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An Evening (Or Two) At Le Champagne

By Georgina Cruz

Le ChampagneOur very first dinner at Silversea’s Le Champagne by Relais & Chateaux restaurant was during a Mediterranean voyage aboard the Silver Spirit last year. We had a good excuse for a gourmet meal then: my husband Humberto and I were celebrating the 40th anniversary of our first meeting.

It was a most memorable meal in this intimate restaurant for only 24 diners that delights the most discerning guests
with gourmet fare, fine wines and impeccable, butterfly service (with waiters presenting dishes in unison at each table).

Arguably the best restaurant at sea
and rivaling the crème de la crème on terra firmaLe Champagne makes you feel as if you have wandered into a fine establishment in Paris or the French Riviera as you enter it. The restaurant is all aglow with candlelight, gleaming china, crystal and silver, crisp linens and fresh orchids. At the time of our first visit to Le Champagne, it featured a six-course degustation dinner menu that changed daily highlighting regional specialties paired with wines (lobster was the entrée twice during our voyage, during French and American themed dinners).

Our dinner on this first visit to Le Champagne aboard the Silver Spirit was entitled “A Journey Through Italy,” and it celebrated our Italian ports during the voyage, featuring such delectable dishes as assorted appetizers including a little cone filled with fluffy truffle mousse; thin layers of a delicate Mediterranean sea bass carpaccio with extra virgin olive oil and cherry tomato segments; a white truffle risotto with a hint of parmesan cheese and garnished with black truffle. There were a tender veal filet with capers and lemon confit; a green tea sorbet encased in dark chocolate to cleanse the palate, and a praline chocolate mousse with strawberry compote and panna cotta, followed by assorted petit fours, coffee, port or other after-dinner liqueurs.

Each course of the meal, in collaboration with Relais & Chateaux Master Chef Jacques Thorel, came with a glorious premium wine lovingly presented by Krzysztof Szybowicz, maitre d’-sommelier. The wine paired with the veal filet entrée, was Szybowicz’ favorite, he said: a full-bodied Brunello di Montalcino, Antinori Pian delle Vigne 2004, a divine wine from Tuscany, which was our favorite too.

Such a memorable meal deserves another, we thought, and we literally looked around for a reason to return to Le Champagne during an 11-day voyage to the British Isles on the Silver Whisper late this spring. Our 40th wedding anniversary had come and gone, but we reasoned, we both had birthdays coming up fairly soon, beginning with mine in early summer. That was good enough for us. We booked a table at Le Champagne!

Gustavo Mendes Dosantos, the maitre d’-sommelier, greeted us warmly, remembering us from a previous Silversea voyage, and seated us at a table for two near the floor-to-ceiling wine cabinets, an impressive magnum of Moet & Chandon champagne and a wall filled with glorious wine-inspired quotations, like “Come quickly, I am drinking stars,” by Dom Perignon.

On this occasion, we selected the Assiette d’hors d’oeuvres Le Champagne with such assorted delights as a little cone of foie gras, King scallop, and Porcini cappuccino –an amuse bouche to launch the dining experience.

The hors d’ouvres were followed by a Faramdp;e des Cepes with the essence of truffles for our appetizers, and in Humberto’s case, next came Grilled St. Jacques Scallops (normally an appetizer, but since Humberto loves scallops, Gustavo arranged to have them served as his entrée). My entrée was a delicious Breast of Pigeon with artichoke and morel ragout. Other entrée choices included New Zealand Rack of Lamb with thyme flowers, Lobster Thermidor and New England Venison.

Desserts included Grand Marnier soufflé and the sweet temptation of a Trilogy of Valrohna Chocolate Lava Cakes to which we both gladly succumbed.

On the Silver Whisper we learned that changes had been made to Le Champagne. Guests are now presented with a regional and seasonal gourmet menu that ensures the freshest, best ingredients and products are used. Thus, the menus at Le Champagne now change four times a year, with the seasons.

And, the restaurant is now more accessible to everyone onboard, said Brad Ball, director of public relations for Silversea, as guests may opt for dinner and the evening’s selection of complimentary white and red wines (fee is $30 per person) or they may select dinner along with their choice of premium wines ($30 per person plus the cost of the premium wines). Previously, there was a degustation/wine pairing menu priced at $200 per person or a food without any wines option at $30 per person. Humberto and I selected the complimentary selections of wines that included a glass of Prosecco champagne, and a Briccolondo Pinot Grigio 2010 white wine and a Briccolondo Barbera 2010 red wine, both from Venice, Italy. A full wine-pairing menu is also still available for those who prefer the former degustation-style/wine pairing menu.

Needless to say, we will be looking for another reason to head to Le Champagne the next time we come onboard the Silver Wind, Silver Cloud, Silver Shadow or Silver Whisper! And I just know that we will definitely find one!

Photo Courtesy of Silversea Cruises

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