The collaboration has Roux – well-recognised as an expert judge on BBC's ‘MasterChef: The Professionals’ and appearing on ‘Hell’s Kitchen’ starring renowned chef Gordon Ramsay – work alongside Cunard’s culinary development chefs. Together, they will create an exclusive gala menu for the Queens Grill restaurant aboard Queen Anne, plus a new menu for the ship’s Golden Lion pub.
The Golden Lion menu, currently in development, will feature refined pub favourites, reimagined by the famed chef. It will be introduced on Queen Anne in May 2024, before being rolled out to the existing fleet later in the year.
'A Taste of Things to Come'
Seatrade Cruise News visited The Wigmore, a modern London pub, to catch up with Roux on the inspiration behind the dishes, and hear from Cunard’s VP of brand and product, Lee Powell, about the collaboration.
‘It’s a complete collaboration,’ Roux said during the ‘A Taste of Things to Come’ celebration, referring to Cunard as an ‘iconic brand’ that ‘stands out’ for its beauty.
Comfort foods are his favourite dishes: ‘My mum’s shepard’s pie, for example, things like that... you can relate to. It’s easy to eat and comforting.’ Asked whether comfort food will be the essence of his creations for Queen Anne or more lavish dishes, he said: ‘Both. Some of it will be comfort food and others will be a little bit more refined and challenging... But not gimmicky. I don't do gimmicks.'
And on what goes into his dishes, ‘You can't make food with rubbish ingredients. That is for sure. It's very important to start off with good quality ingredients, properly sourced and responsibly sourced.’
The chef is especially passionate about responsibly sourced produce, his own father serving the meat of animals he'd reared and ingredients from the garden as Roux was growing up. Asked if he sees demand for more responsibly sourced ingredients, the chef responded: ‘Absolutely, 100%.’ It is one of the values that the line also shares; ‘I certainly wouldn't be associated with [Cunard] if that wasn't the case. In fact, we use a lot of the same suppliers… It’s very reassuring.’
‘Working with the best’
A discussion and Q&A involving Roux and Powell for journalists and members of the travel trade had Powell provide reasons for collaborating: ‘Well, quite simply, we like to work with the very best.’
He explained, ‘We’re really keen to introduce brand-new experiences onto the ship, but also evolve some of our much-loved experiences. And the Golden Lion pub is one of those much-loved experiences that guests know very well… The challenge was, how do we inject something new and exciting and reenergize that space?’ Inspired by The Wigmore and its dishes crafted by Roux, he said, ‘We are also very interested in that collision of casual dining, relaxed dining experiences, but underpinned by real culinary expertise.’
A ’flavour’ of the menus
The dishes are being worked on and won’t be ready until autumn, at least, but passengers can expect food in the Golden Lion ‘freshly made every day, and maybe changing with the seasons; the toasties, as well, they have to be fantastic and bring wonderful cheese, made to order,’ states Roux.
Culture and destinations visited will be a major influence on the selection of dishes. ‘Travelling is an inspiration for me, and I love to eat locally, wherever I am. I shun the resorts and I eat what the locals are eating. And that's really part of my inspirations for the menus,’ Roux remarks. ‘For example, if we're travelling to New York, that toasty might have a flavour of New York; the Scotch egg, if we're travelling to the Mediterranean, will have Mediterranean flavours to it.’ Tweaked according to where the ship is sailing, it might be a curried goat pie served in The Golden Lion when the ship sails the Caribbean. ‘That really excites me: I've never tried one, but I want to, and why not! So that's the enthusiasm that I'm going to bring to the menu…’
Roux is especially eager to work on the toasty, crumpets (‘great vehicles for putting stuff on!’) and salmon curing.
As for desserts, they will be ‘sticky, sweet and delicious,’ great British puddings, such as apple crumble and treacle tart, as well as soft serve ice cream. ‘Although that's not a particular pub dessert,’ said Roux, ‘I think you can do so much with great soft serve ice cream. And it's fun, as well, because you have lots of different ingredients that can go in…’
He added: ‘We've got a lot of work lined up in the next few months, some tastings and recipe development. So it's pretty exciting.’
New venues revealed
Cunard also lifted the lid on four additional dining experiences on Queen Anne – Aji Wa, Aranya, Sir Samuels, and Tramonto – offering more choice than ever before.
Three of these original venues will be alternative evening dining options, available for a supplement, complementing the inclusive options for lunch or dinner in Tramonto and the Golden Lion.
A new concept for Cunard, Aji Wa will serve creative Japanese cuisine influenced by the seasons, featuring sushi and an a la carte menu for lunch and dinner, with an additional option to participate in a special omikase ‘chef’s choice’ tasting menu in the evening.
In another new taste direction for the line, Aranya will take passengers on a journey through the rich spice flavours of India with menus curated by experts in their field. It’s described as a multi-sensory experience, bringing vibrant flavours and luxury interiors, which includes floor-to-ceiling windows for striking views.
High-end steakhouse, Sir Samuels will showcase the best of British and Australian beef and seafood, complemented by an exceptional wine programme. Selected for their provenance, steaks will be of high quality. Alongside a vast array of beef options, there will also be a wide range of fish and seafood dishes, plus the produce has been sourced responsibly to bring the freshest flavours to the table.
Tramonto will transport passengers to Mediterranean shores, with a menu full of fresh flavours and an opportunity to dine alfresco while watching the sun set. They will have exclusive use of dining appropriate to their stateroom type, from the grand two-tiered Britannia restaurant, the largest Britannia Club restaurant in the fleet, to the opulent Princess Grill and Queens Grill.
Angus Struthers, acting SVP, Cunard, remarked, ‘We’re excited to share a flavour of what will be served on board Queen Anne in 2024. Cunard is renowned for high-quality dining options, and we’re delighted to be working with the very best chefs, at the top of their different culinary fields to offer such a wide range of dining options to our guests. From embracing the best of Japan in our new sushi and sake bar to dining al-fresco in Tramonto or enjoying a pub meal in the Golden Lion, there really will be something for everyone.'
Roux added, ‘It is an absolute privilege to be working with Cunard’s hugely talented and passionate culinary development chefs as we countdown to the launch of their newest ship Queen Anne. For me, there is no better recipe than blending high quality ingredients with elegant execution to create unforgettable experiences for diners, and I am incredibly excited to showcase our elevated, reimagined pub classics to Cunard guests very soon.’
Le Gavroche to take up residency on Queen Mary 2
A number of years in the making, Queen Mary 2’s ‘Festival of Food and Wine’ trans-Atlantic voyage will see Roux’s restaurant Le Gavroche take up residency in fine dining restaurant Verandah. Powell said of the journey that gets underway September 22, ‘Very, very excitingly, for four- or five days of that seven-day voyage, guests will be able to book a table at Le Gavroche.’
As part of that development, two to three years in the making, Cunard last year invited Roux onto Queen Mary 2 to work with the line in the Norwegian fjords, to find out about the kitchens and meet the chef teams on board. ‘Also, it was an opportunity for our guests to meet Michel, as well. It was super exciting to see the theatres packed out. They wanted to hear from the man himself, to see the man in action with the culinary demonstrations that were performed in the Royal Court Theatre,’ Powell remarks.
During the voyage, Roux introduced Cunard to the Norwegian Seafood Council so that the ship was able to procure high-quality local produce. It is a ‘priority’ for Cunard to ensure its supply chain is as sustainable as possible – that food is responsibly sourced, as well as locally sourced.
Powell said trends are reflected from land, listing a heightened awareness of wellness, balance and an increase in the number of people choosing vegan and vegetarian menus. He noted ‘a continuous increased expectation of quality on board the ships,’ with passengers also interested in ‘the story of the dish,’ taking into account sustainability factors.
‘We are a complex organisation, we are sourcing locally from Japan, from Australia, from the US and Europe. So there's lots of scrutiny currently underway to make sure those global supply chains are sustainable… We're all very mindful as individuals, and in terms of the impact that we are making.’
Roux equally believes that ‘as a chef whose high profile is in the media, it is my duty to actually… do what I preach,’ which means a focus on sustainability and local ingredients, where possible.
As for Roux’s main responsibilities during the sailing, ‘When I'm on board, I will be behind in the galley, making sure that everything is perfect. And also meeting and greeting people, and possibly doing cooking demonstrations, Q&As…’ The cruise may additionally see the chef going ashore to participate in visits with passengers, with Roux set to be ‘very, very much involved’ during the voyage.