Most Australians know Melbourne-born celebrity chef Curtis Stone as the face of Coles, but comparatively few have tasted his delicious, highly innovative food. That’s because he is based in LA where his two runaway success restaurants are Maude, in Beverly Hills and Gwen in Hollywood.
But now, cruise passengers don’t have to travel quite so far. They can ‘run away to sea’ where Curtis’ face and flavours can be found at restaurants SHARE on Sun Princess and Emerald Princess in Australasian waters, and Ruby Princess in the northern hemisphere. In addition to his three SHARE restaurants, he has formed an exclusive partnership with Princess Cruises which features “Crafted by Curtis” menu items in the main dining rooms across the entire 18-ship fleet.
“Princess and I share the same the philosophy and passion for bringing people together through food. Sharing food and conversation with family and good friends is the best way to eat. I love the process of passing plates amongst each other and creating meaningful connections, sharing what you like, and reflecting on your adventures during the day. It’s these moments that create memories we treasure forever.”
The concept behind SHARE is to provide an exclusive but relaxed specialty dining experience with a menu focusing on fresh, seasonal signature dishes.
Vacations & Travel put SHARE to the test on a six-day round trip Sydney cruise on to Tasmania on Sun Princess. The island state is renowned as a gourmet basket of fine foods, fine wines and the cleanest air in the world. With 90 per cent of all onboard produce on Princess Cruises sourced locally, the alliance with local farmers and providores is a win-win for all parties. Especially our taste-buds!
Most foodstuffs such as cheeses, honey, and black truffles are sourced from boutique producers – while crayfish, orange roughy, salmon and oysters are farmed and wild caught.
Port calls Burnie, Port Arthur and Hobart provide gateways to an alluring range of shore excursions many with a foodie focus. Factor in the island state’s spectacular scenery, dramatic history, and the entrepreneurial flair of its inhabitants and you have a perfect cruise getaway.
Our small party experienced firsthand how dedicated Curtis’ team is at sourcing the best and freshest produce in each port. We trailed through the lush agricultural land around Burnie with his corporate chef Christian Dortch driving past fields of strawberries growing on racks above ground, quinoa, microgreens and potatoes as far as the eye can see. As a special treat, we accompanied chef to a truffle farm at Lower Barrington, marvelled at the fragrance of black Perigord truffles, gathered eggs from the hen house, bunches of rhubarb from the farm’s garden then back to Sun Princess where some of these ingredients would become part of Curtis’ creative palate.
SHARE is a six-course fine-dining experience which specifically caters to Australian tastes. Popular favourites are his charcuterie board, bread and butter pudding, freshly composed tomato and burrata salads, slightly poached shrimp with lemon gel, turnip, citrus salt and brioche. Others are fresh truffle potato gratin and turbot bake and Curtis’ own favourite – roasted king crab leg baked with lemongrass and his essential roast chicken with bacon slab and onion slaw. As for wines, SHARE’s take your pick from 22 Australian wines.
We awoke the following morning anchored off Port Arthur. Despite its torrid history, strolling through this stirringly beautiful site with its magnificent trees, sandstone ruins softened by time and picturesque colonial cottages and gardens, it is now a place of serene reflection. Nearby we visit Port Arthur Lavender Farm, Distillery & Café. While not quite in full bloom, a purple haze casts a soothing spell over the landscape. In the farm’s gift shop we take a little bit home with us from the pretty products in the gift shop. (Tasmania has the world’s largest lavender farm and is the only commercial producer in the southern hemisphere).
Another mesmerising coastal view can be enjoyed from Bangor Wine and Oyster Shed at Dunalley. We meet the owner in his vineyards for an al fresco tasting of his beautifully-balanced wines: a pinot gris, chardonnay, and pinot noir. Tucking into platters of freshly-shucked oysters we listen spellbound to the story of his sixth-generation convict ancestor John Dunbabin who escaped the noose for horse stealing, was transported, earned his freedom and bought the land whose bounty we are now enjoying. Bangor is one of the world’s most southerly vineyards making it a true cool climate site which is echoed in the elegant wines produced here.
Giddy with sensory pleasures we return to the comfort of the ship. Some hightail it to the gym, others flop in a chaise on deck, some head to the spa, and others tackle a traditional afternoon tea. But there is no respite from fine dining. Tonight it is the ship’s amazing Japanese restaurant Kai which serves traditional sashimi dishes that are sheer perfection.
Now in Hobart, the fearless join a Hobart Ghost Walking Tour walking the city’s back streets around Battery Point listening to tales of bushrangers, barmaids, convicts and cannibals then stop for a restorative pint in Salamanca. Others chose to lie back on deck and watch Movies Under the Stars.
Our last day in Tassie delivered perfect conditions for ambling around Hobart admiring its exquisite Georgian architecture or visiting the globally-acclaimed MONA – the Museum of Old and New Art. But there was still an opportunity for more sipping and sampling at Coal River. This time cheese, chocolate and a wee dram of a Tasmanian distilled whisky.
For our grand finale at SHARE – Christian and team Curtis whisked up some delicious dishes using ingredients we had foraged for on our Tassie Tasting Tour.
More information: princess.com