Star Clipper's meals are served in the dining room (Deck 2), in a single, open seating. It's an attractive setting, including dark-blue carpet patterned with ropes and knots, white walls with mahogany trim, and brass hardware accents. Elegant, light-gold upholstered booths seating up to six diners line the two outside walls, below curtained portholes overlooking the room. The remaining seating is at substantial, dark-wooden oval tables for six to eight. Here, diners perch on refined Louis XVI-style chairs in light wood with caned backs. Particularly at night, with the glowing dark woods, gleaming brass illuminated by candelabra sconces and sparkling glassware, it projects a magical atmosphere.
Sadly, the cuisine was rarely as elegant as the setting. On our sailing, Star Clipper's food was generally good and plentiful, but not great or memorable -- and the plating, notably at dinner, often lacked artistry or imagination.
Breakfast (7:30 or 8 until 10 a.m.), served buffet-style, is as extensive as you might find on a much larger ship. There is an egg and omelet station, with a single chef manning two skillets. Despite that, we rarely had to wait long for our order (although, admittedly, the ship was sailing at half-capacity); our eggs were usually ready by the time we'd cruised the self-serve section. Here, the hot station typically includes scrambled eggs, bacon cooked to two different levels (limp and incinerated), sausages, hash browns, oatmeal, pancakes or French toast, corned beef hash and grilled mixed vegetables, with alternates swapped in from day to day, like waffles or roasted potatoes.
The cold station features yogurts, muesli, a daily smoothie, mixed fresh fruits, stewed fruits, assorted nuts and dried fruits. There are also European-style cold cuts, charcuterie, smoked fish, cheeses and crudites, plus platters of local tropical fruits. Rounding out the meal is a selection of cold cereals and a nice assortment of fresh breads and pastries -- although we were surprised there wasn't an uprising among the French passengers because the croissants were made of regular yeast dough, rather than the usual ethereal dough laminated with butter.
Lunch (usually noon until 2 p.m.) is also a buffet, and here the kitchen mixes it up with some theme lunches (Italian, Asian), an alfresco meal on the deck and a beach barbecue. In most instances, there's a carving station, which might be dishing out whole salmon, roast beef or suckling pig and a couple of self-serve proteins in chafing dishes, including fish filet in dill butter and veal in breadcrumbs with side dishes that usually include a potato and a rice recipe. Two soups are on offer, for example, potato leek and seafood thermidor (but we wish they wouldn't use fake-crab surimi in mixed seafood dishes like this!), and there's at least one hot vegetable dish, like cauliflower gratin (which reminds us to note that buffet dishes are labeled in three languages, though always sound most delicious in French). There's a daily salad bar, with four or five toppings, plus goodies like olives, sun-dried tomatoes, pine nuts and cornichons, in addition to several prepared salad choices. And, of course, cold cuts, breads and a cheese platter. The dessert selection might include cake, fruit crisp, strudel and panna cotta choices, as well as plentiful fresh fruit. (The pineapple was heavenly!)
The Asian lunch buffet was particularly good, with fun decorations and the curry we'd been longing for ever since setting foot in Thailand. The beach barbecue was less successful, with burgers charred black and an under-supply of white-meat chicken.
Dinner, at 7:30 p.m., is a single seating, with waiter service. Your menu choices include one soup, two appetizers, a changing daily salad, a daily palate-cleansing sorbet, a vegetarian main dish, two non-veg mains (usually a red meat and a fish option), plus a "chef's suggestion," which tended to have some local influence -- beef rendang or stir-fried fish with coconut curry sauce, for example. For the finale, there's a daily cheese offering and two plated desserts, plus an ice cream du jour.
A sirloin steak with French fries, pasta and consume are always available on request.
Red meat dishes, including the sirloin, were usually a good choice. Fish -- aside from a very good salmon filet one night -- tended to be either overcooked and dry or mushy. Particularly disappointing was a lobster tail served at the captain's dinner, which was a mushy mess. A vegetarian we questioned about the non-meat mains felt the options were tasty, but a bit repetitive; in some instances, the vegetarian starter (when there was one) and main dish were very similar.
In most cases, the vegetables served at dinner were simply steamed, and seemed to consist of only carrots, broccoli or asparagus. Their preparation and uninspired plating detracted from the elegance of the meal. The savory cooks could take a lesson from the pastry chef, who turned out some lovely presentations.
In addition to the three standard meals, there's an early-bird continental breakfast in the lounge at 6:30 a.m.; a substantial cocktail hour snack, with hors d'oeuvres, finger sandwiches, pastries, fresh fruit and a hot item, like chicken wings or a taco bar, served at the outdoor Tropical Bar from 5 to 6 p.m.; and a midnight snack (bread and cheeses, for example) in the lounge. Coffee and tea are always at hand at the self-serve station in the lounge. Room service is not available.