Cruises and excellent dining belong together for us like the sun and the sea. And since it is a huge passion of us to try out the various dining options that each and every line and ship have on offer, this time, we paid visit to Cunard Line´s “The Verandah” aboard the beautiful and elegant Queen Victoria. And boy were we reassured…
As we did not have the time to sample the elaborate menu aboard our last mini cruise on QM2 last November, it was our main priority to test Cunard´s showpiece speciality dining venue which can now be found on all of the three Queens.
Inspired by the original Verandah restaurants onboard the line´s historic RMS Queen Mary and RMS Queen Elizabeth, Verandah concentrates on a modern French cuisine with a special twist. It was back then the meet and greet spot for celebrities and first class passengers and delivered high-end culinary journeys prepared by the finest chefs at sea.
Today, it is accessible for every guest onboard at a cover charge of 39 US-Dollars pp. Reservations apply and are also extremely recommendable as this place fills up quick and seating is limited.
As the general standard of meals in the Britannia Restaurant was already of a very delightful standard during this short cruise, our expectations concerning speciality dining is always to be surpassing that standard offered in the main dining room. And Verandah certainly did!
The main thing that one needs to know is that, unlike most American or European operators, the surcharge of 39 US-Dollars pp does include ONE starter, ONE entrée and ONE dessert only. If you wish to sample an additional course, each one will be added at an additional cost of 7,50 US-Dollar pp per course.
Referring to the quality and the presentation of each course, this appeared to us as a comprehensible detail, yet we would rather be willing to pay a higher surcharge straight from the beginning than pay extra. But I guess this is a matter of opinion. I am sure it does help Cunard to minimize the amount of food being thrown away afterwards.
The menu itself is simply delighting. There is something available for every taste and each dish can also be adapted to personal dietary or health preferences. Service is extremely attentive and personal and particularly the sommelier service was refreshing in terms of humor and expertise.
As we both enjoy crisp and refreshing wines with the meal, we had been well advised to a French rosé wine for 40 US-Dollars the bottle, which proved to be a wonderful culinary companion at a great price-performance.
This is also a major advantage on Cunard Queens: The wine menu is tremendous and holds everything for every budget. From 28 US-Dollars up to 1,800 US-Dollars per bottle.
A neat detail were also the different kinds of bread offered. The Focaccia was soft and airy, the bread sticks sheathed with zucchini crisp and crunchy and the white soft bread was handcrafted in the style of an open book. Beautiful detail. Along came different styles of butter and oils.
The amuse bouche, or greet from the kitchen, was a warm Grana Padano Creme Brulée which was a wonderful and light begin to our menu. Even though it was still quite warm, the taste of the cheese was omnipresent, yet not suffocating.
Being a big fan of game, I decided for the Oak Smoked Venison Tartare as my starter. It came underneath a glass cloche which was lifted right at the table, revealing the chunky and mouth-watering meat covered in white smoke. Not only an eye-catcher in terms of presentation, the dish satisfied by the freshness of the venison and an elegant but not suppressing taste of game. A wonderful meal and perfect for every fan of meat.
As I thought that I was not in the mood for dessert at all, we had been checking with the Verandah staff if we could order a second starter instead of the dessert or cheese (which I had spotted at the table next to us and which I found to miss a bit of variation and offering). Without having to pay the extra 7,50 US-Dollars. And of course, this was no issue at all. So I was eager to try the Tartlet Maintenon which had literally jumped at me from the menu. Poached Quail eggs, wild mushrooms and black truffle hollandaise sounded simply too good. I was positively surprised by its modern presentation as I had expected a classic and “boring” baked mini tart. And the taste? I think the picture speaks for itself… .
Normally always the right person for lots of fresh fish and seafood, this time I was in the mood for going all the way through the game section. The Duck Specialities sounded just too tempting! Consisting of glazed Gressingham duck breast, a crisp Cannelloni filled with duck leg, a fried ball made of duck rillette and Orange purrée and a bit of red cabbage on the side, this was the perfect selection. The breast was juicy and tender and cooked to perfection with a pink center and a thin and crisp skin. In combination with the spiced Jus, the dish was more than satisfactory in terms of taste, presentation and skills. Simply wonderful!
Having been already completely full at this time, the waiter served us a so-called pre dessert which was named Deconstructed Key Lime Pie, a sweet and tiny nothing presented in the style of an ice cream. The richness and tenderness of the creme and the activating freshness of the lime made us change our minds instantly and our curiosity about what a “regular” dessert would be like was sparked.
They all sounded delicious, but a choice needed to be made… .
Spontaneously, I opted for the first item on the elaborate menu. The Fine Lemon Île Flottante Brulée combined just everything that my palate was longing for at the moment. The freshness of the lemon, a nice amount of fine creme and a bit of crunch, the perfect ending to a perfect dinner. In the background, you can get an idea of the Wild Strawberry Crémeux which was an amazing ensemble of fluffy creme, molecular cuisine and fine art presentation. Both absolutely excellent!
A fine selection of home-made pralinés and chocolates and a perfectly brewed espresso rounded our culinary journey up. You can only imagine that we needed to take a few rounds on the boat deck in order to be able to find some sleep later on. But interestingly, after all these dishes, we did not feel this sort of bloating that we felt after visiting other restaurants. Always a sign for good quality!
Would we do it again? Absolutely! Even though we would prefer a higher surcharge rather than extra posts on the bill, one of the best speciality restaurants we have been to on our various cruises and definitely worth experiencing. Two thumbs up!