A casual, eat-when-you-like approach to dining is very important to travellers in the family budget sector of the British market, and Island Star meets the challenge with five venues.
The Island Restaurant is open at set times for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and with its large windows, white cloths and linen napkins, makes eating a fairly classy experience even though the food is served buffet-style. Buffets are also available at the indoor/outdoor Beachcomber Cafe on Deck 1, which is open 24 hours and offers some themed evenings. Breakfasts here are excellent, piping hot and featuring the kind of goodies -- like fried bread and black pudding -- that make cardiologists blanch but, have red-blooded Britons licking their lips.
And while on my trip some vegetable dishes were a little watery and flaccid, lunch and dinner buffets were perfectly respectable -- salads were crisp and varied, soups creamy and there was always something tasty to eat. At the aft end of the Beachcomber, The Grill offers freshly cooked self-service burgers (including chicken burgers) and hot dogs.
The ship also has two pay-per-use restaurants. The dark wood-walled, red-tableclothed Steak House offers decent cuts of steak (and also, despite its name, fish and vegetarian dishes) for a per-person service charge of £15, while the Oasis charges £12.95 for a more varied menu. Personally, I found the Oasis the better of the two; dark red lightshades made the Steakhouse a bit gloomy, tables were set too close together and though waiters served mains, puddings and coffee, the substantial range of starters and cheeses available to top and tail the meal were rather inconveniently served buffet-style, which to my mind defeated the object of a "special occasion" restaurant.
The Oasis, on the other hand, was better lit and entirely waiter serviced, and the menus -- which included filet mignon, tempura prawns and scallops served as Coquilles St. Jacques -- were varied and interesting.
Wine in all restaurants is affordable, though -- with a daily "bargain" offered at less than U.K. £11 and a very decent Rioja available for £12.95. If you're dining alone (or are not big drinkers), what's left of your wine can be reserved for you at the end of the meal and served at the restaurant of your choice the next night, if you quote your cabin number.
Room service is available 24 hours a day (though alcohol is delivered only between 8 a.m. and 2 a.m.). However, there is a per-item charge, ranging from £1.95 for soup and rolls or a cheese plate to £2.95 for a salad and £3.65 for sandwiches. Hot drinks cost £1.95.