Sunday, 22 May 2016

P&O Cruises A610 A611 Azura 30th April - 21st May 2016

Anyone reading my blog, will know that I have done all my cruises with P&O, dating back to 1975 and 1976, when I was onboard Canberra with my family, when my cruise addiction began.   After finally persuading my husband Steven to go on his first cruise in 1999, the rest is history.

We booked a back to back cruise on Azura, taking in a 7 night Fjords cruise, then a 14 night Canaries cruise.   On embarkation day, I received a detailed Special Dietary Needs letter from the Senior Restaurant Manager, which for new cruisers must be very comforting.

At our first dinner in the Oriental Restaurant, we liked our waiters Gilbert and Rupesh so much, we asked Restaurant Manager Venkat, if we could have the same table on the second cruise, which he kindly arranged.   We were also looked after by two wine waiters, Lucas and Vinod and along with our waiters and Venkat, they were one of the best teams we have had the pleasure to encounter on a P&O Cruise.

I was looked after by two diet chefs, Rohan the first cruise and George the second and I was impressed by them both.   I am not sure passengers appreciate the role of the diet chef, it is a very responsible position, especially where allergies are concerned and with the number of diets, on each dinner sitting, it must be intense pressure.

I was looked after by two excellent Head Waiters who took my order each night, Krishna the first cruise and Sushant the second.   I avoided all bread onboard the first week, as on our Arcadia cruise last year, on the two occasions I ate bread, I was quite poorly, so I emailed shoreside diet reservations about it when I returned home.   They contacted the Head Baker on Arcadia, who confirmed soya was an ingredient, suggesting I asked about an alternative when I next cruised.

Steven kept urging me to ask Sushant about bread, so I did and he liased with the Head Baker, who to my amazement, suggested he make me four bread rolls each day, which could be sent to whichever dining venue I visited.   You have to consider the number of passengers they are catering for each day and yet they made me four bread rolls daily, that is service going beyond the call of duty.

I had a late breakfast each day, which included a wide selection of fresh fruits, prunes, dried fruits, cereals and of course my bread rolls, but I am sure if I wanted a hot option, this would have been no problem.   Lunch was usually a jacket potato with loads of salad or being a Northern lass, my love for chip butties won me over many a day.

I had a soup course each night including tomato, broccoli and almond, sweet potato, mushroom, vegetable consomme, celeriac and apple, parsnip, minestrone, the list goes on, but for some reason my photos were not very clear, but rest assured they were delicious.

Below is a selection of the starters I had during dinner on both cruises.

Tempura Vegetables with Sweet Chilli Sauce

Vegetable Pakora with Mint & Coriander Chutney

Houmous Salad (I asked for plenty houmous!)

Vegetable Sushi with Ginger, Wasabi & Chilli Sauce

Dolmade, Babaganoush & Houmous

Soba Noodles with Peanuts & Sesame

Vegetables & Potato Wedges with Romesco Dip

Mushroom & Pimento Salad

Confit Tomato & Avocado Salad with Balsamic Syrup

Onto main courses, which most nights I had with a salad, plain vegetables or chips, the pasta was made with eggs, but I was quite happy with the gluten and egg free pasta.

Garlic Mushroom Pasta

Vegetable Brochette with Spicy Tomato Sauce

Mushroom Risotto

Chickpea & Vegetable Curry

Spicy Stir Fry with Vegetable Rice

Sweet Cherry Tomato Pasta

Mushroom & Asparagus Stir Fry

Smoky Vegetable Cassoulet

Vegetable Tacos with Guacamole

Saag Aloo

Porcini Mushroom & Truffle Pasta

I am not a sweet toothed person and most nights I was usually far too full to manage anything more than fruit salad or sorbet or sometimes nothing, although Krishna and Sushant both asked me many times about ordering a dessert.   Swedish Glace ice-cream is always available, but as its made with soya, its off limits for me and although I had thought of packing some cartons of Oatly cream, I forgot.   

I see improvements being made, on the dietary requirements front, each time I cruise, with new innovative and interesting vegetarian menus and clearly labelled vegan options being introduced, long may it continue.

Atul Kochhar's Sindhu Restaurant onboard P&O Cruises Azura

I dined at Sindhu on Arcadia last September see here, when Atul himself was on board, so I was keen to visit Sindhu on Azura during our recent cruise.

Part of the restaurant runs parallel to a busy walk through, so as we were sat near an opening looking out onto this area, it felt like you were sitting by a busy road, with constant traffic going past, maybe the atmosphere is better further inside the restaurant.

I contacted the restaurant manager regarding my vegan diet and allergies and was told it would not be a problem and they would amend that night's menu.

Our waiter brought poppadums and chutneys to the table and told me I could only have the chutneys.   I only recently became aware that poppadums were made from lentils, but I was not particularly impressed, who wants to sit and eat just chutneys, some crisps or salad could easily have replaced the poppadums.

We were given a pre-starter onion bhaji served with a green sauce which I left, as I was unsure if it contained dairy and no explanation was given and to be honest, I was a little reluctant to ask, as service was not particularly friendly.

My starter, tandoori cauliflower parcel with piccalilli and smoked tomato chutney, was the same as I had on Arcadia last year, but just look at the difference, it looks a completely different dish.

 Sindhu on Azura 

  Sindhu on Arcadia

Main course was vegetable biryani, accompanied by vegetable curry, which made up for the starter, as it was delicious, very filling and I loved the authentic presentation.

When it came to the dessert course, sadly non was offered, not even fruit salad or sorbet and with a cold not particularly endearing service, from the front of house staff, I decided not to ask.

The experience was a complete contrast to our September visit, which makes me think that Atul's presence on board had an influence.   There was a cover charge of £20 each and both myself and my husband thought that on this occasion, it was not value for money. This was the only disappointing dining experience onboard and we decided not to make another visit during our 21 night cruise.

PSI Restaurante Vegetariano Alameda Street Lisbon 19th May 2016

PSI  Restaurante Vegetariano is a beautiful oasis, in the middle of the busy city of Lisbon, in the Pela Paz gardens, blessed by the Dalai Lama.

Yasser is the current owner, but PSI was started by his mother fifteen years ago, so its well established and I kicked myself for not finding it sooner, on our many visits to Lisbon.   There is seating both outside and inside and so we chose a table in the garden, as it was a lovely sunny day.

We were looked after by the always smiling Solange from Montenegro, who was so friendly and helpful and brought us the quite extensive menu see here with many vegan options, so it was difficult to make a choice, they all sounded so good.

We chose harissa olives and beet houmous with vegetable crudite to share, which were delicious and so colourful on the plate.

Steven chose Goan Xacuti vegetable and tofu curry, served with red chilli paste and rice and I chose the falafel salad, served with chapati.   We loved our main courses, such fresh ingredients, well executed and fantastic presentation, so you wanted to dive in and eat.

We were really full, but I could not resist the vegan raw passon fruit cheesecake, with oat base and mango coulis.   It was a big piece but I demolished the whole lot, it was so good, I could not bear to leave any.

We had a chat with Yasser, who explained how PSI came into existence and how they made all the food from scratch, including the curry pastes, falafels, desserts, everything in fact.   You could see the love and attention, that went into each dish and in its idyllic setting, you certainly did not feel the hustle bustle of Lisbon just ten minutes down the road.

So any vegans out there visiting Lisbon, you really must check out PSI, I will definitely be returning, sooner rather than later.

The V Factor Calle la Porra Arrecife 16th May 2016

The V Factor is a quirky 100% vegan eatery and I went for lunch, whilst in port on a cruise, you cannot miss it, with its bright sign and chalk written wall outside clearly saying 'Vegan Food'.


The decor inside is like something I have never seen, with reused tyres for tables, old newspapers as wallpaper, but the place had charm and was totally chilled.

The menu is extensive and the staff immediately realised we were struggling with the menus, so brought us some English versions.

I explained about my allergies, which was dealt with in such a friendly helpful way, so I chose a vegan omelette baguette and Steven had an oat burger, with a salad to share.   We were very impressed with the food and its presentation, it was all delicious and freshly made.

We could not resist dessert, so chocolate cake for Steven and Gofio a traditional Canarian dessert made of ground corn and banana for me, both excellent as you can see from the photos.

We had a chat with one of the guys, who said they make everything, from their own burgers, seitan, hot dogs, cakes and they had found local suppliers, who would make vegan bread for them.

The V Factor was one of my favourite finds, in what is a desert for vegans in the Canaries.