Looking at their website, I was impressed with the range of dishes on offer, with a good offering of vegetarian options, gluten free, halal, etc. I eat low carb and it seemed from the website that this wasn't going to be a problem at all.
I then read lots of online reviews, and my delight turned to trepidation. A free meal, is nonetheless a free meal, and so I thought we had better find out for ourselves what the experience was like.
We received a very warm welcome from two smiling staff members and the rest of the staff encountered were also friendly. No issues there at all.
It's a large restaurant spread over two floors, and the tables are quite close together. We were at the back on the ground floor, where the ceiling is sort of low and mirrored, so it reminded me of being in some kind of canteen. It's bustling, so you don't have to worry about whether the people on the next table can hear your conversation, which suits my other half as he is generally mute in restaurants - he was positively talkative! It seemed clean, (there was someone going around in laps sweeping the floor constantly!) and our empty plates were quickly removed.
We had a really excellent bottle of Californian red, 'Jack Rabbit', which was priced at around £16. This would turn out to be the best part of the whole experience.
This was a huge disappointment, for many reasons. Firstly, I was really looking forward to sampling the following dishes from their website menu:
- Roasted tomato and bocconcini salad with pesto
- Sweet and sour beetroot with goat’s cheese
- Pineapple and Avocado salad
- Caribbean mango and spinach salad
- Truffled parsnips and parmesan bruschetta
- Tomato and stilton tart
- Raw mango avocado and orange with citrus dressing
- Bruschetta of roasted artichoke
- Tropical fruit salad with coconut cream
- Eggplant, tomato and sumac salad
- Sweet potato
None of them were available. Not one. There was something labelled as a 'Greek salad' that actually wasn't a Greek salad, as well as a sprouting bean salad (this was actually ok), and some bowls of limp looking lettuce. I had really been looking forward to trying different salads, so feeling let down we consoled ourselves with some houmous, olives, cherry tomatoes and cheese. The selection of cheese was also poor - two different mild cheddars, one white, one orange. That was it.
For my main course I actually made a complete circuit of the food zone without putting anything on my plate. That's how appetising everything looked. The seafood looked like it had been there all day, so I wasn't going to touch that with a barge pole. Then there were pizzas, which were ok, nothing special. The 'British' food section just made me want to keep walking. I lifted up the lid of the vat that said 'vegetables' only to find what looked like one of those frozen value packs you get in Iceland with cauli, carrot and peas. The colours were muted, as though they'd been overcooked.
The 'Indian' section was quite big, but the Tikka Masala I tried was ready-meal standard. The 'Chinese' section was my last hope for fresh vegetables, but again on lifting the lid on one of the cauldrons, it was a mush of soggy grey veg. At the Tex Mex station I tried some peri-peri chicken wings, which were so hot I couldn't taste anything after them, which in retrospect was probably for the best.
Absolutely desperate now for something fresh and vibrant, I looked at the dessert station, hoping for a mound of fresh fruit to save this whole experience. Alas, a bowl of cubed melon. That was it. The other desserts were pretty foul. I tried the worst creme brulee I've ever had in my life.
Value for Money
They are charging £14.99 for dinner, and £9.99 for lunch. There are far better places close by where you can fill your boots of much higher quality food for the same price or less. I really do think this was a case of quantity not quality.
It certainly seemed popular, with large parties arriving every few minutes on the Friday evening we were there. I have to say that this is just not my kind of food, I like real, fresh food where you can taste the veggies. If you like curries that are just meat and sauce, then you may view the place much more favourably than me. From my perspective, it was how I imagined being trapped on board a budget cruise ship might be.