Most passengers will be allocated a dinner table in the Thistle Restaurant for either the 6:15 p.m. or 8:30 p.m. seating. It's an elegant, circular room with panoramic windows and creamy gold decor, but those prefering a more intimate setting should ask for a table in the smaller Grampian Restaurant at the time of booking. This also has two seatings, which you should be able to choose when you book, but it is mainly for cruisers staying in the upper decks and is equally light but L-shaped with quirky artwork and some large porthole-style windows. Breakfast and lunch, however, are open-seating, so you can order your waiter-served meals at either restaurant or go to the self-serve Palms Cafe, which is also open for dinner from 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m.
As you might suspect, the food is aimed at the British palate, but, in line with American-style menus, there are five courses at dinner: starters like chicken liver parfait or avocado and shrimps; soups like Galician ham broth or cold cream of apple and chestnuts; salads that might include marinated fennel with beetroot or Indonesian 'gado-gado'; main courses like hazelnut breaded chicken or balsamic lamb shank; and desserts featuring honey and Whisky creme brulee or warm flourless chocolate cake. Every night there is also a British Dish of the Day. On our sailing, there was Irish stew with dumplings and a vegetarian main dish (such as broccoli and ricotta strudel). You can order off menu from a choice of grilled fish, chicken breast, omelettes and pasta. There are also plenty of vegetarian and healthy choices on the menu. We found the food at dinner was either excellent (soups and freshly-baked speciality bread) or a bit average (grilled fish).
The same food is served in all the restaurants for all the meals, although there is generally less choice in the Palms Cafe buffet. Although this restaurant is bright and pretty during the day, it's a bit dull in the evening, especially compared with the almost glowing Thistle Restaurant. The Palms Cafe is also the place to go for Supper Club, from 11 p.m. until midnight, and for 24-hour tea and coffee service. During our mini-cruise, waiter-served morning coffee and afternoon tea with a selection of cakes from the buffet were also available in the Palms Cafe, but that may not be the case on longer cruises. You can also book an afternoon tea in the Observation Lounge, where you will be served finger sandwiches, pastries and warm scones with jam and cream while you are entertained by the onboard pianist. (This costs £6.95 per person).
Fine teas and artisan coffees can also be enjoyed in the less formal surrounds of The Bookmark Café (previously Café Venus) located next to the Library on Lounge Deck 5. An impressive range of speciality coffees and teas by Taylors of Harrogate are served together with a selection of over 60 luxury and handmade chocolates. The cafe is open from 7:30 a.m. to midnight.
The Marquee Bar, with a la carte service, is open from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., and weather permitting passengers can order fish and chips, pizzas, burgers and baguettes on deck or around the pool. On longer cruises, the Palm Cafe also holds themed nights, such as barbecues.
Breakfast is served from 7:15 a.m. to 10:00 a.m., and you can choose from cereals, fresh fruit and cooked items to make up your favourite full English breakfast. Omelettes, kedgeree, kippers, French toast and American pancakes can be ordered and are waiter-served.
Lunch takes place from noon until 2 p.m. and is waiter-served in the restaurants or buffet-style in the Palm Cafe.
Alternatively, you can order complimentary room service. Breakfast is available if you book it the night before, although you are limited to continental-style choices, but same-day orders can be made from 10 a.m. until 11 p.m. Again, these will be light snacks, rather than cooked meals, such as Greek salad, Norwegian smoked and cured fish, ploughman's platters and sandwiches. You can also order cheesecake, creme caramel or fruit salad and a selection of afternoon tea pastries between 3:30 p.m. and 6 p.m. For-fee drinks and canapes, about £17, or party platters, from about £16 to 28, are also available from room service, while an Americano coffee from one of the bars costs £1.50.