Seabourn Quest: The Food, Part II (and Thomas Keller)

One of the Thomas Keller desserts. This one has a false bottom. The ramekin just looks deep.

Every evening, before dinner, the crowd begins to gather at the Observation Bar for cocktails, while another crowd gathers in The Club. Whichever venue you choose, the drinks are flowing. Upstairs in the Observation Bar, Martin delighted passengers with an over-the-top drink making performance each night, while downstairs Juan Carlos was making sure nobody left thirsty. And they both did a mighty fine job of keeping the booze flowing and the passengers in good spirits.

Of course, it is hard to be unhappy on a cruise where everything you want/need/dream about is available at all times and brought with a smile. Champagne? No problem. Want something not on the menu?  They’ll make it happen with just a little notice. 

But back to the food. The food aboard the Seabourn Quest was, as I mentioned in the last post, overall excellent. I won’t bore you with the details of every single meal, but I do have a few highlights for you.

Lobster mac and cheese at the Patio Grill was just one part of a progressive dinner.

I had put together a group for this trip, so in addition to FKGuy and me, we had eight friends with us, and I wanted to do something special for them. At the beginning of the voyage, I set up a cocktail party followed by dinner. A cruise ship favorite of yesteryear, and a favorite of mine since I was a child, I requested Steak Diane for the table.

Let me tell you something: this was the easiest party I have ever thrown. The wonderful women of Guest Services printed out invitations and delivered them to each guest; the fantastic Bar Manager made sure we had welcome Champagne cocktails at The Club, along with appetizers, and the crew at The Restaurant supplied an excellent meal. It was a big win.

Crab and avocado cocktail from the Patio Grill.

The weather on our journey was mostly perfect, and to head off any further seasickness, I wanted to spend as much time dining outdoors as possible. But The Restaurant menu always looked so inviting, so it was often a big decision. One night, we were meeting friends for dinner but had yet to decide on a venue. I noticed that the Patio Grill was serving lobster mac and cheese, but the rest of the menu wasn’t that inviting. We gathered our friends and headed to the Patio Grill, for what would become the first stop for our progressive dinner. We enjoyed the pasta course and some wine and then headed to The Restaurant for the rest of our meal.

Homard au vin. “Nope, we can’t leave off the lardons. Sorry.”

The Patio Grill was splendid, and the pasta dishes, in particular, were exceptional. Grilled to order meats and seafood, and superb service, much like everywhere else on the ship, made each meal in the cool evening breeze a delight.

One night we enjoyed Restaurant 2 with some new friends, but as that has now been dismantled and is being converted into the Thomas Keller Grill, suffice it to say: it was good, but the menus were tired. I hadn’t been on a Seabourn ship in three years and was still bored of those menus from last time. It’s time for something new, and I am looking forward to trying the new restaurant on my next cruise.

Warm potato ravioli with truffles and chives.

One night we dined at the table of a guest entertainer, along with ten other passengers, enabling us to meet new people and talk to others that we may not have engaged with otherwise. That night The Restaurant featured some of the Thomas Keller dishes. (And here is where my whole opinion of the Keller menus goes downhill. So you know.)

The TK lamb creation was delicious.

Seabourn’s entire service philosophy is “Yes! We can do that! Whatever you’d like! We’re happy to make you happy, whatever it takes!”  The crew is very, very good at making each special request happen, with grace and ease. On the other hand, these Thomas Keller dishes have all been perfectly crafted, or some nonsense, and cannot and will not be adjusted for any reason. Allergies? Choose something else? Don’t like an ingredient that can easily be left off? Too bad. Want your meat cooked to a different temperature? Will not happen. The resounding answer we got was “no“.

I’m not asking anyone to change an entire dish for me, but when a gnocchi dish has one piece of bacon across the top, and I ask for it sans bacon, but the crew is not allowed to do that, it is a problem. Incidentally, I did taste the gnocchi dish, with sauce, and avoided the bacon. The sauce was great; the actual dish was awful. Strange texture, odd flavor, and nothing I would want to eat again.

Then there was the “homard au vin,” the lobster dish I had heard so much about. (Not all good, mind you.) I was curious to try for myself, but once again, “no, we can’t leave off the lardons” even though there were only two pieces off to the side. (Had I known that I may have ordered it and just avoided the undesired lardons. Oh well.)

Another night we tried the Yellowtail Crudo appetizer, which was divine. The chevre and olive clafoutis was only okay, and had I not already had a plate of lobster mac and cheese upstairs I probably would have ordered something else. Finally, nearing the end of the cruise we tried a lamb dish. It was good, but the layer of fat wrapped around the lamb was unappealing and inedible. The vegetables served alongside were excellent.

Overall, the Seabourn menus were excellent, and the service was consistently enjoyable. The Thomas Keller dishes leave a lot to be desired. While I did enjoy some of them, the attitude of “it’s perfect the way it is, and we will not change it for you” may work at The French Laundry or Per Se, but it doesn’t work in the vacationing world of a cruise ship where customers like me expect allergies and food preferences not to be an issue. I certainly hope that Seabourn understands that this is a problem and works to fix it. Only time will tell.

If you missed Part I, you can find it here.


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