Nov 20, 2016

Devouring the Douro


Cruise Critic editor Louise Goldsbury discovers Scenic Azure’s culinary delights.

The epicurean pleasures of Portugal extend far beyond port, sardines and custard tarts.

Even a small ship like Scenic Azure has six dining options for its 96 guests. Like a little local flavour? The crew are Portuguese, so you can be guaranteed a great selection of authentic specialties using fresh, local produce.

Of course, there’s plenty else to tantalise the tastebuds. Here are a few of the food and wine delights to devour on the Douro.


Crystal Dining

The main restaurant is your dining room away from home, staffed by the friendliest chefs and waiters in Europe.

But don’t fill up on the breakfast buffet – save your appetite for lunch and dinner!

This is where you’ll find your first delicacies of the region: Bacalao Pil Pil (cod fish confit in olive oil and vegetables), rojoes (braised pork stew with pickles and potato), bifanas (bread with sliced meat), caldo verde (green soup with cabbage and chorizo), as well as suckling pig, grilled octopus, salami, cheese and desserts from around the country.

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Table D'Or

Known as Table La Rive on other Scenic ships, Table D’Or is derived from Douro, which means ‘gold’ – and what a firstclass experience it is.Exclusively for 12 diners, the six-course degustation with matching Portuguese wines is served by the ship’s butlers.

The evening starts with a Murganheira Vintage sparkling wine, before a terrine of foie gras, fig chutney, LBV Burmeister port caviar and onion pie. Asparagus cream soup is followed by lobster and mushroom risotto, then a slow-roasted beef tenderloin, pumpkin jam and walnuts, with a sweet trio of Valrhona chocolate mousse, mint port strawberries and bourbon vanilla Crème brûlée to finish.

Designed by executive chef Claudio Sousa, Table D’Or is offered once per cruise to guests staying on the Diamond Deck or in a Junior Balcony Suite on the Sapphire Deck.

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Portobellos

Unlike the Portobellos on other Scenic ships, Azure’s version specialises in local cuisine -- not Italian, as the name suggests. It’s a pun on Porto, from where Scenic Azure sails roundtrip and the ingredients are sourced.

However, the dishes are not the traditional fare you may expect: rockmelon cocktail, zucchini soup, salmon fillet, beef sirloin, Atlantic Sea scallops with red beet air, and a choice of chocolate cake or banana yoghurt with nuts and cream.

All passengers have – and should definitely take – the opportunity to dine in this intimate venue.Aside from the delicious food, enjoy the service, the ambience and the chance to watch the chef prepare your meals in front of you.

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Panorama Lounge & River Cafe

Panorama is the best place to socialise and relax with complimentary drinks.

Be sure to sample Portuguese liqueurs, ports and wines, especially a refreshing port tonic (port wine, tonic water and lime), as well as your favourite cocktails, spirits and beers.

Behind the bar is a selection of cakes, tarts and sandwiches, available 24 hours.

Also in the Panorama Lounge, the River Café is open from 6.30am for early risers until late afternoon for light snacks.

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Room Service

Room service is available around-theclock, so you can privately indulge on your balcony, or in bed, anytime of day or night.

There is a small menu of soup, sandwiches, burgers, salads and desserts, but if you ask nicely, the chef may prepare something special, such as peri peri chicken with extra-hot sauce.

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Special Events

A lunchtime barbecue is held on the sun deck (once per cruise, weather permitting), sizzling up the whole farmyard: chicken, pork belly, ribs, sausage, steak and seafood.

Another highlight is an off-ship dinner at a cellar restaurant, with live music.

On the last day of the cruise, join the walking tour to the fishing village of Afurada to eat salted sardines cooked on smoky grills outside on the street – just like the locals do.

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