Meals on Nenuphar, particularly lunch and dinner, were highlights every day. Passengers eat together at designated times. Most meals were served in the ship's dining salon, where three tables could be set as a group of four tops, or pushed together for one giant table. Breakfast consisted of sublime French pastries (pain au chocolat, almond croissants and baguettes), cold meat and cheeses, decadent (and fat-filled) yogurts, and cereals. One plus: The flexible chef was willing to take orders for hot dishes -- like bacon and eggs -- even though they weren't technically on the "menu."
At lunch, the chef created a cold buffet, always delicious. One afternoon, for instance, it consisted of pasta salad, a just-baked frittata, cold marinated chicken with grapes, and an endive salad. A selection of local cheeses (served with fresh baguettes) followed. French wines -- one white, one red -- were copiously poured.
Dinner time was just slightly more formal. Hors d'ouevres were served at the nightly and quite jovial cocktail hour. There was a set menu that started with an appetizer (such as grilled foie gras), followed by a main course (incredibly tender veal or, another evening, a lovely duck with cherry sauce), then a salad and cheese presentation. Finally, there was dessert, which ranged from a creme brulee to a phenomenal puff pastry with vanilla ice cream that was sprinkled with the wicked (and illegal in the U.S.) liquor of absinthe.
There is no room service onboard Nenuphar.
As divine as the cuisine was onboard, easily the most spectacular onshore highlight -- and every one of French Country Waterways' barges offers this option (though restaurants vary by region) -- is a visit to a Michelin-starred restaurant. In our case, we visited Auberge les Templiers, a luxurious country house hotel. The on-land meal is included in the cruise fare, as is a pre-dinner welcome cocktail and pre-selected red and white wine.