On Azura, the innovative -- and plentiful! -- specialty restaurants steal the dining spotlight away from the main restaurants. The most publicised new eatery is Sindhu, an Indian-fusion restaurant, which as we've already mentioned, is the creation of Atul Kochhar. Located on Deck 7, mid-ship, it's one of the most popular eateries onboard, and staff told us it was pretty full throughout the cruise.
The restaurant features gorgeous, dark-wood furniture and red and green soft furnishings with a hint of sparkly decor and lighting, as well as an open kitchen and bar area.
Give yourselves a good couple of hours to eat in Sindhu, as you are dished up a total of six courses! Our feast started with some mini-poppadoms with three chutneys (tomato, tamarind and mango), followed by a spiced potato soup, which was creamy and fragrant at the same time. Starters included beef skewers with garlic and cucumber dips and crab meat salad, both of which were cooked to perfection. Main courses on offer included the traditional Rogan Josh lamb curry, Goan-style roasted lobster in coconut sauce with lobster kedgeree (Lagusta Xec Xec) and baked parcels of vegetables with tomato and Fenugreek Sauce (Subj Polti).
We opted for beef medallions with coriander salt chips and baked chicken and rice (Biriyani). All main courses are served with side dishes of vegetable massala, pilau rice, dried pea dahl and naan bread.
The mains are followed by sorbet -- ours was mango and banana, and it was gorgeous. (In fact, we didn't need another desert!) Desserts include warm spiced chocolate pudding with blood orange sorbet, which was nice and offered a different take on the traditional chocolate desert.
The cost of eating there varies, depending on the length of the cruise -- £15 per person for cruises longer than eight days, £20 per person for cruises of seven days and £25 per person for short cruises.
Sindhu is also open for lunch, when the restaurant serves an Indian tapas menu. Dishes include potato and peas samosas, chilli fried calamari, cauliflower fritters and beef kebabs. Often, we saw special "two for one" offers at lunch. The cover charge is £4.95 per person.
On Deck 17 aft is Azura's fine dining offering, the aptly named Seventeen, which prides itself on British cuisine. Open for dinner only (with the exception of suite guests, who can visit for breakfast), the venue has inside and outside seating (with an awning over the 10 or so outside tables). The cover charge for dining in Seventeen is £20 per person for cruises of eight nights or more, £25 per person for cruises of three to seven nights and £30 per person for two nights.
Dining al fresco at Seventeen is available on request, and we would recommend it, as you'll have fantastic views over the ship's wake. It's also a romantic way to have dinner on a balmy Mediterranean or Caribbean evening.
The quality of the food on offer left us extremely satisfied. Our main, chateaubriand of beef (minimum of two people required for this dish), was one of the best cuts of beef we have ever had anywhere -- not just on a cruise ship.
Other dishes on offer included starters like shrimp and lobster cocktail, goat cheese crotin and seared scallops. Mains varied from fillet of wild line-caught seabass and potato gnocchi to Welsh Salt Marsh Lamb Loin.
Service, however, was a little slow, and we had to flag down the waiter to ask for drinks. This could have been due to two large groups dining at the same time as us, but as we never experienced bad service anywhere else on the ship, it was odd to find it only in the nicest restaurant onboard.
Editor's Note: You will need to book for both Sindhu and Seventeen either in the restaurant or by calling from your cabin.
As for main dining rooms, Azura has three: the Oriental, the Peninsular (both Deck 6) and the Meridian (Deck 5) restaurants. Two of the dining venues (Oriental and Peninsular) are club dining, meaning you choose to eat at either 6:30 p.m. or 8:30 p.m., and you will sit at the same table each evening with the same tablemates. Meridian, meanwhile, offers a freedom dining option for passengers, giving them the flexibility to arrive and dine when they like.
The Peninsular and Oriental restaurants are also open for hot breakfast from 7:30 a.m. until 9 a.m. Lunch was offered in the Peninsular from 12:15 p.m. until 1:45 p.m. Mains included plaice in tempura batter with sweet and sour sauce and egg noodles, a "brunch grill" (consisting of sausage, pork chops, calf's liver, fried eggs, tomato, mushrooms and fries), hot sandwiches and jacket potatoes with fillings. A create-your-own salad option was always available, too.
Afternoon tea -- consisting of yummy cakes, scones, sandwiches and, of course, tea -- is also served in the Peninsular from 4 p.m. until 4:45 p.m.
At dinner, the waiters were always attentive, ready to take orders and to top up water and other drinks. They were also good at remembering what people liked. There was a family sitting next to us, and their youngest child loved tomato ketchup with his meal. Each night, a pot of it was ready and waiting. Cutlery in the dining venues comes courtesy of designer Nick Munro.
Dinner options in the main dining rooms included starters like smoked salmon and citrus parfait, as well as grilled, spiced Caribbean banana. (We tried this, and it was tasty, much to our surprise!) Main courses always included at least two meat options (like confit of lamb and beef provencale), a fish option (like red snapper) and a vegetarian dish. There was the "always available" menu, too, which included sirloin steak, chicken breast and pan-seared salmon.
The buffet restaurants, Venezia and Verona, are located on Deck 15 and are open for breakfast, lunch (Venezia only) and dinner. If you are a late riser, then head to Verona, as a full English breakfast is served until noon. Breakfast shuts down at 10:30 a.m. in Venezia.
In the evening, Venezia turns into an Italian waiter-service restaurant, a nice alternative. You don't need to book ahead, but you may need to wait for a table. The usual Italian fare is available (pizza, pasta). For dessert, we tried sizzling strawberries in Prosecco (comes at an extra charge) -- one not to miss!
Verona, meanwhile, serves up an evening buffet with a meat carvery, pasta, jacket potatoes, salads, cold meats and a wide selection of vegetables. This casual venue did have a number of themed nights, including Indian, BBQ, Country and Western, and British nights.
The Poolside Grill serves up hot dogs, jacket potatoes, baguettes and burgers, while the Poolside Pizzeria offers pizza from 11 a.m. until 8:30 p.m. Adjacent to this is the ice cream bar, which serves Carte d'or ice cream. Prices start at £1.75 for a scoop.
Complimentary room service is available 24 hours a day. You can order via the interactive television, by making a call or -- for continental breakfast -- by putting your order outside your cabin before bed. Menu items include croissants, cereal, fruit and yoghurt for breakfast; sandwiches and a selection of salads for lunch; and pizza and chicken wings for late-night snacks.
You can also order wine for dinner via your television screen.