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Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Salt Grill by Luke Mangan



It's true. The main thing you have to look forward to on a cruise is the food. With four days at sea on-board the P&O Pacific Pearl, our seemingly endless hours of idleness were broken only by meal times. Our visits to Salt Grill by Luke Mangan were a particular highlight.


Salt Grill by Luke Mangan

Dining at Salt Grill incurs a nominal surcharge for passengers ($30 at lunch and $40 at dinner), but it's a relatively small price to pay given the level of service inside the private enclosed restaurant. Salt Grill is the only dining establishment on the ship which has its own kitchen (the Plantation buffet and the Waterfront Restaurant both share the same giant galley kitchen downstairs) and like every outlet, you can order and eat as much as you like (only a small number of dishes come with a surcharge).


Dinner table setting

The concept of Salt Grill was first floated by Sture Myrmell, vice president of hotel operations for Carnival Australia, owners of several international cruise liners including P&O Cruises. It works as a licensing deal, where Luke owns the brand "Salt Grill". Senior chefs who work with P&O Cruises are trained at Luke's Sydney restaurant Glass Brasserie and Salt Tokyo in Japan. The first Salt Grill by Luke Mangan was launched on the Pacific Jewel in 2009, followed shortly by openings on the Pacific Dawn and then the Pacific Pearl.


Pollastrini sardines (Italy) served from the tin with garlic toast; and
chilled chopped prawns with cos lettuce, avocado and mango salsa

We have dinner at Salt Grill on our first night, quickly impressed by the elegant intimacy of the dining room and the sense of quiet escape from the cruise ship distractions of bingo and off-key karaoke at the bar.

Luke Mangan is on-board the initial stages of our cruise, delivering a cooking demonstration for all passengers in the main theatre, and providing a welcome presence in the Salt Grill dining room for most meals.

We're happy to let Luke choose our courses for dinner, which arrive as a multi-course banquet over the next four hours.


Prawn toast with smoked corn salsa; 
kingfish sashimi with ginger, eschallot and Persian feta; and
coconut broth with Sydney spice 

Prawn toast with smoked corn salsa is the first to arrive, the prawn a little hard to detect beneath the rubble of sweet corn. We sip on demitasse cups holding a sweet coconut broth with "Sydney spice" - a blend that Luke revealed includes kaffir lime, curry and cinnamon.

Kingfish sashimi with ginger and eschallot is surprisingly sweet, refreshed with dabs of creamy Persian feta. We devour whole Italian pollastrini sardines on garlic toast and dive into a haystack of cos lettuce, chopped prawns, avocado and fresh mango salsa.


Glass Sydney crab omelette with miso mustard broth

Much of the Salt Grill menu replicates dishes available at Glass Brasserie, Salt Tokyo and the Palace Hotel in Melbourne. The crab omelette is one of Luke's signature dishes at Glass, a pillow of fluffy egg filled with crab and sweetened with a miso broth.


Rocket, blue cheese, pear and walnuts; crushed peas and mint sauce; 
truffle mashed potatoes; and roast curried pumpkin with feta and coriander


Rangers Valley sirloin, 300 days grain-fed Black Angus with Moroccan spice

There is barely any conversation when we tuck into our mains - the table falling into an ecstatic silence with each eye-widening chew of the soft and juicy Rangers Valley sirloin, cooked to a perfect state of rare.

Our myriad of sides include truffle mashed potatoes, minted peas, roasted curried pumpkin with feta and coriander, and a lively salad of rocket with blue cheese, pear and candied walnut pieces.


Luke's liquorice parfait with lime syrup and tuile

This was my first time trying Luke's signature liquorice parfait, a dessert which Luke claims will sway even the most ardent liquorice despisers. I love liquorice, particularly the Darrel Lea soft liquorice which Luke's recipe uses. It's an addictive dessert, the richness of the sabayon made more complex by the inclusion of liquorice and Pernod.


Floating island with fresh fruit and Frangelico anglaise; cheese platter;
Meredith sheep's milk yoghurt cheesecake with textures of passionfruit;
and the cheese trolley

We also have the Meredith sheep's milk yoghurt cheesecake as well as the floating island with fresh fruit and Franglico anglaise. And because gluttony loves company we manage to find room for a cheese platter as well, a decadent assortment of cheeses served with crackers, red grapes and lashings of truffled honey.


Salt Grill setting for lunch

Barely two days later we're back again for lunch. We had squeezed in another sneaky cheese platter at 11pm the night before, but really, who's counting?


House-baked bread; natural and tempura oysters ($2 surcharge each); and
charcuterie plate of bresaola, cappicola and prosciutto


It's surprising how easy it is to get used to three course lunches and dinners every day. We feast like royalty. Because we could. I mean, because we had to. Lunch commences with a mix of dishes to share, and we slide plump briny oysters down our throats followed by oysters coated in a crunchy tempura batter. There are shavings of bresaola, cappicola and prosciutto to savour and then delicate fillets of Ortiz sardines which we perch on rounds of garlic toast.


Spanish Ortiz Ondarroa anchovies served from the tin with garlic toast


Roasted beetroot with white anchovy and buffalo mozzarella panzanella

Here we move onto entrees, and between us all we've managed to cover almost the entire menu. Fat succulent scallops are seared to a caramelised crust and served on a bed of creamy blue cheese polenta. Char-grilled quail is crisp but tender, and tempura Spencer Gulf prawns are audibly crunchy.

I tuck into my salad of seasonal vegetables with a runny poached egg on top, but Minh's roasted beetroot salad with white anchovies, buffalo mozzarella and croutons is the table favourite.


Seared sea scallops with blue cheese polenta and truffle oil;
char-grilled quail with zucchini, currants, pinenuts and basil;

Salt salad with seasonal vegetables and poached hen's egg; and
tempura Spencer Gulf prawns with carrot, daikon and watercress


Grilled barramundi with mushroom sauce

Luke arrives at the table to serve up the two portions of grilled barramundi with mushroom sauce.


Sides: truffle and parmesan french fries; curried pumpkin with feta and coriander; rocket, blue cheese, pear and walnut salad; zucchini, bacon, parmesan and basil; green beans and shallots

Mains: Nolan Charolais T-bone steak (400g) grain fed and bbq rubbed;
grilled lobster tail with Moroccan spices ($22 surcharge); and
150 days grain-fed Black Angus fillet steak (200g)

I've gone for the T-bone steak, which comes with as many mustards as you like. I naturally ask for some of each. Our orders are rounded out with a Black Angus fillet steak, lobster tails and more side dishes than you can poke a fork at.


Pouring red wine jus onto the steak


Coconut rice pudding and mango

There's only five minutes until the start of Luke's stage show, but we still manage to find time -- and space -- for dessert. The coconut rice pudding with mango provides the perfect conclusion, splodges of comforting rice pudding scattered with fresh mango and a fruity mango sorbet.

We roll out the door and ponder... how long until dinner?

Grab Your Fork travelled on the Pacific Pearl as a guest of P&O Cruises.


On-board the Pacific Pearl, P&O Cruises

21 comments - Add some comment love

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posted by Helen (Grab Your Fork) on 8/24/2011 12:18:00 am


21 Comments:

  • At 8/24/2011 2:01 am, Anonymous chopinandmysaucepan said…

    The food here looks like a definite highlight as I would have found the other aspects of the cruise pretty boring too. Your T bone looks pretty awesome with all the different mustards.

     
  • At 8/24/2011 8:40 am, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I think it is interesting how you wrote that $30/ $40 is a "nominal" surcharge.

     
  • At 8/24/2011 9:16 am, Anonymous Sadie said…

    Thank you so much for these reviews and pictures. I'm cruising on this boat in October, and at first I was all "A cruise isn't exactly my demographic...but I'll try it..." Your honesty about the cruise, and your details about the food, are getting me way more enthused. Salt Grill? I am so there. Even though I'm not expecting Luke Mangan to stop by my table. ;D

     
  • At 8/24/2011 9:23 am, Anonymous betty said…

    wow impressive! &i think you should be counting lol i would be!

     
  • At 8/24/2011 10:16 am, Anonymous chocolatesuze said…

    cheese platter! with truffled honey! pick me!

     
  • At 8/24/2011 10:17 am, Anonymous Nic@diningwithastud said…

    I think that the lunch looks a lot better than dinner. That salad looks delicious!

     
  • At 8/24/2011 10:35 am, Anonymous gastronomous anonymous said…

    oh wow - the food looks absolutely impressive! can u believe i have never been on a cruise? but maybe tempted after reading your posts :)

     
  • At 8/24/2011 11:05 am, Anonymous Dumpling Girl said…

    What a treat. Everything looks sensational.

     
  • At 8/24/2011 11:23 am, Anonymous Jacq said…

    The food looks amazing! I think the family are considering going on a P&O cruise early next year so I hope the food is as tasty as it looks!

     
  • At 8/24/2011 11:27 am, Anonymous Keely aka The Richest Girl in Bondi said…

    I think a lot more people would be convinced to try out a cruise if they had a Salt Grill on board. It all looks divine -- it'd be too dangerous for me though with truffle and parmesan french fries only a hop, skip and a jump away!

     
  • At 8/24/2011 2:12 pm, Anonymous Hannah said…

    Mindpopoverwhelmed!! I always thought I hated licorice until I had licorice gelato in Florence last year, so I know I'd love that parfait :)

    Also, I want to live on the four vegie side dishes you captured in that one photo!

     
  • At 8/24/2011 8:08 pm, Blogger shaz said…

    Oh my goodness, lucky you! Wish I could have stowed away in your luggage. I'm a self avowed licorice hater but that parfait looks very appealing. All the food looks highly appealing. Tummy growling now...

     
  • At 8/24/2011 8:41 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Given that Luke Mangan's dishes at Glass Brasserie cost $26+ for entrees, $42 to 60 for mains, $9+ for sides and $15 to 20 for desserts, $30 and 40 sounds like a nominal surcharge to me. On the other hand, a $2 surcharge for the oysters sounds petty to me.

     
  • At 8/25/2011 8:06 pm, Blogger muppy said…

    i don't like liquorice, wonder if i would like it! hope you exercised off all this eating on the boat.....

     
  • At 8/25/2011 8:21 pm, Anonymous Cristine said…

    Look at that juicy steak! So mouth watering...good photos too.

     
  • At 8/25/2011 11:48 pm, Anonymous sara (Belly Rumbles) said…

    Great photos, love luke's presentation with the ancovies.

     
  • At 8/29/2011 6:29 pm, OpenID emploding said…

    I went to Salt a few weeks back, on the Pacific Jewel, and loved it. Mind you, being vegetarian means there was almost nothing for me to eat - so for me it was a bunch of side dishes for dinner. The side dishes were really yummy, but at least one vegetarian main option would have been nice. "Grill" doesn't need to mean "meat overload".

    I did however opt for the chocolate tasting plate for dessert, and it was amazing. My dining companion had the sheep's milk yoghurt cheesecake, and we both giggled like 10 year olds when we found pop-rocks scattered on the plate! Such an awesomely unexpected touch.

    To those commenting on the surcharge - on the ship you can dine for "free" in the restaurant or buffet, so to think you can be eating at Luke Mangans Salt Grill for only $40 is pretty amazing. You don't pay for the food - it's a flat $40 (minus the occasional excess, as noted in this review).

    The fact that your dining at an "exclusive" restaurant while at sea makes it all the more enjoyable, I think.

     
  • At 8/31/2011 2:30 pm, Blogger AlexandraJane said…

    Uber jealous!
    Looks like another fantastic experience - plus the guy in your first picture is a bit cute ;) heheh

     
  • At 10/10/2011 3:42 pm, Anonymous Suzie H said…

    I went to Salt on cruise 20-29th Sep, loved the entree then had Flounder battered which was like cutting leather, not nice, my friends tried it too and didnt like. When asked how our meal was i told him the batter was not good he sent the chef over and she told me every one has different tastes yet all 4 of us didnt like it. The dessert came with fingerprints all over. Not what i expected for my 5 star dinning experiance.

     
  • At 12/16/2011 12:17 am, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    well today we stepped off pacific pearl and we ate at salt twice, i had missed out on dining at salt on the jewel 2 years ago, busting for the licorice parfait, we booked for diner, my hubby was sceptical but went cos i nagged!!! half way thru dinner, he admitted it was the best dinner he had had in ages!!!the pumpkin side was unreal, the rocket salad-devine, the gnocci-the bets i have ever eaten, dessert was amazing, we had the licorice, cheesecake and choc plate-no complaints-pay the $40 and u wont be sorry, we ate there again 2 days later-same meals again-no complaints here! just do it-u wont be sorry-trust me!

     
  • At 2/19/2013 8:00 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Yum Yum Yum what more can i say. A must to have expecially the licorice parfait. We had to go back for the second time while on the PO ship.

     

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