travel and life with lee mylne

Feasting afloat on QM2

It might seem extravagant to note that 344 bottles of champagne are drunk aboard the luxury line Queen Mary 2 every day.  But when you consider that there are 1200 passengers on board, that’s only about a bit more than a quarter of the passengers indulging…or maybe half of them if there’s a bottle being shared.

Feeding and “watering” 1200 guests every day is no mean feat.  And once again – like everything about Cunard’s flagship – the statistics are impressive.  Almost 16,000 meals are consumed on board the ship every day, and that’s just the basics.

Everyone I know who’s gone on a cruise comes home complaining about the weight they’ve gained. On our two-night cruise from Sydney to Brisbane, we managed to check out quite a number of the food and wine experiences available on board. In fact, I reckon that if you wanted to  you could fill your days just moving from buffet to bar to cafe to restaurant…perhaps with the odd turn around the deck to work some of it off (and yes, there’s an on-board gym as well).

Here’s a few more figures: 700 scones are served at High Tea each afternoon;  6000 cups of tea are poured (enough to fill an Olympic-size swimming pool each year); 460 eggs and 1200 litres of milk used; and 8000 white linen napkins used and washed each day; 7000 punnets of strawberries are used each year; and nearly a quarter of a million corks are popped on wine and champagne bottles over a year (end on end, they’d stretch to the top of Mt Everest, according to my press kit).  Astonishing.

If your tastes run to the exotic, you can help in the devouring of 3.3kg of Russian caviar and 73kg of lobster each day.

Champagne and caviar in the Veuve Clicquot Champagne Bar.

Champagne and caviar in the Veuve Clicquot Champagne Bar.

So how do they do it?  On a tour of one of the Queen Mary 2’s galleys, executive chef Nicholas Oldroyd let us in on some of the secrets. I love behind-the-scenes tours, where  you get to see how everything works.

Chef Nicholas is English, but lives in Florida when he’s not sailing the world. He’s been with Cunard since 1999, as has his twin brother Mark, who is the executive chef on the liner Queen Victoria.

Executive Chef Nicholas Oldroyd waits to greet our tour group in the Britannia galley.

Executive Chef Nicholas Oldroyd waits to greet our tour group in the Britannia galley.

The galley behind the Britannia restaurant is vast, all gleaming stainless steel. We’ve arrived during preparations for lunch, and things are moving in a fast but very structured, efficient and controlled way.  Steam rises from huge vats of soup and sauces, chickens are being prepared in one area, appetisers being plated in another, and racks of bread and buns await.

Anyone for soup?

Anyone for soup?

Preparing chicken for today's lunch.

Preparing chicken for lunch.

These enormous vats hold sauces.

These enormous vats hold sauces.

The whole galley and dining operation on the ship is supported by a team of 85 dishwashers, pot-washers and cleaners, who work around the clock. There are galleys for each of the nine restaurants and cafes, plus the room service galley.

After the tour, it’s lunch-time but we content ourselves with a snack in the Boardwalk Cafe because we have bigger fish to fry…so to speak…being keen to try out the Russian caviar and champagne in the Veuve Clicquot Champagne Bar and still make it to High Tea at 3.30pm in the Queens Room.

There’s a queue when we arrive. It’s hugely popular and easy to see why.  A string quartet plays, white-gloved waiters hover with silver teapots (no coffee, sorry) and platters of cakes and sandwiches (no crusts) are soon swinging by.  All very civilised, and included in your fare.

Sweet treats at High Tea.

Sweet treats at High Tea.

Cucumber and salmon sandwiches at High Tea.

Cucumber and salmon sandwiches at High Tea.

After a few hours to digest the day’s new knowledge (and food), it’s time to head to what will be the culinary highlight of our cruise: dinner at Todd English, the poshest restaurant on board. Dining here attracts a surcharge; while meals on board are included in the fare, at Todd English you pay a small amount extra for the privilege – $5-$7 for appetisers, $16-$18 for main courses and $5-$7 for desserts. And it’s worth it! Todd English is an American celebrity chef, and what awaits us is a delight.  There are many delectable choices on the menu, but I can only tell you about mine. Not only did they have creative names, they were perfectly delicious.  This is what I had:

Todd's truffled potato love letters.

Todd’s truffled potato love letters.

Brick-oven roasted free range chicken, with sweet garlic glaze, mashed potato cake and beans.

Brick-oven roasted free range chicken, with sweet garlic glaze, mashed potato cake and beans.

Black-bottomed tart at Todd English.

Black-bottomed tart at Todd English.

Everything looked as good as this, and I can’t resist showing you one more dessert (just for the sweet tooths among you), which was on the plate of Brisbane food blogger Kerry Heaney. You might find more photos on her blog, Eat, Drink + Be Kerry, as well as on those of other fellow travellers, The Hungry Australian, Get In The Hot Spot, and Rainbow Bakery.

Chocolate Fallen Cake, with vanilla ice-cream and raspberry sauce.

Chocolate Fallen Cake, with vanilla ice-cream and raspberry sauce.

And after all this, you may have noticed that I haven’t talked about breakfast at all. No…because there was nothing to write home about at the Kings Court Buffet.  If I had my time over, I’d head to the Britannia restaurant for breakfast, which I’m pretty sure would be a better option.

How many turns on the deck or hours in the ship’s gym would I need to work off that little lot? I hate to think. Now I’m back on dry land again….pass the lettuce leaves and the calorie counter.

A Glass Half Full cruised as a guest of Cunard.

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5 Responses to “Feasting afloat on QM2”

  1. candidkay

    Hmmm . . . at the risk of sounding a bit Marie Antoinettish–let them drink champagne. As much as they want. Sounds heavenly!

    Reply
  2. eatdrinkandbekerry

    Once we got away from the buffets I enjoyed the food on Queen Mary 2. Shame we didn’t have a few more days to explore it all and there’s always the gym to work it off.

    Reply
  3. Georgia

    We went to the Brittania for breakfast the first morning, and found it rather enjoyable. Some people we shared a table with said it was better for portion control to eat at the restaurant rather than the buffet. We did try the buffet the second morning for a quick feed and I agree it was definitely nothing to write home about. Great post Lee.

    Reply

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