So last week I was lucky enough to be invited to the gala celebrations on board P & O Cruises’ gorgeous new flagship, the £500 million super-liner, Britannia. The ship is breathtaking. From the Union Flag on her bow, to the stunning three floor atrium featuring the most incredible chandelier you’ve ever seen, she’s a modern miracle.
First stop for me, though, was the Glass House restaurant, to find out more about the important stuff – the food and drink!
Christopher Edgington, the Marketing Director of P & O Cruises explained how P & O wanted to bring together the very best of British food talent on board. That line up, Britannia’s ‘Food Heroes’ includes:
Wine expert Olly Smith, who is bringing his wine and drink expertise to the Glass House restaurant and bar on board.
The ‘Godfather of British cooking’, Marco Pierre White – whose food will be available in the main dining rooms on gala evenings,
James Martin who has been involved in every element of the creation of the cookery school onboard (he says he literally chose ‘spoons, knives, forks, blenders… it’s a very personal thing’). I’m excited that James will also be searching his own little black book and arranging for some surprise visitors to visit the cookery school about once a month.
Atul Kocchar, the ‘Michelin starred master of spices’ who has created the gorgeous Sindhu restaurant, serving a fusion of British and Indian cuisine, and promises ‘nothing short of a Michelin starred experience’.
And finally, Master Pâtissier and TV presenter Eric Lanlard, who has written five cookbooks and is the owner of Cake Boy, a busy cookery school, café and patissierie lounge in London. I caught up with Eric in the Glass House to talk about being a P&O Food Hero, and creating the Market Café, just off the atrium, where guests can choose from coffee and cakes to small plates of tapas, charcuterie and even gourmet ice cream in traditional dessert flavours and of course beautiful pâtisserie.
What kind of feel did Eric want for the Market Café?
‘The atrium is ‘the’ place where people will want to hang around. With the design of this ship, the reception isn’t in the atrium, so you don’t get this big kerfuffle of people with suitcases, people queuing etc. Because that’s been taken away, it’s going to be more of a hub. We wanted something to match the setting – still quite relaxed, but reflective of the setting. If people don’t want to eat in the buffet, or just want to have a light meal, say, before a show… they can come and dine here and have tapas, or charcuterie, for example, or have breakfast…’ (Eric recommends the ‘posh scrambled eggs, served with amazing sausages’) ‘…or just spoil themselves with a cake and coffee.’
Eric has also created a sensational afternoon tea experience at the fine dining Epicurean Restaurant on board the ship. Seeing as the Epicurean will feature ‘modern molecular gastronomy’, I wanted to know how Eric had given the classic afternoon tea his own special twist.
‘The tea still has the three elements: savoury, sweet and scones (you have to have scones!), but it’s been completely reworked. There are no finger sandwiches, in fact, no sandwiches at all. Instead, there are savoury macarons with flavours like lemon and black pepper with smoked salmon, and chocolate and raspberry vinegar with smoked duck. We’ve got roast beef, spinach focaccia with salmon tartar, and for sweet treats, things like little jars with deconstructed lemon tarts. It’s all interactive – so there are injections of coulis, little blackcurrant ‘toothpaste’ tubes that you can squeeze.’
Eric plans to be on board around four or five times a year, and has been working with his team to make sure the standard is kept really high. I wondered if it was difficult to keep up his usual standard of care and attention to detail. ‘The sheer volume is challenging, but it’s okay, they say ‘’if Eric wants it, we’ll get it” – that’s why I’m here!’
In the picture above, you can see the gorgeous ‘Star Burst’ illuminated sculpture in the atrium. I was lucky enough to sit next to its incredibly proud creator, Jona Hoad, at the naming ceremony, and he was telling me all about it. It really is an awe-inspiring piece of art, made up of 280 illuminated shards and 320 triangular facets, all hand finished and with different textures. It’s constantly changing, with colours reflecting the time of day – everything from midnight blue to shimmering gold and white. It’s completely mesmerising.
So what else does Britannia offer as well as fabulous food and drink served across 13 restaurants and 13 bars? Well, there’s a TV studio/cinema, James Martin’s cookery school, a million pound art collection, Headliners Theatre, the live entertainment venue, plus:
A gorgeous supper club called ‘The Limelight Club’:
Four swimming pools:
A gloriously sumptuous spa:
And there’s even The Retreat, an exclusive outdoor spa terrace area:
The next morning, we got to dress up (I wore the beautiful Alexa dress from Allium B) and watch the Queen take part in the naming ceremony, pushing the button to smash a bottle of Wiston British sparkling wine on the hull.
What a wonderful occasion. I can’t wait to get on board again!