My first time on The Yachts of Seabourn, long known as one of the best cruise lines in the world, and my first New England – Canada journey.
CruiseMates already has an extensive piece on the cuisine of Seabourn written by culinary expert Janice Wald Henderson, so I won’t repeat her words here. Before writing this piece, I consulted with Janice about Seabourn cuisine so I could get a better handle on what the line is attempting to portray with its food.
Janice describes the Seabourn cuisine and its style as very contemporary, in line with current trends for gourmet finery – a style that involves fresh and simple ingredients, a focus on “lighter, lower calorie” fare, and an elegant but casual décor and service style in the dining room.
To be honest, I was not overwhelmed by the presentation, but that is probably because my personal taste is somewhat different from what Seabourn offers. Details will be below. But as an example of what I mean, look at the names of the ship’s dining rooms: Restaurant 1, Restaurant 2, Patio Grill, The Casino, The Club. Not exactly imaginative, but who needs unnecessary embellishment when it doesn’t change anything?
Seabourn delivers a copy of the menu offerings for Restaurant, 1, 2, and the Colonnade to your stateroom the night before they are served – along with the daily Herald and the schedule for the next day. This helps you decide in advance where you want to eat, and if you are lucky you might be able to book the very limited Restaurant 2 if you see something you like on its menu the night before.
Restaurant 1 is the Main Dining Room. On deck four with sea view windows and tables for two to 10 people, the room is bright (too bright, in my opinion) and adorned with flowing ceiling-to-floor white drapes, white tablecloths, white napkins, white walls, tan and black chairs and mahogany-colored carpet. It felt more like a hospital than a dining room to me, but this is currently a popular restaurant décor.
The food is in keeping with the décor – simple and light, with the focus on freshness and distinctive flavor. You won’t find complex and layered dishes like stews, casseroles, lasagna or moussaka on a menu like this (not that I prefer those dishes, just an example).
Salad offerings are basic – a few varieties of lettuce, a single sprig of asparagus, haricot or a sliver of artichoke. The dressing is pre-made and applied in the kitchen (don’t expect your waiter to ask, “and what kind of dressing would you like on that?”), and it was always very light, usually a vinaigrette with a singular accent like lime, leek, port, cranberry, sherry, basil, etc.
Of course, you get the infamous Seabourn breadsticks – long, thin and crispy-toasted blades of yeasty butter and grainy salt. They are yummy, but not enough to make up for the surprisingly humdrum bread basket of wheat or white sliced loaf and white baguette – every night for 12 nights in a row. There were no rolls at all, no rye, sesame, sunflower, sourdough or crusted cheese for the entire cruise.
I had to request olive oil instead of butter with my baguettes on several nights (so much for remembering personal preferences), and I always got a mere teaspoon of oil in a ramekin after far too long a wait. Call me a philistine, but I like those personal-sized oil and vinegar containers – but that is not in keeping with the minimalist Seabourn culinary style, according to Janice. On most cruise ships they appear instantly on request.
The soups are worth every sip, presented as a dry bowl of prepared ingredients then covered with liquid at the table. More than just an interesting service, this method maintains the distinct character of each ingredient.
Entrées are where Seabourn shines. I found the steaks – aged Midwestern U.S. choice – to be especially delectable. Seabourn has certain items available every night, including a grilled salmon and a New York cut. I ordered filet mignon a few nights, and the kitchen had no problem fulfilling my request. It was a small (four ounce) cut, prepared to perfect medium (red throughout but not bloody) every night, except once when it came well-done.
Seabourn must pan-fry its steaks as they come out solid black on the outside but exquisitely tender on the inside. I have seen the method in culinary demonstrations, and although steaks are usually grilled, this approach, even on much bigger filets, yields everything a steak lover needs.
There was little in the way of side dishes. Fish would come atop a layer of mashed potato or with a pair of small boiled potatoes on top. But this is not an American-style restaurant where steaks come with fries and creamed spinach. The meat sits alone until the waiter pours the jus alongside. Nothing fancy – just clean, simple, fresh ingredients.
Without a doubt, Seabourn’s desserts are the show stoppers. Various hot soufflés were often on the menu. The waiter cuts a hole in the top and fills the soufflé with hot bourbon and caramel sauce, for example. Delectable.
I ended up eating most dinners in Restaurant 1 for two reasons. While my wife was on board, she required a very special diet; and after she left (day six), I was alone and so I was invited to dine at various hosted tables night after night. In retrospect, I should have ventured into the Colonnade more often even if I was alone.
This is the spot you would refer to as “the buffet” on a lesser cruise ship. But on Sojourn it is a new adventure daily, with recipes from around the world. It could be Italian, British, Indian or just seafood or tempura.
All the special dishes are in roll-top heated servers, so you can grab a plate and open each one to see what appeals to you. A separate square serving area usually had the same selection of salad items, vegetables, cold cuts, cheese and crackers, a meat ready for carving, and trays of ubiquitous sandwiches I saw at every buffet around the ship – a club sandwich, tomato and mozzarella, and Carpaccio.
But the best items came from the menus sitting on the tables, with food delivered by waiters. The items varied night after night, but here are a few examples:
- Sweet and sour shrimp with peppers, garlic, pineapple and sticky rice.
- Szechuan Chicken, cashew nuts, stir-fry vegetables and chow mein noodles.
- Seated fresh sea bass filet, Lyonnais potatoes, vegetable fricassee, saucy Noilly Prat
- Chateaubriand roast beef tenderloin, glazed vegetables, Bordelaise shallots, sauce Béarnaise
The Colonnade was the best place for lunch, especially if you sat on the aft deck on a nice day. (That is the pinnacle cruising experience, in my view – enjoying a great outdoors meal with the sound and sight of the wide open ocean surrounding you.)
Continue Article >> Restaurant 2 – the Capper (Page 3)