One of the reasons people like to cruise is the culinary experience onb board. Every ship, whether it be a budget or ultra-luxury cruise line, offers plenty of bars where you can enjoy a delicious cocktail and restaurants where surprising dishes are served. During our recent voyage with Costa cruises we had the opportunity to experience a Michelin-starred dining experience on board Costa Toscana.
When it comes to delicious food, Costa Cruises has always been a good option. Nevertheless the Italian flagged cruise line has further improved its culinary offer. Costa called on the expertise of three world-renowned chefs: Bruno Barbieri, Hélène Darroze and Ángel León. The exceptional trio of star chefs have studied authentic local recipes from the destinations the Costa ships visit and reworked them with their own personal know-how. These dishes are offered as Destination Dishes in the main restaurants. This way you can already taste the local cuisine before you reach the destination.
In addition to the Destination Dishes in the main restaurants, the three chefs each also created a culinary five-course menu to match their expertise. These star menus are served in the new Archipelago restaurant. Each menu features five exquisite dishes created to explore each part of the itinerary through taste. The chefs’ menus, like the Destination Dishes, are designed with the utmost attention to ingredients which are mainly sourced from local producers. In addition special attention is paid to the way they are prepared to avoid food waste.
Archipelago, a new and innovative restaurant concept
Super curious as we were about the Michelin-starred menus we booked a table for two at the Archipelago restaurant.
Upon arrival we are kindly welcomed by the maître d’hôtel who escorts us to our table. In his soft-spoken voice he tells us about the concept and the design of the restaurant which are both totally innovative. The stylish restaurant is divided into islands to provide a semi-private and intimate experience. The islands are framed by a copper sculpture, each containing a unique piece of driftwood. The driftwood pieces were collected during beach clean-ups by the ‘Guardians of the Coast’, the environmental education program for the protection of Italy’s coastline managed by the Costa Crociere Foundation. In fact, for every dinner ordered in Archipelago, Costa donates a portion of the proceeds to the Costa Crociere Foundation to support ecological and social projects.
Having brought the menu to the table the maître introduces our waiters. He thencontinues to provide some explanation about the chefs and the idea behind their menu. Before leaving he asks if we would like to start with a glass of champagne. Who could say no to that?
While we discuss who will order which menu our waiter brings a plate with seven freshly baked sandwiches to the table. Meanwhile the sommelier serves a glass of champagne from the Italian house Ferrari. The Italian brand has been producing sparkling wines in the classic way since 1902 a,d is more or less the house brand of Costa Cruises. There is even a real Ferrari Wine Bar on board where you can taste a number of exclusive snacks in addition to the different wines of the house. Highly recommended!
Three different, unique menus
Going over the three menus they are each more than appealing causing us to have some doubts about which one to choose. Bruno Barbieri‘s western Mediterranean menu looks both sensitive and simple, but also captivating and creative with an experimental and challenging touch. The Italian chef has won 7 Michelin stars with his restaurants, making him one of the most famous chefs in Italy and the world. Fun fact: Barbieri worked as a sous chef on a cruise ship in 1979 which allowed him to discover different cuisines from different countries. Through his menu Barbieri is introduces the Tropea onion, a special Italian elongated onion with a striking color and remarkable sweetness.
The French Hélène Darroze comes from a real family of chefs and presents the more traditional cuisine which she grew up with. Darroze has three restaurants: Hélène Darroze at The Connaught in London with 3 stars, Marsan par Hélène Darroze in Paris with 2 stars and Hélène Darroze à Villa La Coste in the Provence with 1 star. For her menu in the Archipelago, she works with Passito di Pantelleria, an Italian dessert wine from Pantelleria, an island somewhere halfway between Sicily and Tunisia.
The Spanish chef Ángel León is also known as the ‘chef of the sea’. The main components of his surprising menu are plankton and seaweed. Tetraselmis chuii is a unicellular seaweed, the plant component of plankton. The ingredient provides dishes with an intense taste of the sea and is a revolutionary product that will play an important role in the future of the food and nutrition industry.
While some might be put off by the slightly more daring menu of the Spanish top chef, we can definitely recommend his ‘out of the box’ menu.
To finish our delicious star menu the sommelier serves a glass of sprakling Ferrari champagne. As an extra dessert our waiter serves a delicious cappuccino from the Italian coffee house Caffè Vergnano and four super-delicious chocolate cubes.
Just like the interior of the Archipelago restaurant, the service is also very stylish, creating a unique and memorable culinary experience. Under the watchful eye of the maître d’hôtel, the service is friendly but extremely discreet and very efficient. Just as it should be in a high-quality restaurant.
To complete the culinary experience, Archipelago offers the opportunity to pair your food with a selection of the best wines. The wines served with each dish are presented with a word of explanation by the sommelier.
While we have always appreciated the Italian cuisine onboard Costa Cruises, the culinary experience has trully been enhanced with the addition of the Archipelago restaurant. The new restaurant concept has also been introduced on board Costa Toscana’s sister ship Costa Smeralda. The exceptional menus of Bruno Barbieri, Hélène Darroze and Ángel León are also served onboard Costa Venezia and Costa Firenze.
The tasting menu costs 49 euro per person. The adapted wine pairing completes the culinary experience. For this you pay a supplement of 30 euro (22.5 euro for Costa Club members or for those who already have a drinks package). The Archipelago restaurant is open every evening. On days at sea, the culinary experience is also offered as lunch.