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A foodies’ paradise – explore the award-winning menus onboard the DFDS ferries from Newcastle to Amsterdam

We caught up with Head Chef Tommy Aakjær onboard the DFDS Princess Seaways to discover his favourite dishes from the MIDAS Award-winning menus.

Written by High Life North
Published 10.06.2022

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It’s easy to write off ‘ferry food’ as the kind of fare you’d also expect to find on an airplane.

But when the menus onboard have been given the seal of approval from the prestigious Menu Innovation and Development Awards (MIDAS), you might just want to take a second look…

See, earlier this year, DFDS beat thousands of their hospitality industry competitors to win the top prize for best menu development in leisure and tourism – something that has been spearheaded by their Food, Beverage and Hotels Category Manager Dave Lewis’ pioneering Field to Ferry concept.

And it’s a concept that has changed the dining game across their entire fleet. We discovered this for ourselves when we stepped onboard the DFDS Princess Seaways at port in North Shields and caught up with the boat’s Head Chef Tommy Aakjær. Because, while Tommy gave us the full guided tour of the kitchens, restaurants, coffee shops and bakery onboard, we couldn’t fail to notice how emphatically he enthused about the innovation, seasonality and sustainability of the menus he creates for DFDS’ Newcastle to Amsterdam customers.

‘I’ve always been passionate about great-tasting food,’ Tommy told us. ‘And for a long time now, I’ve understood the importance of fresh, seasonal and great quality ingredients to the success of my dishes.

‘I’ve trained in restaurants inland all over the world, but it’s incredibly special to be able to deliver the same top standard of dining onboard a boat of this size, to customers embarking on their holidays. I take great pride in the fact that I’m part of the DFDS team blazing a trail in transportation dining.’

With all fresh, seasonal produce ethically sourced with full traceability from suppliers in both the UK and the Netherlands at either end of the ferry’s journey, dining in the North Sea Bistro, the Explorer’s Kitchen or in the Coffee Crew Café has never been a more indulgent experience.

Which is why we took our time exploring the menus in all three dining destinations with Tommy – and discovered a few of the chef’s secrets, what his favourite dishes are, how onboard dining is a quintessentially European experience and why our sweet tooth will always be satisfied…

 

Find out more about all the dining onboard DFDS ferries from Newcastle to Amsterdam here.

NORTH SEA BISTRO

If it’s leisurely, gourmet dining in a relaxed ambience overlooking rolling waves and an ever-changing horizon you’re after as you embark on your holidays, then look no further than North Sea Bistro.

‘Dining in our Bistro is a very European experience,’ says Tommy. ‘It’s almost like our North East customers are already abroad, from the moment the step onboard. It’s probably the most relaxed area on the boat. In our Bistro, it’s all about taking your time, soaking up your whole dining experience and really indulging in our flavour combinations, which we’ve taken great care over to create the most innovative dishes for you to enjoy.’

Swanky, stylish and sophisticated, the North Sea Bistro is something of a foodie haven of tranquillity amidst the bustle and excitement of the rest of the ship. Flanked by windows along the whole length of the restaurant, there’s something indescribably relaxing about dedicating an hour or two to your evening meal as you watch the rolling waves go by. And don’t be fooled into thinking you’ll be getting those stale, airplane-style food just because you’re technically on a mode of transport, either – this brand new à la carte menu is as fresh as they come.

‘The key thing about our menu in the North Sea Bistro is how we select our ingredients,’ Tommy explains. ‘We take great care to use the wealth of local producers and suppliers at either end of our route. We are constantly liaising with North East farmers, growers and producers, just as we do with their Dutch counterparts, every time we come into port. What that means is, every dish on our menu is as fresh and seasonal as possible – and the flavours we are able to bring out because of that are exquisite.’

So, go on – enjoy a taste of luxury as you sail. You deserve it.

 

Tommy’s pick: Grilled fillets of sea bass served with pommes duchesse, Romanesco and samphire.

‘We always spotlight the catch of the day on our menus, but sea bass often feature as they’re native to our waters. I enjoy a lighter evening meal and this never disappoints.

 

HLN’s pick: Roasted guinea fowl breast and confit leg, served with shiitake mushroom and pomme croquette.

And for dessert: Crème Brûlée. Trust us – this sweet treat is anything but ordinary.

 

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EXPLORER’S KITCHEN

Embark on a globetrotting gourmet adventure in DFDS’ Explorer’s Kitchen, which offers a mouth-wateringly wide selection of international dishes from morning until night in their all-you-can-eat buffet. So, you can guarantee you’ll find exactly what you want to fill your plate with here, whenever you visit.

‘What’s great about the Explorer’s Kitchen is its layout,’ Tommy explains. ‘We’ve structured it so that you can effectively “travel” around the world, all in our dining room. If you fancy Asian cuisine, for example, you can go straight to our designated Far East corner, skipping the queues to all the other areas. Just fancy burgers? Head straight to our American area. Then again, if you want a little of everything, you can start at one end and finish in the other; all our foodie “areas” are linked but are separated just enough to enhance our customer’s ease and dining experience.’

Variety, as they say, is the spice of life and all walks of life are considered in the Explorer’s Kitchen. As well as plenty of vegetarian and vegan options, any dietary requirements or allergies can easily be catered to by the team here – simply bring it to light at the point of booking or mention it to Tommy or one of his colleagues in the kitchen and they’ll do all they can to whip you up something special.

‘As a chef, I always love to try a little of everything when I’m onboard – which is why I’ve worked hard to ensure we have a lot of variety for our customers in the Explorer’s Kitchen,’ Tommy continues. ‘From burgers to BBQ, a taste of the Mediterranean to some Italian classics, we have dishes to please every palate.’

Step into the Explorer’s Kitchen and discover all the culinary delights of the continent – and beyond.

 

HLN’s Top Tip: pre-book and save up to 34%

 

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COFFEE CREW CAFÉ

Y’all know how it is – travelling can wipe us out. Whether it be early departure times or the stress of packing the night before, the rush of getting the kids ready in time or the double-checking of passports and boarding tickets as you queue, all that nervous energy and excitement can be draining. So, a handy, caffeine-filled pick-me-up is always appreciated, especially when it comes in a (fully compostable) Starbucks cup.

Yep, despite not bearing its name, DFDS’ Coffee Crew Café is fully licensed to serve all your favourite Starbucks drinks, from your classic cappuccinos, lattes, teas and hot chocolates right through to their world-famous Frappuccinos.

But what’s a brew without a bite, right? And trust us – the Coffee Crew Café serve up some seriously sweet treats to indulge in as you set sail from all the stresses of everyday life. From all-butter croissants to melt-in-the-mouth muffins and gorgeously gooey brownies, you’ll find plenty to indulge your sweet tooth here. Go on, you’re on holiday!

 

HLN’s Top Tip: Coffee Crew Café is right next to the Pirates Island children’s play area, so double up your coffee break with some time out for the kids, too.

 

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Good news! DFDS is kindly offering our HLN readers 2-for-1 discount for passengers on their Newcastle-Amsterdam mini cruise. Valid on travel throughout 2022 if booked before 17 July. The code (M2HLN) will be automatically applied at checkout. 

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