Waterfront Restaurant (Deck 7): This is the Pacific Dawn's main dining room for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Waterfront was refreshed in 2014 with a blue palette, stylish table settings and a Chef's Table venue. Its policy for couples is one of sharing tables and many people look forward to the interaction with fellow passengers, especially during dinner. For a romantic dinner for two, they have set aside a number of tables that cater to this option, however mixed tables are usually circular and can take up to 10 passengers at a time. The Waterfront can seat 800 people, so at times it can also be a waiting game to be served, even though the staff are very pleasant, they can sometimes be less attentive to passengers than in a much smaller restaurant. Note: Gluten-free dishes can be pre-ordered off the menu. If you require a special diet while onboard, do contact the restaurant manager in the Waterfront Restaurant prior to your meal times.
The Waterfront is open for breakfast on sea days from 7.30 am to 9.30 am; on port days from 7 am to 9 am; and on turnaround days 5.30 am to 7.30 am. For a 'sweet' alternative there are nine options -- from toasted pear and raspberry sourdough bread to vanilla bean porridge. The breakfast menu also lists a dozen savoury delights from the more standard big breakfast (which I had with all the trimmings) to maple scrambled eggs with crispy bacon and toast, or grilled black pudding with two fried eggs over-easy, onion, potatoes, bacon rashers and sticky apple jam, or ham hock and homemade beef casserole with poached eggs and crusty bread.
When it's lunch service on a sea day, the Waterfront is open from noon to 2 pm. When in selected ports it is open between noon and 1.30 pm, while on a turnaround day it is open from 11.30 am to 1 pm
This is a good restaurant for lunch as many people will be eating from the Grill menu or taking out plates of food from the buffet to dine poolside. There are 10 entrees with dishes such as a Lebanese fattoush salad and a clam, salmon and potato chowder. Alternatively, try one of three pasta dishes on the menu including gorgonzola and chicken penne, tagliatelle marinara and zucchini and sun-dried tomato cannelloni. Mains can be as simple as a baguette steak sandwich, a roasted half chicken, minced pork, leek and stout pie or salt and pepper calamari rings. Dessert will definitely add inches to your waistline as there are 11 choices, the richest of which was an Australian fudge pudding. It was hard to pass up the hot rhubarb and cherry crumble with vanilla cream.
The dinner menu, which is on offer between 5.30pm and 9pm, offers ever-changing multi-course specials with an a la carte selection accompanied by an extensive wine list. Each night the starters and mains change but there are six 'All-time Favourites' that remain constant. On one of the nights I dined (most nights in fact) in the Waterfront they presented nine starters with choices such as duck and pink peppercorn rillettes, baked vineyard snails or lemon myrtle-flavoured pumpkin soup with damper. Mains included grilled swordfish steak, sauteed veal scaloppini in Marsala sauce, Mediterranean vegetable moussaka, steamed vegetable dim sum and crispy bacon linguini with white clam sauce. The favourites range from ocean trout to BBQ pork belly, the P&O beef burger, a grilled 250g rump steak, chicken wings and chips to share or stone-baked thin-crust flatbread pizza. Six desserts finish off the dinner menu, which changes daily. Do try the apple and amaretti strudel if you get the chance or the white chocolate semifreddo with stewed cherries and gingerbread crumbs.
Plantation Restaurant (Deck 12): The Plantation Restaurant is the casual dining option located on Deck 12 aft, serving buffet-style breakfast, lunch and dinner. The venue was updated in the 2012 refurbishment with a new colour scheme and furniture, but it has limited outdoor seating, which is a drawback in pleasant weather.
Breakfast is hearty and well done with a wide range of hot and cold selections on offer, and for lunch there is usually a choice of two high-quality deli-style sandwiches, as well as a variety of hot dishes such as pasta, chicken, fish, vegetables and daily roasts. Dinner offerings include selections similar to whatever is on offer in the Waterfront Restaurant, with a better of choice of salad and more desserts.
Having discussed the standard restaurant meals with many passengers it was fairly unanimous that the standard of service was very good, while the quality of the food served in some of the restaurants was often acceptable, sometimes exceptional.
Luna Restaurant (Deck 12, $29): Staff close off one corner of the Plantation Restaurant to create a 55-seat, set price, pay as you dine restaurant within a restaurant, which is open for dinner only. For the first five days of the trip they offered a fixed Thai menu where the emphasis was on lightly prepared Thai dishes that borrowed heavily from Southeast Asian traditions. The set menu included five entrees, plus five mains to choose from and two desserts. On the last five days of the trip, the staff changed the dining experience and started serving Japanese cuisine. Each dish at the Japanese pop-up was devoted to the flavours, freshness, presentation and balance that makes Japanese cuisine loved the world over: six starters, four mains to choose from and two desserts. Both menus were priced at $29 per person. Luna is open from 5.30 pm to 9 pm.
Salt Grill by Luke Mangan (Deck 12, $49): This restaurant by famed Australian chef Luke Mangan is a 75-seater fine dining experience. It is only open for dinner from 5:30 pm to 9 pm, but swings the doors open for lunch on the last two days at sea. The dinner menu allows diners to choose one starter such as tapas, oysters and raw dishes or 10 salad variations and sides. One main dish can be selected from four types such as 200g tenderloin steaks, 300g scotch fillets, Australian lamb chops, BBQ baby chicken or pork cutlets with the option of a big range of side dishes. There are also four fish dishes -- choose from barramundi, ocean trout, snapper and tuna -- with a surcharge of $22 for a roasted lobster tail. There are also eight sweet treats. The price for a dessert degustation is $39 per person and it is open between 11.30 am and 12.30 pm. Bottles of wine start on average in the region of $40. Most passengers agree the food and ambience at Salt Grill are outstanding.
The Grill (Deck 12): The Lido Deck takeaway kiosk offers a range of casual meals such as a bacon and egg roll, chorizo and egg roll, beef burger, pulled pork burger, pie with mash and peas, hot dog (all $3 each), pepperoni, margherita or Aussie pizzas ($9.50 each).
New Zealand Ice Cream Parlour (Deck 12): Satisfy your cravings for something sweet outside the Plantation Restaurant where you will find 12 flavours of quality New Zealand-made ice cream, milkshakes, thickshakes and sundaes.
A range of snacks, priced under $10 per plate, can be delivered to your cabin. The menu includes: potato chips, peanuts, beer nuts and cashews, sandwiches (roast beef on rye, chicken in a pita pocket, tuna on wholegrain bread), toasted panini, an Aussie outback burger, pasta, pizza, lasagna, chunky steak and mushroom pie, soups and salads. Desserts include citrus cheesecake, chocolate fudge slice, cheese plate, and seasonal fruit.