Seemingly inconspicuous due to its location – nestled right at the back of an APT river cruise vessel – the Chef’s Table Dining Room on an APT river cruise takes the already high culinary standard to another level entirely.
Overseen directly by the ship’s Executive Chef and sommelier, a very small team of wait staff are on hand to distribute each of the five courses. While the space is a little confined, a clear window to the kitchen allows guests to admire as each plate is carefully decorated and arranged onto trays for delivery to your place setting.
Unlike most ocean cruise ships, the Chef’s Table on APT is actually included in your cruise fare, so while in theory you can take advantage of it every evening, each ship actually works hard to ensure all guests have an opportunity to experience it at least twice.
A sign-up sheet is located at the ship’s central reception desk for guests to put their names down to book in for the Chef’s Table experience on that particular evening. It is checked and managed stringently, so any patterns noticed such as guests putting their name down for multiple days in a row will often be queried.
On the line’s core 15-day ‘Magnificent Europe’ itinerary between Amsterdam and Budapest, two different menus are prepared and run in consecutive weeks. In the Main Dining Room, the menu changes every day. So it’s actually beneficial NOT to sign up to do the Chef’s Table too many times.
While the dining experience is exemplary in taste and presentation, signing up more than once for each menu isn’t actually to your benefit as you may be missing out on some other amazing food in the main dining area.
River cruising being, in most cases, more about the destination than the ship, there’s every likelihood you will be enjoying your Chef’s Table dinner while in port. The event begins each night at 6pm and often, the ship won’t leave port until much later in the evening, depending on its schedule and where it needs to be the next day.
Cruise Advice enjoyed the Chef’s Table overlooking the Danube River and one of the city’s main bridges while happily docked in Vienna before setting sail late that night.
Kicking things off was an Asian style glazed duck breast portion served alongside Japanese teriyaki chicken cubes. This dish was introduced as the “Chef’s Welcome”. These bites were served in quaint little rolls and resting on a vine leaf. These were followed by a platter of marinated beef strips with spicy vegetable vinaigrette & sakura cress before the third course – a Malaysian laksa soup with coconut, chicken and rice noodles – it’s a full tour of the Orient.
Main courses are a choice of two which are served alternately around the table. At our seating, our options included Bordeaux wine marinated salmon, served with mash potato and vegetable pearls or a rack of lamb with grilled zucchini, sweet potato mash & papaya salsa. To close things out, dessert consisted of a triple chocolate banana brownie with a mocha macaroon and banana ice-cream. A fruit platter or cheese selection were the alternatives.
In case you’re wondering, each guest receives each dish on individual plates, so there are no group share platters placed at various points of the table. There’s no shortage and everyone will certainly get their fill and leave with satisfied stomachs.
Throughout the evening, a variety of wines are presented for the group’s approval. Many of these have been specially paired with the respective dishes and in a nod to the experience and expertise of the ship’s sommelier, each of these do just that.
The Chef’s Table dinner is positioned as an experience of heightened luxury, and it is that, however it isn’t fair to call it exclusive as it is open to all passengers at no extra charge. However, it doesn’t need to be and all APT travellers should keep an eye on the daily sign-up sheet to make sure they get a seat each time the menu book turns the page.