Setting sail on a cruise is a fabulous way to travel, have fun, and let the worries of the world leave you once you leave harbour. Now there are cruise boats, and then there are luxury cruise ships. The Queen Elizabeth is the latter.
Sitting in bumper to bumper on the highway last week, you may have caught a glimpse of a glorious monstrosity docked in Cape Town’s harbour. You may even have paid a visit to the port to marvel in her presence first hand, or fantasize about what it would be like to board one of these five-star ‘floating cities’. The sight, of course, was the magnificent Queen Elizabeth cruise liner, which visited our shores for a few days as part of her annual World Voyage. We were honoured to be invited aboard for a three-course meal and tour of this luxury vessel, giving you the inside scoop on what it’s really like to dine in seaside style.
Stepping inside, the interior immediately oozes class and opulence as we were ushered into a three-tier foyer with wood and gold finishings and cascading staircases on either side. Here we were greeted with fresh fruit juice and beautifully presented canapes – a choice of Halloumi cheese and red bell pepper on a stick, or a seasoned crouton with a tangy hummus topping whet our appetite before the tour commenced.
Esteemed features on the ship highlight the quintessentially British heritage of the Cunard line. The likes of which include a stately ballroom that’s seen many a tuxedo and evening gown, a lounge area adorned with oil paintings of Queen Elizabeth II herself as well other royal figures, and “the largest library at sea.”
Whilst on a walk-through of a newly revamped kitchen, we were notified by executive chef, Mark that lunch was being served at the upscale Britannia restaurant. Dining on board is organized according to grade of accommodation. The Britannia restaurant is formal and reserved for guests in the Britannia cabins whilst the Princess or Queen’s Grill is for Grills guests and offers more relaxed dining in a casual setting.
We were presented with a selection of bread and butter to nibble before browsing a choice menu of starter’s, mains and dessert. I opted for an appetiser of a roasted vegetable tart, served with a goat’s cheese glaze and tomato ‘vinaigrette’. The dish was small but satisfying. A slab of flat pastry constituted as the tart portion, topped with a vegetable combo of roasted red peppers, baby marrow and roasted tomato. The vegetables were succulent and flavoursome, as the tomato vinaigrette provided a spicy tang that combusted from the juices with each bite. This blended seamlessly with the earthy flavour and smooth creamy texture of the goat’s cheese, as well as the oven-baked crumble from the pastry, which added a grounding element that pulled the dish together.
A pleasing start to the meal, my excitement grew for the main course, which arrived in quick succession. I ordered a pan roasted fillet of lemon sole. This was served with Caper sauce, parsley whipped potatoes, carrots glazed with nut brown butter and an asparagus fricassee. The sole was soft and tender and had a buttery flavour amidst the lemon marinade. The simplicity of the dish would have been perfect on its own, yet the sour Caper sauce and gourmet vegetable sides transformed it from a homely meal into an indulgent fine dining experience. I thoroughly enjoyed the whipped potatoes – the velvety melt-in-your-mouth sensation added yet another layer of richness to the plate and complemented the fish delectably.
Between each course, a range of fine wines were offered, but I stuck with lemon water and ice as a palette refresher before the highlight of the day – dessert. Options included a Macadamia and Ricotta cheese crème brulee, Millionaires salted caramel chocolate truffle, and a selection of international cheeses served with dried fruit, jams and nuts. Never one to shy away from anything chocolate related (although the crème brulee was a tempting me otherwise), the Millionaires truffle was my first choice. The rich cocoa flavour of the truffle was offset by the sweet salted caramel and dark chocolate sauce, culminating into the perfect ratio of bitter, sweet and salty. Not to mention, the shortbread base combined with the jelly-like truffle was nothing less than a sweet treat – a truly luxurious chocolate dessert with a twist.
As sunlight poured in from large glass panels around the Britannia, it was hard not to imagine the incredible oceanic sights one may see when Queen Elizabeth sets sail. Enjoying exceptional food in the midst of the open ocean and being served on hand and foot is a blissful utopia – an experience that’s sure to be on everyone’s bucket list.
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