In two of the main dining rooms you can eat anytime you like. Just turn up between 6 p.m. and 9:30 pm, and you can sit with whom you want and enjoy a five-course menu (six-course on Gala Nights), in the traditional surroundings of a large cruise ship dining room.
Meridian (Deck 5 midships): This is one of the two main dining rooms offering open seating from 6 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. It's accessible just off the atrium. What's surprising is the restaurant is not laid out like most traditional cruise ship dining rooms, but rather sliced up into different sized spaces by glass dividers. This gives the feel of a much smaller space, and also allows for intimacy if you're dining on your own or with a companion. The color scheme of the carpet and the fittings is white and gold. Service is brisk, efficient and friendly.
The five-course menu varies daily and, as P&O puts it, "is an opportunity to celebrate all things British" -- but with international influences. Ingredients are sustainably sourced from the UK, and starters might include Scottish smoked salmon or Welsh rarebit, as well as pate from Ardennes. This course is followed by a soup then a choice of four main courses, including one vegetarian option. Mains might include Scottish trout, Hampshire lamb or Gressingham duck. Ice creams again reflect U.K. heritage, so you might find Purbeck Dorset or classics such as sherry trifle. This is followed by a cheeseboard, sadly not those picked by cheese expert Charlie Turnbull.
There is also a daily special, often reflecting the area or port stop, or an Indian dish to reflect the nationality of the waiters.
The menu will also always include 'Classic Favourites' such as Caesar salad, prawn cocktail and tomato soup to start. Classic mains are fillet of salmon, sirloin steak and chicken breast.
Marco Pierre White -- a strong presence across the P&O fleet -- has no dedicated restaurant on Britannia. However, he does oversee the Gala Night menus on formal nights. Dishes might include smoked flaked haddock to start, followed by New England split lobster.
Peninsular (Deck 6, midships): The Peninsular, which is directly above the Meridian, has a more traditional layout with larger tables and glass pillars. The colour scheme is burnt orange and red. It features the same menu as Meridian, but this restaurant is also open for breakfast (8 a.m. to 9:30 a.m.), lunch (12:15 p.m. to 1:45 p.m.), afternoon tea (4 p.m. to 4:45 p.m.) and open-seating dinner (6 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.).
Oriental (Deck 5, Aft): The Club Dining restaurant offers traditional, fixed-time, same-table seating at 6:30 p.m. or 8:30 p.m. It also uses the same menus as the other two main restaurants. The colour scheme is dark woods and deep red carpets, with a number of larger tables, interspersed with tables for four.
Horizon (Deck 16): The main buffet restaurant takes up a large part of Deck 16, and includes both indoor and outdoor seating areas. There are new-to-P&O features such as a live cooking station for pancakes, omelettes and noodles and a dedicated salad counter. There is also a daily theme, which might be Indian or Mediterranean or Best of British, which will be reflected in the food on offer. Meals and snacks are available all day. Open 6:30 a.m. to 2 a.m.
Lido Grill (Deck 16): The poolside Lido Grill offers a range of grilled items including quality burgers, vegetable kebabs and classic fish and chips. Open 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.
The Pizzeria (Deck 16): Adjacent to the Lido Grill, the Pizzeria offers freshly baked pizzas all day. Open 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Grab & Go (Deck 16): New to the cruise line, this eaterie offers a selection of pre-packed snacks, sandwiches and salads for breakfast and lunch. It's located by the main pools on Deck 16. Open 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Room Service: A Continental breakfast service operates from 7 a.m. to 11 a.m. offering cereals, yoghurts and pastries. Throughout the day you can order snacks and sandwiches, some with small supplements. Main courses also carry supplements; for example, seafood pie is £4.50 and a burger is £3.95. There are also lighter meals available from 11 p.m. throughout the night. Wines, beers and spirits are also available.
P&O Cruises has never gone in for the mind-bending number of for-fee eateries that its U.S. counterparts excel in. However, what you will find is a small selection of very high quality, well thought out venues, which appeal to the British palate. Hence Britannia sees the return of Sindhu, the line's hugely popular Indian restaurant, and The Glass House, which although it is primarily about wine, also has an excellent selection of tapas-size dishes and larger mains.
The Limelight Club (Deck 5); £22: This is the line's first foray into a supper club, and it has a contemporary, not retro, feel. The venue is beautifully decorated in golds and greens, with a bar at one end and the stage at the other. The food is not why people come here though -- it's the chance to see and hear musicians in intimate surroundings -- but like the rest of the ship's for-fee eateries, it's of a very high quality. There is just one dinner/show seating per night, and the evening starts at 7:30 p.m. The three-course menu changes every time the act does (on average, four times a cruise). Dinner might include an appetizer of a pate or a salad, and mains such as loin of lamb with a pulled lamb hot pot or poached fillet of haddock, followed by a trio of desserts (cheesecake, sorbet, meringue). Reservations are essential.
Market Cafe (Deck 5); a la carte pricing: Master patissier Eric Lanlard has long wowed the culinary world with his delectable baked goods. Now he's bringing his expertise to Britannia's Market Cafe with French-style pastries, fine cheeses, antipasto, charcuterie, tapas and speciality breads. He'll be sharing the space with cheese expert Charlie Turnbull who has hand-picked an eclectic selection of cheeses from around the world, which you can only find here or in The Epicurean restaurant. The Market Cafe is in a prime spot at the bottom of the atrium, so you can sit and enjoy the ambience. A taster plate starts at £1.95; a sharing board will set you back £10.95. Eric's cakes start at £2.95. If you want the full Eric Afternoon Tea experience, you can book it at The Epicurean on sea days (see below). You can also get excellent coffee from here (better than the Costa coffee served elsewhere onboard and only 10p more). Open 7:30 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Sindhu (Deck 7); £15: Michelin star holder and 'master of spices', Atul Kochhar was the celebrity chef name behind Sindhu, but he is no longer associated with the line. The restaurant however, has proved immensely popular across the fleet. On Britannia, the Indian restaurant is given a bigger space than on any of the line's other ships (140 covers vs 110 on Azura), with soft lighting, tasteful decor and Indian music. It's a sophisticated dining experience, leisurely and one to be savoured.
New dinner menus (not found on other ships in the fleet), which are changed twice a cruise might include shammi kebab (spiced lamb cakes), jai tarang (pan-fried hand-dived scallops) karara kekda (soft shell crab) and our favourite, gosht ke dhuandhar soole (marinated smoked beef skewers) as starters. For mains, it's a tough choice, but Atul's signature plate of lamb rogan josh, chicken murgh and cod jai pari is outstanding. All of those dishes are also available on their own. Desserts are out of this world, especially the five-spiced chocolate pudding, rhubarb souffle, yoghurt cheese cake, deconstructed trifle and trio of Indian ice cream. You can even wash it all down with an Indian Sauvignon Blanc wine.
Britannia's Sindhu is also the first to have its own bar, called Nashta, which offers tapas-style Indian dishes at lunchtime from £4.95. There's also sit-down lunch service in the main restaurant area, as well. Reservations are recommended. The restaurant is open 11 a.m. - 5:30 p.m. for lunch and 6:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. for dinner.
The Glass House (Deck 7); a la carte pricing: Wine expert Olly Smith's temple to superb wines and tapas-size dishes occupies a prime spot at the top of the atrium, which Smith has described as "a place of great honour". The Glass House on Britannia is a good deal larger than on the other P&O ships, but like those it has a number of rooms including a Tasting Room and a Dining Room, as well as a bar area, all with decorative touches using glass in different ways. The menu features a fine selection of tapas-sized dishes, which start at £5.25 for three and might include oak smoked haddock, chorizo sausage and pork belly or chicken tenders. Mains include steak from £5.50 or the catch of the day, Morecambe Bay and Devon crab sliders and lobster buns for £4.95. Accompany your meal or snack with one of 40 wines by the glass or a 'Wine Flight' -- a sampler of three regional varieties.
There are also wine tasting dinners, and when Smith is onboard he'll even lead shore excursions to nearby vineyards. No reservations are needed. Open 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.
The Epicurean (Deck 16); £28: Britannia's fine dining restaurant offers classic British dishes, re-interpreted for today's modern palates. The sophisticated setting features lots of gold and white decor and somewhat overly bright lighting. No specific celebrity chef has put his name on this restaurant; it's all down to the P&O team, and it's very impressive. The experience is similar to that of a top London restaurant with a name chef attached, except for the price tag.
Chefs at The Epicurean utilise the principles of molecular gastronomy and techniques such as precision temperature cooking, freeze drying and fuming flasks of liquid nitrogen in order to enhance taste, texture and appearance. The menu features a selection of classic and contemporary dishes, with a lot of playful touches: Bloody Mary lollipops to start, with a tiny dash of Worcestershire sauce in the centre, or salt and pepper oyster and jumbo prawn tempura that comes complete with an artist's paint tube, filled with sweet pimento sauce. Palate cleansers might be a sorbet disguised as a tube of lipstick or a 'poached egg' with a 'yolk' of mango and a 'white' of coconut milk.
The starters change on each cruise; we had chicken liver parfait, which is delivered to your table with a glass lid attached full of wood smoke, and Jamon Pata Negra, sliced at your table, with Manchego cheese and olives. You may also find Devonshire white crab, langoustine and caviar cocktail and a selection of tomatoes presented in inventive ways.
The mains are equally interesting: Double Gloucester Old Spot pork fillet, loin of wild boar, butter-poached lobster tail and a duo of duck specialities. Again, the quality of the cuisine and presentation -- not to mention the service -- are outstanding.
Desserts are fun and inventive: expect an updated classic with the black forest popping candy torte or dark chocolate jaffa cake, or a divine creme brulee, caramelised at your table. The restaurant also features an extensive cheese menu, hand picked by cheese expert Charlie Turnbull, including suggested cheese and wine pairings. Reservations are essential. Open 6:30 p.m. to 10 p.m.
Afternoon Tea at the Epicurean; £15: You can also book Eric Lanlard's afternoon tea at The Epicurean (sea days only), which comes with the master patissier's signature creations, such as smoked salmon on spinach bread and cherry tomato and baby mozzarella tarts. The lemon meringue trifle is a thing of great beauty -- and taste. The Afternoon Tea, which is proving very popular, includes unlimited pots of a wide selection of Twinings teas. Reservations are necessary. Tea service begins at 3:30 p.m.
The Beach House (Deck 16); £5: This is an odd spot, right at the back of the Horizon buffet restaurant on the starboard side, and it's almost as if P&O is not quite sure what to do with it. The problem is it's too close to the Horizon buffet to feel like a speciality restaurant, and in fact isn't: it's a space cordoned off from the main buffet area with the same furniture and decor, just with waiter service and a cover charge. However, having said that, the food is a cut above and plentiful. The influence here is American, so expect clam chowder, nachos, buffalo wings etc. as starters, followed by a wide selection of mains, some of which come with a supplement, such as ribs (£2.95 supplement), burgers (£1.95) and blackened cod fillet or lobster tail (£5.95 each). Reservations are recommended. Open 6:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.
Cookery Club (Deck 17); £150: You can book an intimate dinner with one of P&O's celebrity chefs on selected sailings throughout the year. Either James Martin, Eric Lanlard or Marco Pierre White will lead a cooking class, then host an exclusive dinner with just 18 guests. Reservations are essential. For more information on The Cookery Club, see Activities.
Java (Deck 7); a la carte: This coffee shop sells Costa coffee from £2.40; the price includes a pastry of your choice. (Pastries cannot be purchased separately.) It's opposite The Glass House and has lovely views over the atrium. Open 7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.