SPECIALTY RESTAURANT REVIEW
THE TODD ENGLISH
QUEEN MARY 2
Richard H. Wagner
I had been to the Todd English specialty restaurant four or five
times before during my 20 previous voyages on Queen Mary 2
but I had not become a regular patron. My overall impression
was that it was a nice alternative venue but not sufficiently
attractive to lure me away from dining in the ship's main dining
room, the Britannia Restaurant, on a regular basis. The Britannia
is a grand room with good food and good service done in an
elegant traditional style. In addition, it is a surprisingly friendly
place. Guests who sit down at a table together as strangers
frequently arise as friends. Consequently, my previous visits to
the Todd English had been mostly at the behest of friends who
wanted to try something different.
Now that I am writing about passenger ship specialty
restaurants, I felt that I should go back to the Todd English and
give it the same type of evaluation that I would give the specialty
restaurant on any other ship. Thus, I approached this experience
with a blank slate rather than try to compare the restaurant to
how it had been on previous cruises.
I did, however, start off with some basic knowledge of the
restaurant. I understood that the point of the Todd English
Restaurant on QM2 is to be different from, not superior to,
QM2's other dining venues. The restaurant's distinctiveness
comes from preparing the meals according to the style of
celebrity chef Todd English.
In order to become a celebrity chef, a chef must have a
distinctive style. It sets him or her apart from people who
simply cook food. It is what earns them awards. It also means
that his or her cooking will not be to everyone's taste. Thus, in
order to report on this restaurant I would have to come to
understand Chef English's style.
To help me with this quest, QM2 Executive Chef Mark
Oldroyd selected and prepared four appetizers, four main
courses, and three desserts from the Todd English Menu (See
accompanying article "The Chef's Choice"). While the primary
purpose of this preparation was so I could photograph the dishes,
I was also given the opportunity to sample each dish. This gave
me a broad understanding of the restaurant and Chef English's
style. I found each item to be excellent. Indeed, some were
more than excellent.
Still, the basis for this review was to be a lunch and a dinner.
The lunch and dinner menus in the Todd English are
significantly different and thus should yield different
experiences. Would the meals provided under real world
conditions be as good as the dishes prepared under the direct
supervision of QM2's top chef?
Located at the aft end of the superstructure on Deck 8, the Todd
English is decorated in a way that is both sophisticated and
whimsical at the same time. One enters through a circular foyer
that is reminiscent of an Arabian tent. The walls are grey and
have amphora that look as if they were recovered from some
ancient ship wreck hanging in frames. In the center of the room
is a deep red circular cushion.
After passing the maitre d's podium at the door, one comes to
an oval shaped bar. Here, guests can enjoy tappas along with
glass of champagne or a drink while waiting to be seated. (See
To the right of the bar is a small group of tables with a
window looking out over the starboard side of the ship.
Although the restaurant is several decks below the top of QM2's
superstructure, the ship is so tall that even Deck 8 offers good
On the left side of the bar is the main dining area. This too is
done in light grey punctuated by deep red cushioned benches and
gauzy drapes. On the walls, large gold frames hold small works
of art or else oversized mirrors. It is contemporary but playful.
The aft end of the room has floor-to-ceiling windows that
look out onto a pool area. This is not a great view but the
windows do serve to allow plenty of natural light into the room
The Todd English is open for lunch on sea days. There is a $20
cover charge for lunch and reservations are required. (See lunch
Chef English is an American and is best known in America.
As a result, the restaurant becomes quite busy during American
cruises and this was no exception. However, a large team of
waiters and assistant waiters were on hand to ensure that things
moved smoothly and there was no delay in ordering or in the
In general the service was professional and reserved.
However, the staff would pause for a bit of friendly conversation
if the guests indicated that they would appreciate a bit of
The first item to arrive was the basket of breads. These
were fresh baked and included a tasty onion bread. Instead of
butter, a dish with two spreads appeared - - one made with green
olives and garlic, the other with black olives and garlic. This
was a first manifestation of Chef English's style - - not the
everyday; combinations of different flavors flowing from fresh
A sommelier appeared. The restaurant serves Veuve
Clicquot champagne by the glass - - something one does not often
see. It is an excellent brand and the non-vintage brut and the rose
that are on offer are good (but expensive - - $16.50 a glass)
accompaniments to any meal.
For the appetizer, I selected the scallops with celeriac puree
and warm grapefruit. This is a light dish in which the flavors of
the tangy fruit heighten the subtle taste of the sea food. It is an
intriguing combination of flavors although I thought more of the
flavor would have been brought out if the scallops had been
The main course had no such distractions. Cooked in a stone
bake oven, the pizza was piping hot when it arrived. Pizza is not
usually associated with fine dining but lunch in the Todd English
is intended to be somewhat more relaxed and home style than
dinner. Moreover, one must keep in mind that Chef English is an
American who developed his style in Italy and so it is only
natural that he would turn his hand to a dish that is a favorite in
both countries. His pizza featured a flavorful thick crust, plenty
of mozzarella and slices of fresh tomato. On top for contrast was
a small pile of fresh greens. Thoroughly enjoyable.
Staying with the home style approach, I had the selection of
ice creams for desserts. While the flavors were the familiar
vanilla, strawberry and chocolate, I knew by now that I could
count on Chef English to do something different. The chocolate
was a deep dark brown more flavorful and rich than the pale
versions that typically are sold at ice cream palaces.
Furthermore, the ice cream is made onboard and one could taste
the freshness of the ingredients.
For dinner, the Todd English took on a different character. The
natural light which floods the room during the day was gone.
Outside, beyond the lights of the pool area, the sky was black.
Inside, the lighting was low with the aura of a candle-lit
The cover charge for dinner is $30 and reservations are
required. (See dinner menu).
To begin the meal, I selected the sautéed garlic shrimp. The
shrimp are coated in corn meal and are accompanied by a
Parmesan-crusted beef steak tomato. The juxtaposition of the
flavors enhances the overall dish. Again, this is the hallmark of
Chef English's style - - the combination of contrasting flavors.
Next, I ordered the venison loin. Venison is a difficult dish
to prepare. It can easily become dry, tough and gamey. Todd
English's venison rests on a bed of barley. It is accompanied by
red cabbage and is adorned with a tasty brown sauce. The meat
was amazingly tender, cutting like butter and melting in the mouth.
Of all the dishes that Chef Oldroyd had prepared for the
photo session, the one that I could not get out of my mind was the
surf and turf. When I am at home, I rarely eat meat but the flavor
of the beef and the sauce combined with the lobster ragout
compelled me to order one as a second main course.
To finish the evening, I had the date and white chocolate
pudding. This dish comes with a scoop of ice cream but the
subtle flavors of the pudding are the key to this item.
* * *
In sum, I was impressed by the Todd English Restaurant on
Queen Mary 2. I was particularly impressed by the depth of the
menu - - there were so many memorable items. The dishes are
often not what you would expect them to be, combining
ingredients in surprising ways. Yet, it all comes together and
works amazingly well. It is not your typical onboard specialty
restaurant and because it is different, it works as an alternative
venue on a ship known for its fine dining.
The bread is accompanied by spreads made with olives and garlic.
Cruise ship specilaty restaurant review and interview - - Cunard - - Queen Mary 2 - - Todd English Restaurant -page 2
Thescallops with celeriac puree and warm grapefruit.
Pizza with tomato, fresh mozarella and chorizo.
|The selection of ice cream.
|Venison loin with espresso barley
The surf and turf is listed on the menu as "Brilled Tenderloin of
Pork tenderloin wrapped in serrano ham .
|Date and white chocolate pudding.