Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Food on a Cruise

They say one thing can be guaranteed when you come off a cruise, and that is that you will put on weight.

I recently boarded a P and O short breaks cruise keen to find out of this is in fact true.

The P and O Pacific Dawn
This was not my first cruise. I cruised with my parents about 6 years ago. I enjoyed it thoroughly, but my focus back then was more on tanning and cocktails than on food. Don't get me wrong, they were important aspects of this trip as well, but I paid closer attention to the food this time around.

My cruise was a 3 night "Lifestyle" cruise, departing Brisbane, bobbing around at sea, then returning to Brisbane.

The first night myself and my first mate C made more of a dint on the bar than we did on the food service, however we did make stop in at the Plantation Restaurant, the 'buffet' if you will.

It was about exactly what I expected from a round the clock buffet, with salads, meats, cheeses, breads, a variety of wet dishes and carvery. Honestly, nothing memorable. The next morning and one other morning we ate at the Plantation for breakfast and again, totally what one would expect from a run-of-the-mill, family-friendly buffet.
photo courtesy of http://www.cruise-australia.net/pacificdawn.htm

For lunch on day 2, myself and C percured about 15 delicious rolls from Plantation and kept the leftovers in our room for snacks.

Dinner for night two, 'cocktail' night on board and we decided to make a reservation at the Waterfront Restaurant, the a-la-carte. On my previous cruise, and most cruises, set dining times are assigned, and that is when everyone is seated and served. P and O have brought in anytime dining, which does offer more choice, but meant we could not get a table until 8:30, so we decided on some pre dinner cocktails in the Mix Bar.

Having done a Martini Masterclass that affternoon, I decided that a Martini would be in order. I started with a Belvedere Martini, and followed with a Grey Goose Dirty Martini.

Needless to say, I love Martinis now.

After the very naff 'portraits' in our formal attire, we make our way to the Waterfront restaurant where we are seated and promptly brought menus.

The menu is vast... very vast. This is not a bad thing, but there really is many, many choices on there.

You can choose basically any and all of what you want.

I hear 'challenge!'

I start with the Crusty Blue Crab Cake, C opts for the Country Style Pork and Juniper Pate

My crab cake was beautifully crisp on the outside and a great ratio of crab, all too often any seafood-based patty can be so predominately potato , but this one was lovely.

C's pate was terrine style, and was tasty enough, however the outside was not cooked well enough and wasn't served with anything to spread it on..

For starter I decided on Pumpkin Ravioli with peccorino and pesto. It was delicious enough, certainly no show stopper, but a good size and cooked well.

We were most excited about our mains. Pork Belly used to be my 'radar' dish, in that, if it was on a menu, I would radar it and it would be a definite for me, however, all too many sub-par bellies put me off, this time though, I thought I'd give it a go. C ordered the ribs.

This photo really doesn't do the dish justice. The pork belly was cooked BEYOND perfectly, with an exceptional ratio of fat to meat. The capsicum gazpacho and Asian greens provided a beautiful tartness/acidity to cut through the fat, it was one of the best pork bellies I have ever had. (And that's a pretty big call.)

C's "ribs" didn't look like ribs, but none the less, was also cooked to the point of not needing a knife. I would have been more than happy with his choice.

Parmesan fries came with my main, we also ordered roasted veg and brussel sprouts with caramalised onion.

There was no room for dessert.

Luke Mangan is one of the many celebrity chefs opening restaurants onboard cruise ships.

I was very keen to get in, so as soon as we embarked, we made our way to reception to make a reservation. We were lucky to get a table, as all the dinners and almost all of the lunch spots had already been booked!

Although food on board is included in the price, some of the restaurants have a surcharge. The Salt Grill had a set $30 surcharge for 3 courses, which is a fraction of what you'd pay in one of his restaurants on land.


Our meal started with white and saltana bread with dukkah and olive oil and balsamic.

I opt for the seared beef carpaccio while C chooses the scallops.

Both of these dishes were absolutely top rate.

By beef was tantalizingly marbled, paper thin, and the Asian inspired garnish was a stunning accompaniment.

C's scallops were fresh, cooked beautifully and were stunning with the mushrooms.

I did wish to order the oysters, but was informed they were not available. In hindsite, as we had been at sea for 3 days already I can understand that they could not possibly have been fresh enough.

For main I had the rare tuna, and C lashed out and ordered the lobster tail.

I contemplated the lobster, but to this day I have never lad lobster that I believed lived up to the 'hype'.

Apart from sashimi and canned, I have never actually eaten tuna before. All I can say is, how ignorant am I?! What an amazing fish. In this case especially!

It was so beautiful. It was seasoned with indian spices and served with raita. I don't think I'll actually ever forget this meal, also there was ALOT of it.

I really can't believe how 'meaty' it was. I was amazed by the texture as well.

Eat Tuna!

C mentioned that one of his tails was a little dry, but said the rest was beautifully cooked. I did try it, and can say again, lobster just doesn't live up to the hype that surrounds it. Tasty- yes, extraordinary- no.

We ordered sides of truffled mash, which was incredible. A salad of rocket, pear, blue cheese and candied walnuts, which was a game changer as far as salads go! And zuccini with bacon and parmesan, which was okay.

Sauces of chipoltle aioli and burnt nut butter.

 The licorice parfait, as ordered by C was recommended, and he loved it. I did not enjoy it at all. The colour, texture and flavour all put me off. All I could think of was refrigerated face mask.

However, the creme brulee... CRACK, gasp, delicious. A perfect brulee, served with incredible biscotti.

So did I come back more rounded then when I got on the boat... slightly.

The utter decadence rather than the amounts had to do with that. Combined of course with a fairly constant input of cocktails, whisky and beer.

All back to normal now.

To sum up. The Pacific Dawn is a 3 star ship. I think the overall experience you get on board is a high 3 star, there are some amazing parts and some utterly nose-scrunchable parts. But it is a great value, enjoyable and relaxing escape, with some very tasty food to enjoy along the way...

Oh, and cocktails.

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