The quality of food on Ventura is of a very high standard for such a large ship. The menus in the three main dining rooms (MDR) change daily, and there is a special Gala Menu on formal nights, put together by Marco Pierre White.
Two of the main dining rooms (Cinnamon, Saffron) offer 'Freedom Dining', which means you can turn up anytime between 6 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. and sit where and with whom you like. The third MDR (Bay Tree) offers set-time dining which P&O Cruises calls Club Dining.
Cinnamon (Deck 5, midships): P&O Cruises has really upped its game when it comes to the food in the MDRs, with both adventurous and varied dishes, and superb service. In fact, if you chose just to eat here or Saffron or Bay Tree, rather than in a specialty restaurant, you would not be missing out as both include guest cuisine such as Indian and Far Eastern dishes, as well as six course Gala Dinners on formal nights with menus prepared by Marco Pierre White. A typical menu might consist of chicken liver parfait or wild mushroom risotto to start. Mains will include a fish or shellfish dish, a vegetarian option and one or two meat dishes such as roast leg of pork and braised beef. Or you can stick to the Classics -- prawn cocktail, Caesar salad or tomato soup to start, then fillet of salmon, sirloin steak and breast of chicken, which is available every night. There's also a good selection of very British puddings (desserts) such as sticky toffee pudding, Bakewell tart or baked treacle tart. On Formal evenings, starters might include something special such as a game terrine or oak smoked Scottish salmon; mains might include roast duck or prime fore rib of beef (there are no Classic Favourites offered on Gala evenings). 'Marco's Menu' might feature a dish you would usually find in The White Room, such as lobster. There is usually a Champagne Sorbet between courses, too. Open 6 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.
Saffron (Deck 6, midships): Saffron offers the same menu as Cinnamon, but is open throughout the day. Open daily for breakfast (7:30 a.m. - 9 a.m.), lunch (12:15 p.m. - 1:45 p.m.), afternoon tea (4:00 p.m. - 4:45 p.m.) and dinner (6 p.m. - 9:30 p.m.).
Bay Tree (Deck 6, aft): . Bay Tree offers the same menu as Cinnamon and Saffron, but has fixed-time seating in the evenings. Breakfast is served on port days (from 7:30 a.m. - 9 a.m.) and there are two fixed seating times in the evening (6:30 p.m. and 8:30 p.m.).
The ship's self-service buffet is split into two sections -- Waterside (open 7 a.m. – 6 a.m.), and the Beach House (6:30 a.m. to 10 a.m.; and 6:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.). Both offer the same food, but the latter is a calmer area adjoining the main buffet area. A children's tea is served in the Waterside (starboard side from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m.) every day; afternoon tea is served from 3:00 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the port side.
Most nights there will be a themed food night such as Indian or Thai, which are very popular, as evidenced by the queues. There is always a roast as well.
Frankie's Grill (Deck 10): On the Pool Deck during the day Frankie's Pizzeria serves delicious stone-baked made-to-order pizzas; you can also buy ice creams from £1.95. On the first night of the cruise the Pool Deck is turned into an open-air buffet with live music.
There are three specialty restaurants, two formal ones -- Epicurean, which serves molecular gastronomy cuisine and Sindhu (formerly East), by Michelin-starred chef Atul Kochhar. There is also one informal restaurant, which has proved popular on sister ship Azura and replaces Las Ramblas on Ventura -- The Glass House by UK wine expert Olly Smith -- which is a for-fee tapas-style restaurant.
Las Ramblas (Deck 4, aft); a la carte: In 2013 Las Ramblas was rebranded The Glass House. However, anyone familiar with how Las Ramblas used to look will wonder what the changes are. The faux roof tiles and Spanish decor are still very much in evidence; the only real difference is a wider selection of wines and an enhanced menu. The Glass House has a relaxed vibe -- it invites you to drop in and grab a table, or just hang at the bar -- it's also more of a walk-through space than an actual restaurant. Three small plates are £5.25, and might include chorizo, warm quail Scotch egg, garlic mushrooms or salt and pepper tempura prawns. Large plates are good value -- you can get a sirloin steak for £5.50. The food is OK, nothing special, but where Smith's involvement is evident is the extraordinary selection of wine from all over the world, and it's pretty reasonable, too. A bottle of excellent New Zealand sauvignon will set you back £12.50 (it would be at least double that on dry land).
The Glass House offers Food & Wine Pairing Dinners twice a week for £30 per person, which includes a four-course meal, with wines with each course, plus a wine guide to talk you through the choices. There are also wine talks on certain days of the cruise, hosted by the head sommelier (not Olly Smith), for a maximum of 30 people: for £10 per person you can enjoy a talk, two glasses of wine and several different dishes.
Sindhu (Deck 4, midships); £15 to £25 depending on the length of the cruise: Sindhu takes up a large amount of space on Deck 4, the main Promenade Deck, and is set in a gorgeous room -- red carpet, white upholstered chairs and dark wood tables give it a very authentic Indian feel -- as does the menu, which offers a variety of outstanding Indian dishes, for which Kochhar has won a number of Michelin stars. Dinner menus are changed twice a cruise and are drawn from dishes in Kochhar's Benares Restaurant in London. For starters expect shammi kebab (spiced lamb cakes), jai tarang (pan-fried hand-dived scallops) and gosht ke dhuandhar soole (marinated smoked beef skewers). For mains, Atul's signature plate of lamb rogan josh, chicken murgh and cod jai pari is sublime. There is also a small bar area which offers tapas-style Indian dishes from £4.95 on selected days at lunchtime. Open 12 p.m. to 2 p.m. for lunch on selected days and 6 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. for dinner.
Epicurean (Deck 17, aft); £25-£30: Epicurean's position right at the back of the ship high up on Deck 17 gives it a wonderful setting. Inside it's dark, with plush carpets and furnishings inside; and a lovely verandah area outside where you can sit and watch the wake. If you like imaginative, creative cuisine -- the so called molecular gastronomy type -- which has style as well as content, then this is the restaurant for you. The menu presents as traditional -- with provenance playing a big part -- but the dishes are re-interpreted for today's modern palates. So expect starters such as jamon pata negra and duck liver parfait or a duo of cured smoked salmons, but presented in an interesting and unexpected way (the duck liver parfait, for example, is served at the table with a glass lid full of smoke). There are lots of other fun touches: Bloody Mary lollipops to start, a dash of Worcestershire sauce in the centre; salt and pepper oyster and jumbo prawn tempura that comes with an artist's 'paint tube' of sweet pimento sauce; a sorbet designed as a tube of lipstick or a 'poached egg' with a 'yolk' of mango and a 'white' of coconut milk. Mains might include beef sirloin, wild boar, salt marsh lamb rack or double Gloucester old spot pork fillet, again all presented in an unexpected and unusual way. Desserts are also classics such as Black Forest Cake, but with popping candy torte, or flaming caramelised apple crumble -- scorched at your table. All in all an outstanding experience -- and a steal compared to what you might pay for this type of cuisine in a central London restaurant. Open 6 p.m. to 10:30 p.m.
There is also 24-hour room service, mainly free but certain items are charged (burgers are £3.95).