Ponant is a French line and nowhere does Le Boreal's Gallic accent come through more clearly than in the dining rooms. Veal and wild boar were on the menu more than once, and duck confit and escargot appeared at the buffet. The kitchen excels at sauces and breads. Desserts are to die for (and don't forget that French butter).
The food might be a bit too French for meat-and-potato palates -- or not French enough, depending on expectations. Either way, the fare is varied, plentiful and delicious, with vegetarian and gluten-free options. In a nod to its North American passengers, you can always get a burger, club sandwich or chicken for lunch and dinner.
Meal times on Tauck charters have been adjusted a half-hour earlier (breakfast starts at 7 a.m. and dinner is served beginning at 7 p.m.).
La Licorne (Deck 2): The ship's white-tablecloth restaurant is airy and roomy enough to seat a full complement of passengers. Seating is open. Breakfast, lunch and dinner are served here. Breakfast and lunch feature buffet fare, or you can order a la carte. The lunch menu offers serve-yourself soup and a starter, such as ricotta cheese and spinach in filo pastry. There's also an extensive salad bar. Main courses are a choice of fish, meat or a vegetarian dish (sauteed squid, roasted lamb leg and asparagus and mushroom risotto on one day). A cheese selection and array of desserts are available from the buffet.
Service in this dining room was a tad uneven on our sailing. Though waiters were always pleasant and eager to please, they were sometimes inattentive. Better to hit the buffet if you're not up for a long, languorous meal.
La Boussole (Deck 6): The ship's buffet restaurant is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Because it's the smaller of the two restaurants, dinner reservations are required. Food stations are located throughout the room. At breakfast, there are made-to-order omelets and a table filled with melt-in-your-mouth croissants and other pastries. Standard American and English breakfast fare include bacon, sausage, baked beans and hash browns. There's also a generous smoked salmon and charcuterie station.
Each day features a different lunch theme, such as seafood, bistro and Mediterranean. There's a serve-yourself soup and a salad bar, plus starters and main courses from the buffet (yellow pollack, duck confit, zucchini and pesto gratin) and a carving station featuring fish or meat. Dinner in this space can include grilled fare from the plancha on the adjacent outdoor deck, a fish and meat of the day, plus cheese and dessert buffets.
Main Lounge (Deck 3): Coffee and pastries are set out from 6:30 a.m. to 10 a.m. for early and late risers. Afternoon tea here includes treats like crepes, macaroons and bite-sized sandwiches. Coffee and tea are always available.
Room Service: A small in-room dining menu includes standards from the dining room, such as soup of the day, Caesar salad, hamburgers, a fish of the day, chicken club sandwich and a smoked salmon platter. For finishers there's a dessert of the day, a cheese selection and fruit salad.
The room service breakfast menu includes standards, like eggs-to-order with breakfast meats, pastries and cereal.