Whether it was molasses-glazed reindeer loin (we sailed in Alaska) in the main dining room, a burger in the pub, a salmon appetizer in the steakhouse or tomato soup sent to our cabin, the food onboard Queen Elizabeth was consistently tasty and well prepared. Service, however, was inconsistent -- from slow to downright aggressive.
Though you could easily spend 10 days onboard and never get tired of the selections in the main dining room, the ship does offer a handful of extra-fee venues, and though our alternative dining experiences were mixed, they were mostly positive. The Verandah steakhouse is an incredible value and well worth the time and extra expense, while La Piazza, the Italian night in the for-fee section of the Lido, was mediocre and dragged on for too long. We were told by other passengers that the extra-fee Asian night in the Lido (called Bamboo), was excellent with a delicious black cod; some went two nights in a row.
Passengers can bring one bottle of wine or Champagne onboard, but larger quantities need to be approved by Cunard before the voyage. A $20-per-bottle corkage fee applies for wine brought onboard and consumed in the restaurants.
Britannia Restaurant (Decks 2 and 3)
Meals: Breakfast (B), Lunch (L) and Dinner (D)
The main dining room is the lofty, two-tier Britannia Restaurant, where everybody -- except those in Grill suites and Britannia Club cabins -- dines. There are two set dinner seatings: 5:30 and 7:45 p.m. Tables are allocated in twos, fours, sixes and eights.
Britannia is also open for a full, cooked, waiter-served breakfast (including pancakes, waffles, omelets and eggs Benedict) from 8 to 9:30 a.m. on sea days (7:30 to 9 a.m. on port days) and lunch from about noon to 1:30 p.m. every day, with open seating at both.
At dinner, there's a wide choice on the dinner menu, and everything changes nightly -- even on a 10-night sailing.
Expect about eight appetizers and entrees (at least one of which is a vegetarian or vegan choice) and six desserts, as well as a cheese plate. Typical dishes include broiled lobster tail or duck. Vegetarians should note that there's also a full veggie menu available on request with plenty of choices, so coupled with the options on the main menu, it's easy to have a varied and meat-free vacation. Passengers with any special dietary request are asked to place orders 24 hours in advance.
In all the main restaurants, the more healthful dishes are marked as "Canyon Ranch Spa Selections" (Canyon Ranch is the company that operates the onboard Mareel Spa).
Desserts include global classics like creme brulee and chocolate parfaits, as well as some English classics like rhubarb pie; plus, there's always a sugar-free option. Waiters bring around petit fours after dinner, which is a nice touch.
Lido Buffet (Deck 9)
Meals: Open 24/7
The ship's all-day casual dining venue is the Lido. Breakfast begins early -- 4:30 a.m. -- and takes various forms until to 10:30 a.m., followed by lunch from 11:30 a.m. until 3 p.m. Afternoon tea (considered a "snack") is served until 6 p.m. and dinner is from 6 p.m. to 9:30 p.m., with late-night snacks available from 10 p.m. to 1:30 a.m.
The variety is respectable, with a mix of British, American and Asian options: eggs (to order if you want), bacon (English and crispy American), sausages, fried potatoes and other usual morning items. Coffee and juice come out of machines, which attract long queues.
Lunchtime has a pizza and pasta station (open until 4 p.m., which can be a life-saver on port days), a sandwich station, salad and dessert bars, and hot choices like grilled sole, steak and traditional English dishes like roasts, hot pots and meat pies.
Dinners are typically themed and might offer dishes that incorporate the destinations on your itinerary.
The layout of the Lido is not particularly user-friendly; it took us a while to work out where everything was and to realize some counters are duplicated. The waiters don't serve much of a purpose here -- every morning we hoped someone would pour us a cup of hot coffee, but it never happened.
Golden Lion Pub (Deck 2)
Meals: L, D
The British-themed Golden Lion Pub serves free pub lunches, featuring staples like bangers (sausages) and mash, fish and chips, cottage pie and ploughman's lunches (a platter of cold meats and cheese). There are also occasional (free) evening meals with a mile-high house burger with a brisket patty on top of lettuce, tomato, onion and a burger patty on a crunchy bun (with fries served with a tangy beer ketchup).
Afternoon Tea at the Queens Room (Deck 2)
Like clockwork, every day at 3 p.m., the doors to the Queens Room open, white-gloved servers carrying silver trays appear and you are expected to politely clap as Afternoon Tea commences. It is worthy of applause, as crustless sandwiches, cakes and, of course, a choice of tea (a black afternoon blend or Earl Grey) is served to you in courses against a sophisticated backdrop featuring classical music from either a harpist, a pianist or the string trio. And don't forget the scones, accompanied by cream and jam. We were surprised how good they were, to be honest, considering this is a daily included experience.
Britannia Club (Deck 2)
Meals: B, L, D
One step up from the Britannia is the Britannia Club, a separate dining room for anyone staying in the Britannia Club cabins. Small and intimate with a cream and teal color scheme, this pretty room has windows all along one side and tables for two, four and six. The menu is a tweaked version of what's found in Britannia, and you get a more exclusive atmosphere, with a team of ultraprofessional staff who quickly remember your name and personal likes and dislikes. Dinner is open seating from 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m.
Princess Grill (Deck 11)
Meals: B, L, D
Located on the upper decks of the ship are the two Grill restaurants reserved exclusively for passengers staying in Princess or Queens Grill cabins, in an area accessible only with a special keycard or up a staircase marked "Grill guests only beyond this point." Both dining rooms, which share a cocktail lounge with views over the pool, have a chocolate and gold color scheme and are adorned with ornate, backlit glass panels and flooded with early evening sunlight from windows all along one side. The two Grills share a pretty outdoor terrace, decked out with Italian tiles and a splashing fountain, partly sheltered from the wind by high walls.
Princess Grill offers a similar menu to the Britannia Restaurant but with more items and a long, always-available a la carte menu.
Queens Grill (Deck 11)
Meals: B, L, D
Queens Grill has an even bigger a la carte menu than Princess Grill -- essentially, you can have whatever you like, whether it's beef Wellington or lamb flambeed tableside. Tableside cooking is a special feature of the restaurant, with options like crepes Suzette for dessert.
The room service menu has a great selection at no charge. Favorites include a tomato soup with basil oil, a steak sandwich and a hearty super food salad with squash, pomegranate, avocado, spinach, toasted seeds and more. There's a brunch menu, a day menu, a children's menu, desserts (cake in a mug, anyone?) and even a late-night menu with offerings from 11 p.m. to 6 a.m. -- still at no cost. Drinks and a selection of specialty items carry a fee.
Pricing was accurate at time of review but may have changed since.
Alternative Dining at the Lido Buffet (Deck 9); $19.50
In the evenings, one side of the Lido turns into a themed, waiter-service venue, which changes every three days or so (open 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m.). Themes include Aztec (Mexican), Bamboo (pan-Asian), Coriander (Indian) and La Piazza (Italian).
It's a low-cost way to spend a night out if you need a break from the main restaurant or the buffet, but note, just because it's in the Lido doesn't mean it's informal -- jackets are required for men.
The Verandah (Deck 2); $25 for lunch, $39 for dinner
Meals: L, D
The Verandah is a chic steakhouse open 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. each evening and for lunch on sea days from noon to 1:30 p.m.
The food and service are excellent, and the atmosphere is elegant but relaxed. We delighted in the small touches, like presenting the cuts of meat before ordering or being able to choose your steak knife from an appealing selection of handles and blades. Nonmeat-eaters will still be satisfied with plenty of seafood choices or a gourmet veggie burger.
Champagne Tea (location varies); $35
Once per voyage, a full-scale Champagne tea is served, including a glass of Laurent-Perrier (rose or brut) and a selection of loose leaf Twinings tea, as well as a tempting array of cakes. On our sailing it was held inside the attractive Britannia Club restaurant, and a harpist played as we nibbled on pumpkin scones, maple butter tarts, butter-poached snow crab on an avocado bagel and cold baked Alaska mousse with lemon sponge.
In-Cabin Champagne Breakfast; $75
If you're looking to splurge, a Champagne breakfast delivered right to your cabin is available for a set fee. Your choice of breakfast entrees is accompanied by coffee or tea, juices and a half-bottle of Champagne. In Alaska, a crab quiche, wild berry pancakes and a loaded salmon bagel are some of the menu selections. A crew member will bring a white tablecloth and china to complete the occasion.