For those with a passion for the Art De Vivre and Haute Cuisine, few occasions could match the gala lunch held on 4th August 2014 to celebrate jointly the 20th anniversary of Silversea and the 60th anniversary of Relais & Chateaux. These Rolls Royce brands in their respective markets of ultra-luxury cruising and high end hotels and gourmet restaurants have enjoyed a reputation for quality and service that is second to none.
With a host of accolades including Best Cruise Line, granted twice by The Guardian and The Observer Travel Awards, and Best Luxury Cruise Provider from Travel Bulletin Star Awards (5 times), Silversea Cruises, with its intimate, all suite vessels, combines “large ship amenities…with an atmosphere of conviviality and casual elegance.”
Its fleet now comprises five classic and three expeditionary ships, with itineraries embracing all seven continents, including the polar regions, with over 450 destinations.
In a press briefing, Manfredi Lefebvre d’Ovidio, Chairman of Silversea, commented on the expansion in cruising which is no longer viewed purely as the ideal retirement holiday. The average age of guests has fallen from 60 to 47, with all age groups viewing cruising as very good value for money. In the light of these factors, together with Silversea’s continued success, plans for a new classic vessel are in their initial stages.
At the same briefing Jean-François Ferret, CEO of Relais & Châteaux, spoke of its shared values and increasing partnership with Silversea, including restaurants, cookery lessons, and chef invitation programmes. Avoiding the terms “luxury” and “expensive,” which fail to do justice to the Relais &Chateaux experience, he stressed instead the “authenticity… unique moments.. …and exceptional harmony” in accommodation and fine dining. Certainly, with 320 Michelin stars to be found in the 500 establishments located across 60 countries, the gastronomic credentials of Relais & Chateaux are beyond doubt. Moreover, the collaboration with Silversea offers an unparalleled opportunity to complete R & C innovative collection of Routes du Bonheur itineraries by sea.
Sharing the same target clientele, the partnership of land and sea brands is manifest in the Collection du Monde, signature dishes of the Grands Chefs – the finest across the world honoured by Relais &Chateaux – served in the main dining rooms across the Silversea’s fleet. Uniquely, a separate Relais & Châteaux restaurant, Le Champagne, is also to be found on each ship. In this alternative dining venue, seasonally inspired, carefully sourced dishes, flavoured to reflect the voyages’ destinations, are served to discerning guests.
The setting for the gala lunch was the Silver Cloud, the first ship in the Silversea fleet. Moored alongside HMS Belfast, next to Tower Bridge, with the towering pinnacle of the Shard in the background, guests were ferried across the Thames from Tower Pier, accessing the cruise liner via the Second World War battleship. They were given a tour of the accommodation and public areas of the vessel, which even twenty years ago represented the height of ultra-luxurious cruising, before a champagne reception followed by an exceptional lunch. This was prepared by double Michelin starred and Grand Chef Michael Caines, MBE, Executive Chef of Gidleigh Park in Devon, and Rudi Scholdis, Culinary Director of Silversea cruises. Both welcomed guests with short impromptu speeches.
On a hot summer’s day, chilled Gazpacho proved an ideal first course. Served in a martini glass – just the right amount for a starter – this light, intensely flavoured and highly refreshing soup was lifted by a judicious addition of basil oil, which accentuated the marriage of tomato with the fragrant herb. Tiny cucumber balls enlivened this Spanish classic with a crisp, contrasting texture.
A warm salad of native lobster was perfectly timed to retain the inherent sweet and succulent qualities of the shellfish. A dressing of cardamom, lime and mango vinaigrette was well balanced, showing consummate skill in the use of spicing. This was also seen in the curried mayonnaise which, in less judicious hands, could easily have overpowered the whole dish. A light bodied Pinot Grigio del Venezie 2013, soft and light on the palate, with its tropical fruit notes was a good match for this luxurious but light salad.
The main course of Dartmoor beef comprised a medium rare fillet paired with a slow cooked, meltingly unctuous cheek. The differing textures and flavours of these cuts complemented each other perfectly, providing a real celebration of first rate regional produce. Celeriac puree, horseradish confit and wild mushrooms, added rich, earthy elements, whilst a deeply flavoured but not over-reduced red wine sauce brought these harmonious components together. The medium bodied Valpolicella Superiore Ripasso 2011tasting of redcurrant, cherry and spicy oak, was both easy to drink and complex, making it an ideal match with the beef.
Finally, a visually stunning assiette of raspberry desserts showed all the skills expected of a kitchen at this level. A creamy, delicate mousse of ethereal lightness was topped with an intense miroir gel which balanced sweetness and acidity in equal measure. A crisp macaroon and a velvety smooth quenelle of raspberry sorbet gave contrasting textures and temperatures, with garnishes of pistachio cream nodules and crushed nuts completing this tour de force of dessert.
Good coffee and petits fours completed this memorable meal, worthy of the occasion and a testament to the unimpeachable skills and creativity of the chefs. Fine Dining Guide was delighted and privileged to be invited to this prestigious event and is confident both organisations will move from strength to strength, celebrating major joint anniversaries in years to come