Virgin Voyages to bring city-like dining to sea

Virgin Voyages to bring city-like dining to sea
Guests will be able visit the beach club-inspired Pizza Place for classic and bespoke pizzas (Image: Virgin Voyages)

Virgin Voyages is to introduce a new “city-like” dining experience to sea when its first vessel, Scarlet Lady, hits the waves in 2020.

Moving away from cruise traditions, the company has opted not to have a buffet, a main dining room, assigned seating and dining times, enforced formal wear or surcharges for speciality restaurants. Instead, guests will be able to choose whether to eat at a table or the bar in more than 20 restaurants, casual eateries and lounge bars. These venues will offer made-to-order dishes and remain open until late at night or the early hours of the morning.

“There’s a Virgin twist on everything you’ll see onboard Scarlet Lady, which means there will be no stuffy formalities, boring buffets and no main dining rooms,” said Sir Richard Branson, founder of the Virgin Group. “Sailors are not going to want to leave our ship after they experience how we’ve designed our restaurants and tasted the dishes we are going to be serving up in 2020.”

AvroKO Hospitality Group’s strategy arm Brand Bureau has created the end-to-end food and beverage experience for Scarlet Lady, while its Michelin-starred chef Brad Farmerie has developed the overall culinary programme and identified chefs specialised in cooking different types of cuisines.

“When working with the Virgin Voyages team, we were inspired by some of the best dining spots around the world but also had to gaze into what the future of dining would look like to bring the most alluring restaurant concepts to sea,” said Farmerie. “Each of the restaurants will not only serve delicious food, but they will also have a unique vibe and energy to them to satiate sailor’s hunger for excitement and restoration while on vacation.”

Restaurants will include Wake, a 5,866-square-foot Wake seafood and steak restaurant at the aft of Scarlet Lady designed by Roman and Williams. The venue was inspired by The Wolseley in London, England and The Grill in New York, US and will have a raw bar that is designed to evoke the image of the bow of a speedboat, as well as a tableside cocktail cart and a sommelier-led Magnum programme.

Another aft space created by Roman and Williams is The Dock, where guests will be able to enjoy small plates of Mediterranean dishes and flame-grilled skewers throughout the day.

Concrete Amsterdam has designed both The Test Kitchen and Razzle Dazzle. Inspired by French chef and restaurateur Auguste Escoffier's cookbook Ma Cuisine, The Test Kitchen is part cooking school and part restaurant where the chef-driven set menus are presented in the form of an ingredient list so diners can discover how the flavours are combined in each dish. The venue will also host late-night lock-ins, classes on cooking and mixology, coffee labs and more.

Razzle Dazzle, which will be decorated in the black and white patterns used to camouflage ships during World War I, will offer a menu of plant-based vegetarian and vegan dishes, optional meat add-ons and both healthy and alcoholic smoothies. Sailors will be able to enjoy a performance by the ship’s resident drag performer while dining.

Elsewhere, sailors will be able to enjoy Mexican dishes and cocktails in the Pink Agave restaurant designed by Tom Dixon to evoke the atmosphere of Mexico City’s streets with immersive void lighting and a live DJ at night.

Meanwhile, those looking for Korean cuisine will be able to head to Geonbae (the equivalent of the expression of “bottoms up” in Korean), which was created by Soft Room and has flameless barbeque grills built into each table. Diners will be invited to participate in Korean drinking games before, during and after their meal.

Other dining venues will include the beach club-inspired Pizza Place that provides classic and bespoke pizzas; Italian-style trattoria Extra Virgin, which has Coravin to allow guests to taste rare Italian wines by the glass; and The Galley, a food hall with more than eight different shops and food carts. Options will include a dedicated bakery and pastry shop, a panini shop, a burger grill, a taco shack, a sushi bar with bento boxes, a noodle bar, a soup and salad stand, and a 24-hour American diner.

“We want our eateries to delight and ignite serendipitous experiences for our sailors, so have set out on a mission to capture the spirit of dining in the best cities of the world and bring it to sea,” said Tom McAlpin, president and CEO of Virgin Voyages. “Because food is the fuel for our bodies and souls, and we’re Virgin Voyages, naturally it all had to be included within your ticket price.”

Scarlet Lady is currently under construction at Fincantieri’s yard in Italy and is expected embark on her first cruise from PortMiami, Florida in 2020.

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Rebecca Gibson
By Rebecca Gibson
Thursday, November 15, 2018