Everyday and Speciality Dining on
Welcome back to the Equinox, one of Celebrity Cruises cruise ships, and one that I had the pleasure of calling home for four days a few weeks ago; you can see my “teaser photo post” here: Travel, Dine & Wine in Style on Celebrity Equinox around the Mediterranean. Today I would like to share my dining experiences with you…….from help-yourself buffet breakfasts and flambéed lobster to juicy steaks and “breakfast in bed with a sea-view”, part of the cruising experience is al about the food and wine. Equinox has several speciality dining areas as well as the main dining area, The Silhouette Dining Room with its impressive Grand Epernay Wine Tower which holds 3,000 bottles of carefully selected wines. The Silhouette Dining Room is a magnificent room that spans both sides of the ship and is spread over two levels……all meals served in the Silhouette are inclusive of the cruise price (wine, spirits and soft drinks are extra), and the quality and choice is fabulous. If your budget dictates how you must dine, then I feel sure that even though the speciality restauants offer exceptional food, you would still enjoy a superb dining experience if you only ate in the Silhouette Dining Room for the whole cruise, which is classed as “Main Dining”.
We all (the Great British Chefs group) dined in the Silhouette on our first night on-board; we were led along plush carpets with glittering lights shining above us, on our way to the table, which was set with crisp white linen, gleaming cutlery and sparking glasses. The chairs were comfortable and I felt at home already. The menu offered a large choice of delectable meals, including Escargots à la Bourguignonne with Shallots, Garlic, Parsley and Pernod Butter, Celebrity Antipasti Platter Selection of Cured Meats and Artisan Cheese and Baked French Onion Soup with Herb Croutons and Melted Gruyère Cheese for starters. Main courses that tempted me were Chicken stuffed with Plantain and Bacon served on a bed of rice with Plantain Crisps, Grilled New York Sirloin Steak with Loaded Baked Potato, Caramelized Shallots, Tender Green Beans and Beurre Maître d’Hôtel and Broiled Atlantic Salmon with Boiled Potatoes and Grilled Asparagus. Desserts did not disappoint either and the selection was also varied and interesting with Sticky Toffee Pudding, Apple Pie à la Mode Our One of a Kind Blend of Golden Delicious Apples in Seasoned Brown Sugar and a Cheese Platter with Nuts and Fruit piquing my interest.
I opted for the Escargots à la Bourguignonne with Shallots, Garlic, Parsley and Pernod Butter followed by the Chicken stuffed with Plantain and Bacon served on a bed of rice with Plantain Crisps and I ended with a very generous Cheese Platter with Nuts and Fruit in order for me to finish my wine. The service was excellent and unobtrusive and the food was as good as anything I have enjoyed in a high-end restaurant on Terra Firma……as we sailed out of the port of Salerno, it was hard to believe we were on deck 5 of a large cruise liner enjoying such a delicious meal. The atmosphere in the dining room was warm and friendly and most guests had “dressed for dinner” although the dress code is smart casual for non “formal dinner” nights. For those guests wishing to enjoy some of the fine wines that are on offer, there are special WINE & BEVERAGE PACKAGES on offer, where you can pre-purchase wines, soft drinks and beverages before you cruise. We all ended with a coffee before making our way to the Molecular Cocktail Bar for a nightcap! (More about the on-board bars in a later post)
On the second night, we dined in the Murano Restaurant; as timeless as it is modern, the sophisticated ambience of Murano is reflected in the impeccable service and accomplished contemporary take on classic French cuisine, and our meals were simply stunning, with table side cooking and an innovative selection of meals on the menu to choose from. We were led to our table via the elegant main dining area and into a small, private room that was tantalisingly lined with wine and champagne! The table was set with starched white linen with what looked to be a conical candle but which turned out to be a perfectly formed “butter” pat!
The menu offered some amazing choices, and in the end I chose Diver Scallop Wellington Style – Baked in Puff Pastry with a Black Truffle Emulsion and Spinach Fondue………this followed on after a delicious little amuse bouche and a glass of Saint-Romain – La Combe Bazin, a Chardonnay from the Burgundy region of France.
Other starters on the table were Smoked Salmon & Peekytoe Crab Parfait layered with Avocado, Salmon Caviar, Crème Fraîche and served with Petite Greens……..
……..Creamy Maine Lobster Bisque with a Leek and Shallot Flan, Cognac Cream and Crispy Sweet Yellow Corn Beignets
and a Warm Goat Cheese Soufflé with Smoked Tomato Coulis, Parmesan Cream and Basil Pesto. Three of us opted for the Murano Lobster for our main course, which is Cognac Flambéed Warm Water Lobster Tail with Fresh Basil, Applewood Smoked Bacon in a Dijon-Cream and is cooked at your table……..
……the lobster was sweet and nutty and beautifully cooked with a creamy, cognac enriched sauce……and the table-side cooking was pure theatre – the lobster was served with raw crudités, which was all that was needed.
The other main was a delectable looking Muscovy Duck Breast – a Crispy Spiced Duck Leg Confit wth Herbed French Toast, and a Raisin-Apple Compote. Along with our main meals we all enjoyed a glass of Barda – 2012 – an Argentinian Pinot Noir made from 100% estate bottled organic grapes from the Rio Negra region; the was full-bodied, fruity and mellow, and an excellent suggestion by our Sommelier. With the main event over, it was time to choose a dessert, and once again, three of were in accord and decided on the Grand Marnier Soufflé which was served with a Crème Anglaise á la Gousse Tahitienne. Rosana opted for the Les Six Etoiles du Murano for Two – a taster selection of desserts served in test tube-shaped glasses, (and ate them all to herself!) and the rest of us were also served with one of these stunning dessert options which comprised Royal Tokaji, Aszu, 5 Puttonyos, Chocolate Pots, Crème Brûlée, White chocolate and Raspberry Jelly.
Our meal in the Murano Restaurant was superlative – everything was cooked perfectly and the service was friendly and polite with a drop of humour sprinkled in to the mix too! I was extremely impressed with the overall quality of the food…….from the tasty amuse bouche to the feather-light soufflé and the simply divine lobster, the food was first class and beautifully prepared and presented, it was quite simply one of the most enjoyable dining experiences I have ever enjoyed, and if The Murano Restaurant was in my local town, I would be one of its best customers. One last point, apparently, you can even stop off during the day for Champagne High Tea……maybe next time!
On our third day, we were guests in the Tuscan Grille for our evening meal – also on deck 5 this restaurant specialises in steaks and Italian food; beef is a big highlight, with juicy steaks and traditional pasta or roasted lemon and herb chicken …….the flavours are both bold and rustic with paired wines to match each course. The restaurant also has a magnificent view being situated towards the back (stern) of the ship, and we were all fascinated to watch the port of Livorno slowly disappearing as we wined and dined on-board.
The atmosphere is definitely Italian Steak House and as we decided what to choose from the menu, a selection of breads and bread sticks were offered with flavoured dipping oils. The menu offers starters such as Polpette di Granchio (Crab Cake) with Roasted pepper caponata & basil emulsion and Insalata di Formaggio di Capra (Goat cheese salad) – Fried goat cheese with arugula (rocket), toasted pine nuts & balsamic vinaigrette. The main courses are Pasta, Fish, Meat (Steaks) which are all offered with a selection of side dishes such as Baked Pecorino Mac and Cheese, Truffled Parmesan Steak Fries and Grilled Mediterranean Vegetables.
As with all the dining areas on-board the Equinox, we had our own sommelier assigned to us and the wines we decided on were the very excellent Enamore – Bodega Renacer – an intense and deep ruby red wine that is structured and full of aromas of spices and ripe fruits from Argentina. For the white wine, we all decided on a local Italian wine – Vermentino – 2012 – Bolgheri – from Tuscany – a wine with lots of bright citrus flavours, ripe stone fruits, saline and minerals. It’s fresh yet opulent, and robust enough to accompany cheese as well as steak.
I am not a big red meat-eater, but now and then I really hanker after a steak and I had it on good authority that the steaks in the Tuscan Grille were superb, so ordered a Bistecca Toscana – “Rib Eye ”*Blackened Angus Ribeye Steak served with Truffled Parmesan Steak Fries and an Insalata di Cesare (Caesar Salad). This was after I had enjoyed the Insalata di
Formaggio di Capra – Goat’s Cheese Salad as my starter, as well as some freshly procured Buffalo mozzarella (Mozzarella di Bufala that Victor Mancilla, Executive Sous Chef, had purchased in Tuscany earlier on that day.
My starter was delicious – little crisply fried balls of goat’s cheese served on a bed of rocket leaves with a balsamic vinaigrette and the added crunch of toasted pine nuts. It was the perfect prelude to what followed……a tender rib-eye steak cooked medium rare coated in a blackened herb and spice rub – the steak was meltingly tender and full of flavour with the crust adding an extra taste dimension – it was simply one of the best steaks I have ever eaten. The accompanying Truffled Parmesan Steak Fries were SUBLIME – the dried truffle “dust” making them the best “posh”chips I have ever tried! I loved every bite of my meal so much, that I simply didn’t have room for dessert, but did enjoy a decaffeinated latte. Tuscan Grille is the perfect dining room for a slightly more informal meal than the Murano Restaurant with Italian inspired food and excellent steaks……a lovely change of pace.
Our last night saw us dining in Blu – this restaurant is part of the AquaClass® holiday cruise; as an AquaClass® guest, you can enjoy Blu as your own exclusive restaurant for breakfast and dinner. The cuisine at Blu is an imaginative way of preparing popular dishes without fussiness or pretence. Tender steak is served with truffle vinaigrette instead of heavy béarnaise, they call it “clean cuisine.” The menu and décor is inspired by the Mediterranean Sea and the cool blue colours one experiences in Greece…..it did feel very “fresh” when we entered the restaurant I must admit.
The menu offered choices such as Grilled Tamarind Glazed Quail with Cinnamon Pickled Carrots and Tabbouleh Salad, Chilled Seafood Napoleon with Cucumber Carpaccio and Saffron Vinaigrette for “clean” starters. These were followed with main course suggestions such as Roasted Chicken Breast with Green Lentil Blini, Wilted Spinach and Tomato-Garlic Emulsion, Blackened Ahi Tuna with Forbidden Rice, Baby Bok Choy, Spicy Onion and White Sesame Seed Vinaigrette and Pan Seared Pacific Salmon with Green Lentils, Curried Pickled Vegetable, Frisée and Lemon Mosto Emulsion. After an amuse bouche of Risotto, I opted for the Braised Beef Short Ribs served on Chive Pancakes with Orange Candy for my starter……little blini-style pancakes were topped with meltingly soft short ribs meat, so tender and with a citrus flavour…..it was an unexpected taste but very enjoyable…..
……this was followed by a special “off the menu” dish of Barramundi fillet (an Australian fish) served with Edamame & Black Beans in a Miso Broth with Sallots and Coriander. It was a spectacular dish that was clean in taste and yet it didn’t lack flavour. The fish was cooked perfectly and the miso broth was the perfect accompaniment to the richness of the fish, whilst the edamame and black beans added a clean Asian taste to the dish – it was light and packed with texture and flavour and again, the ingredients combination was unexpected and unusual., but it all worked very well together.
I was temped by the dessert menu this time and ended my meal with a Chocolate Fondant served with Granola Crumble, Raspberries, Banana and a Raspberry Coulis. The fondant had a saucy heart and the freshness of the fruit cut through the richness of the chocolate with the granola crumble adding a delicious crunch. The whole meal had been satisfying, but I didn’t feel at all full and I certainly had room for a few cocktails after dinner! (Although AquaClass guests can use Blu exclusively for breakfast and dinner, other suite guests are allowed to book reservations in the restaurant if space is available)
In addition to the main dining room, The Silhouette, and the speciality restaurants, guests can also eat informally in the Ocean View Café, which offers a fantastic choice of buffet style food. Help yourself and take a voyage around the world to discover flavours from across the globe. From pasta and pizza to stir-fry and sushi, there is something for everyone for breakfast, lunch, dinner and late into the night. Breakfast includes made-to-order egg dishes, pancakes, waffles, and all the traditional breakfast dishes from the USA, Canada and Great Britain.
Then there’s the AquaSpa Café, which offers light and healthy breakfast offerings as well as a healthy-alternative lunch buffet. (There is no surcharge to dine at the AquaSpa Café). This spa-inspired restaurant serves an eclectic mix of dishes that will satisfy your hunger but still keep you in shape. Each meal combines flavoursome and healthy ingredients, including gluten-free bakes and cakes, raw salads and dairy-free smoothies.
And, there’s the very handy option of “room service” which I took advantage of one morning…….I ordered breakfast and joined Rosana, Mex and Stacey for breakfast with an ocean view! Room service is also available in the evenings and throughout the day. Simply request the menu from your Butler or Stateroom Attendant. From wine and soft drinks to Champagne they will deliver straight to your room and even set up on the balcony if you desire. (Additional charges will apply)
For more “Dining Choices” on Celebrity Cruises, pop over to see what they offer here: Dining
That’s all for this post; I hope you have enjoyed my dining experiences – as you can see, there are many styles of dining for everyone on-board; whatever your dietary requirements, and the styles of cuisine and options are endless. Please keep popping back to read my next Celebrity Cruises post in a week or so, it’s all about Shore Excursions and the Amenities On-Board – I’ll be taking you to Rome, The Vatican, Pisa, Florence and a Vineyard near Toulon via my Stateroom and the Galley! See you soon, Karen
Disclaimer: I was a guest of Celebrity Cruises UK in partnership with Great British Chefs; I was not required to write a favourable review of my experiences and all views and opinions are an honest an unbiased appraisal of my trip. All photos are my own, unless otherwise stated. Karen S Burns-Booth
Part THREE to follow………
My other posts are here:
Read my friend and cruise companion Rosana’s posts about the journey here:
Great British Chef’s Post is here: