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Surf n Turf

Cruises

Royal Caribbean Anthem of the Seas

Royal Caribbean has just launched its new game-changing Quantum Class ship Anthem of the Seas, sailing for just one season from the UK.  The world’s third largest cruise ship is truly impressive with cutting-edge technology and a number of exciting new features.

A few weeks ago, I attended a two-night pre-inaugural sailing onboard Anthem of the Seas from Southampton, voyaging around the English Channel.  It was a rare opportunity to be the first to experience the onboard accommodation, dining and entertainment and I was blown away by just how amazing this ship is.

Anthem of the Seas boasts a ‘curb to cruise in 10 minute’ policy with its clever new online check-in system that allows you to upload your identity photo in advance.  Happily it went as smoothly as promised for us – check-in and security were a breeze and before we knew it we were boarding the ship and scanning the corridors for our stateroom.

Our spacious Deluxe Ocean View Balcony Room on deck six was beautifully designed in a palette of royal blue and cream with light and dark wood highlights.  There are some stylish design touches that give it the feel of a boutique hotel room, such as a matching geometric pattern on the lamps and curtains, bold cushions, a circular mirror and vibrant artwork.

Room features include a super-comfy double bed, long sofa, writing desk, flatscreen Smart TV, two wardrobes, drawer unit, minibar and a kettle with tea and coffee.  The best part of the room is of course the balcony with a table and two chairs to relax and enjoy those sunset views.

The bathroom is top notch with a walk-in shower with good water pressure, single sink, storage space, plenty of towels and face cloths, bathroom products produced by Gilchrist & Soames and a hairdryer.  Before cruising, I didn’t have high hopes for stateroom bathrooms, but Royal Caribbean and its sister Celebrity Cruises have always impressed with the facilities and reasonable amount of space.

Dining is a massive highlight of cruising, with most conversations focusing on what you’ve eaten, how much you’ve eaten and where you’re eating that evening.  Anthem of the Seas features so many dining options that it’s impossible to get bored – in fact, you would need a lengthy sailing to experience most of them.

An exciting new initiate for the complimentary restaurants is Dynamic Dining, where guests can have dinner on rotation at three main restaurants – American Icon Grill, Chic and the Asian-inspired Silk.  We dined in American Icon Grill on our second evening and enjoyed a special taster menu of dishes from all three restaurants, such as Baked Artichokes with Monterey Jack cheese, Surf and Turf Filet Mignon with Grilled Prawns, Tarte Tatin and Baked Cheesecake.

We also enjoyed a fabulous lunch in the rustic, California-inspired Coastal Kitchen, exclusively for Suite Class guests and Pinnacle members.  Our menu included a selection of charcuterie and flatbread starters followed by Herb-Crusted Chicken Breast with roasted squash, Provencal tomatoes and lemon essence and a selection of desserts including Honey Baklava, Tiramisu and Cafe Con Leche.

Windjammer Marketplace, the all-day restaurant described by Royal Caribbean as a ‘global culinary pavillion’ (it’s so much more than simply a buffet) is a foodie focal point.  The numerous stations offer high quality international dishes, pasta and paninis made to order by the chefs, fresh salads and antipasti and delicious waffles and pancakes at breakfast.

There’s even an in-house bakery with bountiful viennoiserie station, a bespoke celebration cake ordering service and a Coca-Cola Freestyle machine.

The two-floor Promenade feels like a mini village, filled with complimentary and speciality restaurants such as traditional pizzeria Sorrento, Promenade Café, Michael’s Genuine Pub by Miami’s Michael Schwartz, Jamie’s Italian, the theatrical Wonderland and Japanese sushi bar Izumi, where we had dinner on the first night.

We shared plates of delicious chicken kara-age, pork gyoza, crispy shrimp and avocado maki and Champagne-poached lobster rolls – perfect for a light and interesting meal.

Other speciality restaurants include The Grande Restaurant, Chops Grille, Prime Table and the calorie-controlled Devinly Decadence by author and chef Devin Alexander.

Of course, there’s plenty more to do onboard other than eating your way around the ship (as fun as that is).  The pool deck is ideal for soaking up the sun with outdoor and indoor pools, whirlpools, an adults-only solarium, jogging track and the very cool FlowRider 40-foot long surf simulator.

For the particularly daring, there’s the RipCord by iFly skydiving simulator, outdoor rock climbing and the North Star observation pod, offering 360-degree views from 300 feet above sea level.

To take it down a notch or two, pay a visit to the enormous, maze-like Vitality Spa, where you can have treatments ranging from a simple and effective massage to acupuncture and even fillers performed by qualified doctors.  I kept it low-key with a refreshing Elemis Tri-Enzyme Facial to brighten and resurface my skin.

SeaPlex Centre is a real playground for both adults and kids and we loved spending time there.  The main area is multi-purpose, so at different times of the day, you can have a whirl on the bumper cars, roller skate, play football or dance to DJs when it turns into a nightclub at night (Lauren Pope was spinning on our sailing).

The Xbox lounge has great games and comfy sofas, plus you can battle it out at table tennis, air hockey and the retro arcade games.  There’s also the SeaPlex Dog House within the centre for refueling with a gourmet hot dog between games.

One of my favourite part of the ship was the Two70 theatre with ground-breaking Vistarama technology that turns a two-floor sea view into any scene, real or imagined.  There’s also the delightful adjoining Café Two 70 offering fresh salads and deli sandwiches made to order as well as cakes and pastries, so it really feels like a social hub.

Royal Caribbean has partnered with digital innovators Moment Factory to produce Spectra’s Cabaret exclusively for Anthem of the Seas, performed each night in Two70.  This truly spectacular, edgy show will change your perceptions of cruise cabaret with it’s dazzling visuals, contemporary music and stunning choreography (you may also recognise Spectra as Raven O of The Box London).

On the second night, we watched the Olivier Award-winning We Will Rock You in the Anthem Theatre.  I thought it would be an abridged version, but it was in fact the full-length musical straight from London’s West End.

To make the night last even longer, have a drink in the rock ‘n’ roll bar Music Hall, listen to live jazz in the intimate Schooner Bar or sip a cocktail created entirely by robots at the state-of-the-art Bionic Bar.

Royal Caribbean Anthem of the Seas is a triumph of technology, however the human touch is still there and all of the staff that we encountered were so welcoming and friendly.  With such a focus on digital innovation and world dining, it is definitely my kinda ship and I hope to have the chance to sail on Anthem of the Seas again.

Anthem of the Seas is sailing from the UK until October.  For more information and booking, visit: www.royalcaribbean.com

Chérie City was a guest of Royal Caribbean

All photos by Chérie City 

London, Restaurants

The Grill On The Market – West Smithfield, London

Smithfield Market is one of my favourite foodie areas in London, as it has a real  ’old world’ atmosphere with its cobbled streets and Victorian architecture.  I’ve had some great dinners in this neighbourhood, so expectations are always high when trying a new grill restaurant.

The Grill on the Market overlooks West Smithfield and is much larger than it appear from outside, with a large yet homely bar, two dining rooms and a private dining space.  Formerly the Smithfield Bar & Grill, it is now part of the Blackhouse group, which also has branches in Glasgow, Manchester, Leeds and Cheshire.

When we arrived, the place was already buzzing and filled with the mouth-watering aromas of grilled meat.  We were sat in an curved leather booth, which made it much more intimate and cosy than a regular face-to-face table.

The restaurant was very festive, with elegant garlands and baubles adorning the walls and live music from an excellent jazz pianist, singing a mix of swinging Christmas songs and old classics.  It really added to the warm atmosphere and I would love to see more live jazz in London restaurants…if it’s done well.

I started with the Baby Scallop, Garlic and Bacon Salad (£6.50).  The baby scallops were plump, soft and perfectly bite-size.  The mixed leaves with a garlic, herb and olive oil dressing and thin matchsticks of crispy bacon went perfectly with the scallops.  It was a light and tasty dish – perfect before an indulgent steak.

Steven went for the Salt and Pepper Chicken kebabs (£6.75).  The chicken was tender and well-marinated and came with a sweet chili ginger dipping sauce, topped with fresh chili and spring onions.

The cocktail list at The Grill on the Market is a tempting mix of classics with a twist and the restaurant’s own inventive concoctions.  My Ginger Sidecar (£7.50) – Martell VS, King’s Ginger Liqueur, Ginger puree, sweetened lemon juice and Bittertruth orange flower water – was absolutely delicious.  It was sweet, aromatic and packed full of potent ginger.

Steven ordered a Smoky Old Fashioned (£7.50) – Woodford Reserve, maple syrup, oak smoke and an ice ball.  The cocktail was served in a glass bottle filled with smoke and our waiter advised to swirl the liquid around the bottle for an extra smoky taste.  It tasted oaky, smooth, slightly sweet and was very easy to drink.

For the main course, it had to be the Fillet Steak (200g) (£22.50) with a skewer of garlic prawns (£6).  My medium-cooked steak was thick, tender, succulent and full of juice.  The garlic prawns were so fresh with a subtle garlic taste.  They went so well together, that regular steak will just never be the same.

The large portion of triple-cooked skin-on chips were perfectly cooked and the Béarnaise sauce was creamy, buttery and indulgent.  I couldn’t finish the entire bowl of chips, so I’d recommend sharing, if you both order steak.

Steven’s Traditional Fish and Chips (£13.50) was exceptionally good.  The two fillets of cod were fresh, succulent and covered in a crisp, golden batter that wasn’t too oily or heavy.  The smashed minted peas were more interesting than regular mushy peas and other extras were a tangy tartar sauce and a tiny jar of pickled onions.

My Red Velvet Cake with kumquat clotted cream (£5.95) was disappointing, as the flavours didn’t stand out after two courses including lots of garlic, however the texture was pleasant.  Unfortunately the cake had absorbed the aromas of the savory food in the kitchen, so it didn’t taste quite as it should.

I had serious envy of Steven’s Sticky Toffee Pudding with vanilla ice cream (£6), which was the best that a pudding can be.  It was light and spongy with tiny flecks of oats and a scrumptious, buttery toffee sauce – not at all stodgy or overly sweet.

We finished with another round of floral, fragrant coctkails.  My Mint and Violet Crush (£7) – Bacardi Superior, Briottet Violett, mint, sugar syrup and fresh lime juice topped with lemonade – tasted like a Parma Violet Mojito.  It was delicately perfumed and the floral aromas perfectly complimented the citrus zing of the lime.

Steven’s Rosewater Collins (£7) – Bacardi Superior, Briottet Rose, sweetened lemon juice, Bittertruth Rose flower water and soda – was just as refreshing, with lots of lemon and a pretty pink colour.  Both drinks would be particularly cooling and delicious in the summer.

The Grill on the Market is perfect for a fun, relaxed, unashamedly carnivorous evening, with friendly service in a comfortable setting.  It’s one of those places that you go with friends, family or your partner and while the steak with all the extras can push the main meal towards the £30 mark, the burgers and fish and chips are more affordable yet substantial options.

For more information and booking, visit: www.blackhouse.uk.com

Chérie City was a guest of The Grill on the Market

Photos by Chérie City and The Grill on the Market

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