Happy new year everyone! I hope everyone had a relaxing and fun-filled break. A couple of weeks ago I went on a cruise to the Pacific Islands with my family on the P&O Pacific Jewel. It was our first time on a cruise and we quickly discovered that it’s not for everyone. For one thing, the ship actually rocks quite a lot when the seas are rough and both Charm and Mum felt a little ill at times.
We found that the key to overcoming seasickness apart from looking out to the horizon, getting fresh air and popping seasickness pills was to keep yourself busy and distracted at all times. This was easy enough given that the ship’s entertainment crew had pretty much organised activities for every second of the day. It was also nice to just explore the ship and while we were doing this we came across Salt Grill, Luke Mangan’s restaurant onboard the Pacific Jewel.
I highly doubt that Luke Mangan himself was cooking in the kitchen there but his presence was noted with all the branded plates, glasses and other merchandise for sale. His olive oil and balsamic vinegar were also served as an accompaniment to the bread that was given upon our arrival.
The bread was warm with soft fluffy innards which I loved. The zartar (which I think is referring to za’atar?) bread was lightly spiced and reminded me somewhat of raisin toast. There were even raisins in there! So it was a bit weird to have that with olive oil and balsamic but anyways.
We dined here twice while on the cruise – the first time for dinner just to try it out and the second time for lunch to celebrate when Charm’s HSC results were released. While all meals are included with the price of the cruise, dining at Salt Grill incurs an extra $40pp for dinner and $30pp for lunch. Some items on the menu (e.g. oysters and lobster) incurred additional charges on top of that.
All the ingredients used tasted very fresh given that we were in the middle of the ocean. The prawn salad was very refreshing with the cos lettuce cut into tiny tiny ribbons and bright yellow cubes of fresh mango dotting the plate.
I couldn’t go past the sea scallops which were sweet and plump. I was worried that the strong flavours of the blue cheese and truffle oil would overpower the delicate flavour of the scallops but to my surprise they complemented each other quite well.
The rare tuna dish was seared on the outside while remaining perfectly pink and rare on the inside. It was served on a bed of cold soba noodles with a tangy wasabi dressing.
On our second visit, I tried the crab omelette which was a much bigger serving than I anticipated. Inside the soft, just-cooked omelette were chunks of crab meat. A mustard miso broth was poured on top of the omelette when it was served and provided a salty counterpoint to the sweet crab meat.
A whole quail was served for this entree and it was very juicy and succulent. Underneath the quail were ribbons of zucchini punctuated with sweet bursts of flavour from the currants.
Mains were a simple affair with a choice of meat or fish. On the meat side there were several steaks, chicken and lamb to choose from. A sauce of your choice could also be selected to go with your meat. My scotch fillet was cooked rare as requested and tender on the most part. I also tried some of the lamb cutlets with a homemade barbecue sauce which were like juicy nuggets of meat on a stick.
The fish dishes also went down well. My grilled barramundi sadly didn’t have a crisp skin but the flesh remained moist and flaky and was helped along by a brown butter sauce.
As well as the three courses we were allowed to order sides and we went a little crazy with the ordering, ending up with way more food than our stomachs could handle.
The green beans and shallots were a surprise favourite and a fresh alternative to all the meat. Carrots with dukkah were dusted with the spice mix but the carrots themselves were quite dry.
I have a soft spot for mashed potato (ok let’s be honest, who doesn’t?) and so the truffled mashed potato was ordered on both our visits. It’s a rich and buttery mash but all the food meant that I could only fit in some of it. The zucchini, bacon, parmesan and basil was also and interesting dish with zucchini and bacon slices having parmesan cheese melted on it, and deep fried basil leaves scattered throughout.
Onto desserts! I still find it quite amazing that despite how full you are after the main meal, you seem to have a renewed energy and enthusiasm when desserts arrive on the table. Luke Mangan’s signature dessert, the liquorice parfait with lime syrup and tuile was actually quite pleasant despite my dislike of anything aniseed-y. The subtle liquorice flavour of the parfait was nicely balanced by the tangy lime syrup and Dad loved it so much he ordered it again the second time we visited Salt Grill.
Another signature dessert was the floating island – a cylinder of poached meringue on a bed of fresh fruit with a Frangelico anglaise poured on top. I was sad that it didn’t actually float because there wasn’t enough liquid but it tasted great all the same and wasn’t overly sweet. The fruit balanced out the sweetness of the meringue and the creme anglaise was creamy but light with only a slight nutty flavour from the Frangelico.
I had serious food envy when this was brought out. Chocolate fondant, chocolate ganache and chocolate ice cream dipped in oreo crumbs! And a marshmallow on a little metal fork! This was seriously rich and both times we struggled to finish it. Sadly it looked better than it tasted and I swear the chocolate ice cream tasted like lavender.
Surprisingly, my favourite dessert turns out to be the cheesecake with textures of passionfruit. The cheesecake was nice and light with a layer of passionfruit jelly on top. Dotted around the plate were drops of passionfruit and sour passionfruit jubes. A scoop of passionfruit sorbet and a line of pop rocks finished off the dish which turned out to be refreshing rather than sweet and heavy.
The petit fours included turkish delight, a marshmallow, a mini lemon meringue tart and a square of chocolate almond fudge. This was definitely the best food I’d had on the whole cruise (and that’s not to say the other food was bad – the buffet was pretty ok!) and it made our cruise just a little bit more special. Oh, and apologies about some of the dodgy photos – it’s hard to take photos when the ship is rocking like crazy!
Salt Grill on P&O Cruises
On the Pacific Pearl, Pacific Dawn and Pacific Jewel