In case you hadn’t noticed, I like my food. When I go abroad I plan my days around which restaurants I want to eat at and when I was dating I got more excited about eating in lovely London restaurants than meeting new people. Waitrose is my happy place and I like nothing more than an early night with a pile of recipe magazines.
I tell you, my life is wild.
So when we boarded Ventura for our cruise I was pretty excited about the prospect of our all-inclusive dining package. And there are plenty of different options to choose from, whether you’re a foodie, if you like the more traditional sit-down dining or even if you’re a fan of room service (I AM). I was mostly looking forward to the fine dining options; The Glasshouse with wine curated by Saturday Kitchen’s Olly Smith, Marco Pierre White’s White Room and Atul Kocher’s East.
The first thing we did when we arrived onto Ventura at lunchtime was to visit the buffet. Pretty much open 24 hours a day (as I discovered a couple of times at 4am when Hux wouldn’t settle and was desperate for a banana and a bottle of milk) the buffet offered salads as well as hot food choices for lunch that changed every day. We only usually ate at the buffet for an early breakfast, where you could choose between a continental or full English feast. Post-8am and at lunchtime the area tended to get very busy and it could be difficult to get seated with the kids.
At lunchtime we tended to head for Cinnamon (above), where our all-inclusive package meant we could munch on a three-course meal, even if we’d gorged on bacon and eggs just a couple of hours previously. Or if that was too much you could order a salad or a lighter ‘sandwich of the day’ which would mean you’d save enough room for the complimentary afternoon tea.
There is a reason the on-board magazine told us that on a 7 day cruise the average person will put on 7 to 14lbs. And that is because FOOD.
On the last day Hux and I had a bit of a date at Cinnamon on our own: the three course option was a homemade scotch egg with mushroom confit, slow roast pork belly with crackling and a potato cake followed by a mini victoria sandwich. Hux dined off the children’s menu and had gammon, cucumber and chips. Most of it ended up in his hair, as you can see, but it was delicious all the same.
The kids options throughout the boat were very good and the little ones could either dine off the main menu with the adults or choose from the children’s menus. Elfie’s favourite part of the cruise was the character tea when she got to dine with Noddy; she has not stopped talking about it since.
Onto the part I was looking forward to the most: the fine dining. My cruise companion Steph is, much like me, a bit of a foodie so we often found ourselves next to each other having foodgasms over the amazing dishes. And, lets be honest, the wine (Ventura had an excellent wine list but we mostly stuck to the very moreish Marlborough Sauv Blanc).
The first night Steph and I dined at The Glasshouse, which I’d call decent brasserie-type food. It offers small tapas-style dishes as well as burgers and steaks. Above you can see our sharing plate which included ham hock terrine and piccalilli, fishcakes with hollandaise, quails egg scotch eggs and tempura king prawns. Really delicious.
We also ate here en masse with our children on the last night and I had the best surf n’turf of my life which came with prawns the size of my fist. That was one of the great things about Ventura: you could leave your children in the excellent kid’s facilities or they’d be quite welcome to dine with you in the evening. Elfie loved the special treat of dressing up and visiting the restaurants and Hux, well one of Hux’s hobbies is flirting with waitresses so he was in his element.
East was my least favourite of the three fine-dining restaurants though to be fair I don’t react well to spice and chilli (I’m such a special snowflake, you see). My main course of lobster and king prawn was too heavily flavoured for me and I felt the spices overrode the delicate shellfish. The pudding of flambe’d banana was bloody lovely though, as was the rose martini I supped on.
My absolute favourite restaurant on the whole ship was The White Room. With a menu by Marco Pierre White, the meal we had here was so lovely I could eat it over and over. I think the steak with garlic butter snails and bearnaise sauce was one of the best I’ve ever eaten (my mum: “Snails? I thought they were mushrooms…”), the tempura starter was awesome as was the amuse bouche of broccoli soup and tiramisu pudding. Petit fours came with coffee in a sugar basket (that got eaten, natch) and Steph and I polished off the epic feast with dirty martinis in the top deck cocktail bar, Metropolis. Perfect evening!
For lighter meals on Ventura there was also a burger bar and a pizza place for quick, easy and delicious lunches. Room service was brilliant: you could have a continental breakfast brought to your room free of charge each morning or select off the menu. The children often enjoyed a room service pizza and salad on our balcony as mum and I had a glass of wine watching the sunset… there are not many things more lovely than gazing out to sea when you finish off your kids freshly-made pizza.
Though we were dining all-inclusive we had to pay a slight supplement for the fine dining options on Ventura but these range from £3 per tapas dish at Glasshouse (around £8 for a steak) to £25 for the gorgeous meal at The White House. Well worth it, in my opinion. Alcohol was not included in the all-inclusive package but think Wetherspoons rather than London prices. Very good value but excellent quality (around £9 for a bottle of wine and £5 for a cocktail).