Mar restaurant, New York
(Image credit: Clay Williams)

Two New York City titans have come together to create Hav & Mar, a temple for Black culture in the form of a restaurant, located in the heart of the city’s Chelsea. In their new enterprise, which sits on the ground floor of the landmark Starrett-Lehigh building, chef Marcus Samuelsson and American artist Derrick Adams have created a veritable addition to the gallery trail, complete with new site-specific and specially curated artwork from Adams and Thelma Golden, director and chief curator of The Studio Museum in Harlem, who also serves as creative partner.

‘I met Thelma when I moved to New York in the 1990s. She quickly became one of my most trusted teachers and a dear, life-long friend,’ recounts Samuelsson, who is of Ethiopian and Swedish heritage. ‘It was through her that I came to know Derrick and his work. Over a year ago, we started to talk about what was becoming Hav & Mar and I knew his perspective as a creative would be invaluable, especially with it being located in  Chelsea, the heart of the arts community.’

interior of Hav & Mar restaurant New York

(Image credit: Clay Williams)

He adds, ‘‘Restaurant” comes from the word to restore, which took on new meaning and depth for us coming out of the pandemic. Restoring our sense of community is so vital, not just through restaurants but through galleries and museums, all public places where we gather. That was the root of the conversation we started to have at the beginning of the project.’

Named after the words ‘ocean’ in Swedish and ‘honey’ in Aramaic, the restaurant is a beautiful reflection of Samuelsson’s heritage as well as the influence of African roots in contemporary Black cuisine. Helmed by executive chef Rose Noël, the menu focuses on thoughtfully sourced seafood that spans small plates to family-style feasting dishes. Some of the highlights include Swediopian, a Berbere-cured salmon with mustard-seed caviar and buckthorn, a Black Mermaid Rice featuring Haitian black djon djon mushrooms, crab, lobster and green peas, and a Seaside Waffle, topped with rock shrimp and uni butter.

Hav & Mar's Black Mermaid Rice dish

Hav & Mar's Black Mermaid Rice dish

(Image credit: Clay Williams)

‘Hav & Mar is the culmination of our passion and purpose coming together to reflect a truly contemporary expression of Black cuisine in Manhattan,’ Samuelsson says. ‘Each member of our team brings their own heritage and creativity through the food and drinks we have created. Our hope is that Hav & Mar is a reflection of Black joy and excellence.’

This excellence is underscored by the original installations that the chef commissioned from Adams, who serves as a creative partner in the project. Titled We Are From the Water Too, Adams created a series of Black mermaids and vibrant patterns that envelope the restaurant’s interior, which is designed by Atelier Zébulon Perron and unites the rich, sunbaked tones of Ethiopia’s landscapes with elements of Swedish minimalism.

Interior of Hav & Mar restaurant New York with tables, benches and wooden shelving

(Image credit: Clay Williams)

‘At first, Derrick and I started talking about the history of Black culture, and since seafood is an anchor part of the restaurant, we looked historically at port cities that work with fish and seafood, sending back and forth between us images and documentation of Black people working at factories, deshelling crabs for canned meat, oyster shucking in New York. We went deep on archival images, and I loved seeing Derrick's mind at work, researching, imagining, and refining how we could express this connectivity to our past, not so much literally but what it means and how it lives today.’

Adams says, ‘I started researching the history and mythology as it relates to the mermaid and its long lineage of African culture and Haitian culture, as well as other cultures that dive into the mysticism of the mermaid, or the water goddess. I became really inspired by the freedom of the narrative and that those narratives were predating a lot of Atlantic slave trade narratives. They were more connected to just the mystery, the freedom of fantasy, and their freedom of looking at Blackness in a particular way that is not defined by anything other than itself.’

The Seaside Waffle dish at Hav & Mar New York

The Seaside Waffle at Hav & Mar New York

(Image credit: Clay Williams)

He continues, ‘While many think that the idea of Blackness is based on the earth, the physical ground, the labouring part of the soil and the foundation – which is true – we also are from the water. A lot of places that we originated from are surrounded by water that we also have worked and cultivated. I started to really think about the mermaid as the central figure in the restaurant. It's almost like a beacon. I felt like I wanted to create something that was so mystical, so opulent and textured that it can also be used as a light to draw people in, to set a tone and a mood for the restaurant that's not just about service, it’s about imagination.

‘I think people should have the freedom of looking at an image of a mermaid who happens to be Black without comparing it to a mermaid that is white,’ Adams concludes. ‘I hope that I can contribute an alternative way of looking at Blackness in a way that is fortifying and empowering and not comparative.’

havandmar.com (opens in new tab)

Pei-Ru Keh is the US Editor at Wallpaper*. Born and raised in Singapore, she has been a New Yorker since 2013. Pei-Ru has held various titles at Wallpaper* since she joined in 2007. She currently reports on design, art, architecture, fashion, beauty and lifestyle happenings in the United States, both in print and digitally. Pei-Ru has taken a key role in championing diversity and representation within Wallpaper's content pillars and actively seeks out stories that reflect a wide range of perspectives. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband and two children, and is currently learning how to drive.