I dined alone tonight in a venue where couples might be more comfortable. It didn’t bother me. Before making reservations at Le Champagne (or to clarify that, before my butler made reservations for me), I had decided to focus on the dining experience and to enjoy the food, the wine and the service at the only Relais & Chateaux restaurant at sea.
Still, it was interesting to dine alone in a restaurant where there were only a few other diners, all couples, who presumably were feeling a tad sorry for the guy sitting there at a table having dinner with no one but himself. Whether they actually felt that way or not, I’m not certain, because any feelings of being alone quickly dissipated when Dhiraj, the head waiter/maitre d’ in Le Champagne, seated me and began to reveal what turned out to be an evening of memorable dining and service.
Dish by dish, I enjoyed one of the best meals of my life, partly because I focused not on conversation but on the dining experience itself. I suppose you could say that I dined mindfully. I concentrated on each sip of champagne. I chewed slowly and thought about the textures and tastes. I admired the setting, especially a wall of quotes about champagne, and I was encouraged to have a second glass when I read what the Archbishop of Reims had to say about the consumption of bubbly in 1890: Champagne is a wonderful wine: One sometimes drinks too much, but never enough. (Another quote I took to heart: Champagne is not drinking. — David Niven).Quotes to live by in Le Champagne (click on the photo to enlarge it). © 2014 Ralph Grizzle
I took time to appreciate how the dishes had been prepared and how they were presented. I admired the skill of the servers and how Dhiraj and his team made dinner an event to be remembered through their professionalism, which had been perfected but not depersonalized. Dhiraj, for example, asked about my son, who he had met on a previous voyage and about other family members. We engaged in friendly chatter each time he returned to the table to check on me.
Dining at Le Champagne requires that you pay $30 per person (or rather charge it to your shipboard account), and I am glad of that. The fee keeps the room quiet and relaxed, not that this small ship suffers from being noisy and hurried in any of the four dining venues, but in Le Champagne the experience is taken to the Zen level.
And as to the fee, I’m not sure what you would pay for a six-course dinner in a Relais & Chateaux restaurant on land, but if you know of any where I can dine for $30 per person, please let me know — as soon as possible.
My dinner began with a complimentary glass of Monopole champagne, followed by a beautifully prepared Amuse-Bouche (in the form of a small tray of single, bite-sized hors d’oeuvres).
I then had a melt-in-your-mouth Red Tuna Carpaccio with three mustard flavors. Next came Grilled King Scallops in a cauliflower purée with confit tomatoes and hazelnut vinaigrette. Compliments to the chef for preparing the perfect mix of textures and flavors and taking them to an art form.
To wash down each of these three dishes, I enjoyed a complimentary glass of a light but zesty Sauvignon Blanc from Bordeaux.
That was the first 45 minutes.
Next came a Porcini Mushroom soup with Truffle Essence. Pure decadence. Dhiraj poured a beautiful red Bordeaux. After I finished the soup, he returned with a pan containing Normandy-style Dover Sole, which Dhiraj artfully deboned table-side. The sole had been prepared to perfection, delicate and soft on the palate.
I finished off with a Grand Marnier Centenaire Soufflé, as light as air, warm and appropriately rich.
I enjoyed my dinner alone. Still, the thought occurred to me that this was the type of experience that I would love to share. In fact, the night ended with a big bucket list item for me, and that was to cruise on Silversea with my family and friends. We could fill Le Champagne.
Next door to Le Champagne is the Humidor, a cigar lounge with fine cognacs and whiskies. I rarely smoke cigars, maybe once a year, if that, but it seemed to be the perfect way to cap the evening, and so I went inside.
The setting was masculine, a darkish room with rich leather furniture and wood-paneled walls. I took a seat and chose the smallest of cigars, a cigarillo, and not being a huge lover of cognacs or whiskies, I sipped on the red wine that I had brought along from dinner next door.
A few others wandered in and took seats nearby. We talked about travel, about our lives back home, about the horrendous weather in the United Kingdom and in the Northeastern United States. Those places not only seemed a long way away. They were a long way away.
My night had been magical, and I returned to my suite, stepped out on the balcony, looked up at the diamond-studded sky and thought of words attributed (erroneously perhaps) to Dom Perignon, the French Benedictine monk who made important contributions to the production of champagne. “Come quickly!” he was said to exclaim upon tasting his first champagne. “I am drinking stars.”
|Day 1||Boarding Silver Shadow In Bali|
|Day 2||Riding Elephants In Bali|
|Day 3||Lombok, Indonesia|
|Day 4||Probollingo, Indonesia|
|Day 5||Surabaya, Indonesia|
|Day 6||Borobudur, Indonesia|
|Day 7||Semarang, Indonesia|
|Day 8||Jakarta, Indonesia|
|Day 9||Sea Day|
|Day 11||Disembarking In Singapore|