By Gilly Pickup
Cruise Critic Contributor
4.5 / 5.0
Cruise Critic Editor Rating: Dining

Regent is out to make a statement with the luxury ingredients and stylish presentations in its dining venues. You can have foie gras and lobster every night, should you choose. And, of course, the included wines flow freely. In addition to European-style menu items, we noticed (and appreciated) food items from various regions of Asia, with Indian dishes that were particularly tasty (we suspect some Indian cooks in the galley are to thank).

Passengers can choose among four restaurants; all feature an open-seating dining policy, so you can decide when to eat and pick your tablemates. That's not to say you can just waltz in anywhere without reservations. Be sure to select your specialty dining evenings as soon as possible, because the two most sought-after reservations -- at Prime 7 steakhouse and Chartreuse French restaurant -- go fast.

On Sundays (embarkation and disembarkation days excepted) there's caviar service with brunch, and during cruises longer than seven nights the galley puts on a deck barbecue (weather permitting). There's also a special afternoon tea for chocoholics once per cruise, in addition to regular afternoon tea daily.

Twenty-four-hour room service is a nice perk, as well. Perhaps that's why we never experienced crowding at breakfast, even in the La Veranda buffet venue (and we all know that buffets are usually notoriously swamped right before shore excursions).

Vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free options are all available onboard, as are sugar-free desserts. If you have special dietary needs, Regent recommends that you contact the Dining Room Manager at the restaurant reservation desk (Deck 5, Atrium) when you first come aboard. If you have extremely specialized needs, speak with a Regent representative 90 days prior to your cruise. With enough notice, the line will try to bring almost any requested food onboard.

Compass Rose (Deck 4): The 570-seat main dining room received a major menu revamp in late 2016, as well as new decor. The room now dazzles with large, modern chandeliers and a pale, blue-gray color scheme. Everything is brighter and lighter. Upholstered chairs are cream-colored, with stylish gold zebra-type stripes, and the colorful plates are designed by Versace.

Regent bills the Compass Rose dinner menu as "the largest specialty restaurant at sea," due to the vast number of permanent selections, which enable passengers to choose their main meat and/or fish course from a long list of options, and then customize it with a sauce. You can make your own surf-and-turf, for example, by ordering lobster and steak. And, what the heck, ask your waiter to top the steak with seared foie gras.

Regent developed this new menu by tracking passengers' all-time favorite dishes. Appetizers are divided into five "Fish & Seafood" options, including shrimp cocktail, Alaskan crab salad and lobster bisque (a real hit at our table); four "Meat" choices, including seared foie gras, Black Angus beef carpaccio, escargots, and a less-meaty poached egg with black truffle; and, finally, four "Soup and Salad" options, including San Marzano tomato soup with pesto and a Caesar salad.

For main courses on the "favorites" menu, you can choose from six "Fish & Seafood" selections (jumbo shrimp, king scallops, Norwegian salmon, lobster tail, Dover sole and branzino), with six different sauces, ranging from mango-peach salsa to beurre blanc. The seven "Meat" mains include three Black Angus steaks, Smithfield pork chop, lamb chops, veal medallions and roast chicken. Paired sauces run the gamut from chimichurri to Madeira-truffle and Thai sweet-chili.

Fifteen "favorites" side dishes include a variety of green vegetables, rice and six different potato preparations. (We particularly liked the wicked potato gratin.) You can also order pasta with pesto, pomodoro or Bolognese sauce.

If all that isn't enough, the other side of the dinner menu offers the chef's daily specials, typically five appetizers, two pastas and five main courses. In this section, you'll find more ethnically varied cuisine, which might include Wiener schnitzel, Thai red chicken curry or pasta puttanesca. The chef also offers a six-course tasting menu drawn from these selections.

For the health-conscious who want to know exactly how many calories they're consuming, the menu also offers Canyon Ranch selections, such as curried fresh black mussels with coconut and tomatoes at 122 calories, 6 grams of fat and 1 gram of fiber.

Ovo-lacto vegetarian dishes, sides and sauces are noted on the menu. Vegetarians are catered to with choices such as Mediterranean squash and zucchini stuffed with mushroom duxelles, tomato sauce and quinoa salad or daikon, carrot and broccoli-stem slaw with Asian dressing. Vegetarians on our cruise were very pleased with the offered options. Vegans have 14 full menus to choose from (consult with the Restaurant Manager for details). Gluten-free, lactose-free, salt-free, no-added sugar options and Indian vegetarian menus are available as well.

Included wines served at Compass Rose were fine, but didn't blow us away. For example, one night the white was a 2015 Sancerre and the red was a 2014 Cotes du Rhone. On another, there was a 2015 California sauvignon blanc and a 2014 Bordeaux. In general, the reds were a bit rough.

For breakfast, Compass Rose offers starters of charcuterie, cured fish, cold cuts and cheeses; eggs and omelets to order; hot cereals, pancakes, waffles, French toast and Swedish pancakes; sirloin steak, lamb chops and a roasted salmon filet (prepared as a Japanese-style breakfast). Assorted pastries, cold cereals, fruits (fresh, dried or stewed) and yogurt round out the menu.

At lunch, the menu includes a daily special in each of the appetizer, soup, fish, pasta and main course categories. For example, a main would be beef roulades braised in Barolo wine with carrot pickles and bacon. The rest of the menu is a "tribute" to the specialty restaurants onboard Regent's most luxurious ship, Seven Seas Explorer (some of the restaurants are also found on Voyager). You might choose an appetizer like Peking duck salad (from Explorer's Pacific Rim restaurant menu) or beef empanadas (from Prime 7 specialty restaurant); there are six options in total. Mains range from a grilled prime burger (Prime 7) to a croque-monsieur (Chartreuse) or Thai green chicken curry (Pacific Rim). Desserts include classics like linzer torte, chocolate buttercream layer cake and a selection of ice creams.

Compass Rose is open for breakfast (8 to 9:30 a.m.), lunch (noon to 1:30 p.m.) and dinner (6:30 to 9:30 p.m.), though hours may vary due to port timing and special culinary events. The dining room is sometimes closed for lunch on port days. No reservations are accepted, and seating is assigned on a first-come, first-served basis. Those who dislike forced intimacy with strangers can access plenty of tables for two.

Coffee Connection (Deck 5): The informal, comfortable Coffee Connection is ideal for relaxing, chatting with friends and enjoying coffee and snacks from 6:30 a.m. right through to 6 p.m. Breakfast buffet options include cereal, rolls, breads, pastries, fruit, yogurt with a wide variety of toppings, and bagels with assorted schmears, nicely portioned onto cucumber slices. We were wowed when we found the pastry chef's version of a custard-filled "cronut" here one morning. Midday snacks include cold meats, cheeses, assorted rolls, cookies and small desserts. In the afternoon, sandwiches, biscuits, cakes and fruit are on hand. The ship's best espresso drinks are found here, including usual barista concoctions, plus spiked versions, like Irish coffee and Russian hot chocolate with vodka. Cold options include a frappe and Viennese coffee with chocolate and cream.

Prime 7 (Deck 5): Regent's steakhouse, open only for dinner by reservation, 6. to 9 p.m., mimics the classic upscale steak venues you'd find on land. Decor is dark and modern-clubby, with leather-covered columns, burnished wood paneling and tobacco-colored leather armchairs. Lighted cases display wine bottles and open windows onto the bright kitchen create drama, as the cooks hustle to prepare and plate the steaks. On the downside, as late diners, we also got to watch them wash down their stainless steel-clad work area.

Prime 7's menu nods to seafood with appetizers like an ahi tuna and avocado tower (not our favorite rendition of this standard, which dissolved into a pool of soy sauce), jumbo shrimp cocktail and lump crab cakes (excellent), but meat's the thing here. You might start with foie gras sliders or steak tartar and continue with clam chowder, an iceberg wedge or a Caesar salad. Moving on to the USDA prime-graded steaks, you can choose a New York, porterhouse (an 18-ounce individual portion or a whopping 32-ounce version to share), bone-in rib, filet mignon or slow-roasted prime rib. (We thought our mate's bone-in rib steak had more flavor than our porterhouse.) Popular seafood mains include lobster tail and outstanding king crab legs (let the kitchen remove the meat from the shell for you). Veal, pork and lamb chops round out the menu -- and if you must, there are also chicken, tuna and seafood sampler options.

There are seven sauces to choose among (the Armagnac-green peppercorn was our favorite) and 11 sides, including truffle fries, twice-baked potato and classic creamed spinach. A cone of breads for the table includes dangerously delicious pretzel rolls. Tip: Beware the amuse-bouche shooter of soup; we like spicy foods, but the spice level in this was so high, it temporarily blew out our taste buds.

The included cabernet and sauvignon blanc wines paired well with the dishes, but didn't astound us. The particular California labels weren't exactly what we'd consider to be luxury wines.

Dessert winners were the Chicago cheesecake (creamy and not overly sweet) and the deconstructed s'mores, with housemade marshmallows. The showy 14-layer chocolate cake was disappointingly dry -- probably necessary to keep the structure intact. Some very sweet fudge arrives at the end of the meal as a send-off treat.

Chartreuse (Deck 5): This modern French specialty restaurant, serving dinner only, replaces Signatures, a more traditional French venue. It's intended to replicate the sort of cuisine young chefs are cooking in Paris. As you enter, the cheese cart tells you this is a serious French restaurant. The less-typical cruise ship selections, like Saint-Maure, are well-aged and tempting.

The chic decor has an updated Art Deco feel, with cream-colored velvet upholstered chairs edged in black lacquered wood. Curtains are gold brocade and modern art in blue tones decorates the walls. Charger plates dazzle, with wide gold rims in a water-drop pattern, which is texturally echoed in the oversized white serving plates. Nostalgic French cabaret music helps set the mood.

Chartreuse turns out Instagram-worthy artistic plates, using both traditional ingredients (duck, foie gras, escargots) and others newer to French haute cuisine (daikon, chickpeas, chorizo). Waiters set a decadent tone up front by delivering truffle butter with the bread presentation. We were particularly impressed by the foie gras terrine with sauternes gelee; creamy artichoke soup with toasted hazelnuts; and the boneless short rib, cooked sous vide style for 72 hours and topped with cubes of seared foie gras and truffle mousse.

Included wines were the best we had with any meal on the ship. The white was a 2015 Pouilly-Fuisse, while the red was a Chateauneuf-du-Pape.

Desserts are works of modernist art (and deliver on taste, too). Our favorite was a cylindrical ile flottante, fluffy meringue set in a pool of rich creme anglaise and topped with a sugar sculpture -- a classic French dessert, reinterpreted. The final touch, which makes you feel like you've really been to an upscale Parisian restaurant, is a presentation gift box holding two French macarons to take back to your cabin.

La Veranda (Deck 11): Serving breakfast (7 a.m. to 10 a.m.) and lunch (noon to 2 p.m.), plus an occasional themed dinner, the casually chic La Veranda on Deck 11 offers buffet-style dishes only. A white wall of rough, brick-cut marble sets a modern tone as you enter. Tables are topped with white cloths at every meal, and multi-level serving counters are rich marble. The restaurant's high location and surrounding windows make for a bright welcoming space. In good weather, you can also opt to sit at outside tables on the ship's aft, or even carry your plate out to tables next to the pool.

For breakfast, there are made-to-order omelets, waffles, pancakes, muesli, cereals (both hot and cold) and fruit, as well as tomatoes, eggs, sausage, bacon and corned beef hash. There is also a daily cooked-to-order special -- eggs Florentine, for example. We were particularly impressed with the cured fish and charcuterie offerings at breakfast, which ranged from prosciutto and salami to herring and smoked salmon. Fresh fruit was impressive as well, with exotic dragon fruit, passion fruit and kiwi, plus an assortment of berries. And, of course, you can order up a glass of Champagne or a mimosa to accompany your breakfast. Our one beef about breakfast in this venue was the length of time it took to get a cappuccino; on several occasions, we were nearly finished with our meal before the drink arrived.

Lunch brings a small salad bar (we wish there were more topping selections), soups, prepared salads, fruits, cold cuts, charcuterie (loved the smoked duck breast!), shrimp and sandwiches, as well as hot dishes like grilled lamb chops or pan-fried fresh dorade. There's always a carved meat, as well as side-dishes like french fries, mashed potatoes and sauteed vegetables. A window on one side of the restaurant dispenses three varieties of thin-crust pizza by the slice. There's also fresh fruit and plenty of desserts to choose from, including cute little cones topped with chocolate mousse, individual parfaits, cakes by the slice, cookies and a selection of ice creams and sorbets. While there were always old standby flavors, we appreciated the chance to try creative options, like a delicious pear-rosemary sorbet.

On our seven-night cruise, there were two evening buffets at La Veranda -- one with a Mediterranean theme and another Asian buffet. We checked out the Asian buffet, which represented a number of countries, including the Philippines, China, Thailand and India. There were tasty salads (Vietnamese chicken salad, for example) and prepared-to-order stir-fry options, as well as some items, like duck egg rolls, which didn't hold up so well in a buffet environment. Our favorite dish was an absolutely luscious butter chicken, which we ate so much of that we didn't have room for desserts, which included "Japanese tiramisu," made with green tea.

Sette Mari at La Veranda (Deck 11): Most nights, between 6:30 and 9 p.m., La Veranda morphs into this table-service restaurant (the name translates as "Seven Seas"), offering Italian specialties. Salads and appetizers are served buffet-style, but dinner entrees and desserts are ordered from -- and delivered by -- waiters. On our ship, an Italian maitre d' as well as an Italian waiter enhanced the atmosphere. Italian mood music on the sound system ran the gamut from "Funiculi Funicula" to "Ave Maria." The wine steward offers a glass of prosecco to start, a nice touch.

Waiters deliver starter snacks of olives, Parmesan cheese slivers, fried mozzarella, bruschetta and meatballs. You're then invited to visit the antipasti bar for salads and salumi. Soups include hearty minestrone or tomato-basil, while pasta choices feature versions of carbonara, Bolognese and lasagna with rich bechamel sauce; there's also gnocchi in creamy pesto and a couple of daily specialties -- ours were luscious fontina cheese-filled ravioli in a truffle sauce and seafood risotto.

Our waiter recommended the veal osso bucco (fork-tender and fabulous), the gorgonzola-crusted beef tenderloin with red wine sauce (also delicious) and the cioppino seafood stew -- a more upscale version than we're used to, which included a lobster tail. He didn't recommend the swordfish, which our table ordered anyway. It was the one real miss on the menu, overcooked and covered in a tomato sauce that did nothing for the fish.

Leave some room for the dessert; the menu offers 10 choices, served buffet-style, including cannoli, tiramisu and chocolate-glazed limoncello cake and biscotti.

Pool Grill (Deck 11): The open-air Pool Grill on the lido deck is the ultimate come-as-you-are dining venue when you don't want to spend too much time disrupting your sunbathing or swimming schedule. It's open for a fitness breakfast from 6:30 to 9:30 a.m., serving healthy options like yogurt, granola and fruit.

At lunch (11 a.m. to 4 p.m.), burgers and hotdogs are the main focus, with some decadent creative options, like a bacon-beef burger with gorgonzola cheese or a pesto burger with mozzarella and sun-dried tomato mayonnaise. Lighter eaters can opt for a salmon burger or avocado-tuna burger, while vegetarians can go with the portobello-feta, veggie or tofu version. There's also a small salad bar, plus a few cold sandwiches, wraps and dessert choices. There's also an ice cream scooping station just around the corner from the grill and a coffee/tea station with an automatic espresso drink machine in the area.

Room Service: Of course you can also choose to eat in the privacy of your suite. You won't get your food left on a tray; meals are elegantly served on tables with white tablecloths. Complimentary room service is available 24/7, so no need to worry if you have an attack of the munchies in the middle of the night. Whether you feel inclined to savor Greek mezze, a steak sandwich with pesto or comfort food like a traditional hamburger or cheeseburger, you've got it. The standard room-service breakfast menu is fairly extensive (order the night before by ticking your choices on a door-hanger for timed morning delivery), and besides the usual fruit, yogurts, pastry and cereal, you might opt for minute steak, smoked salmon or an omelet. You can also order room service breakfast, lunch and dinner from the Compass Rose menu during restaurant hours. Occupants of Master Suites, Grand Suites and Regent Suites have the extra benefit of ordering menu items from the specialty restaurants during their regular evening hours. For all cabin classes, room-service dinner is served in courses, unless passengers request otherwise.

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