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Insider Report: P&O Cruises Serves Up New Food Heroes For Iona

Last week, our very own Iona Insider, Chris Mayhew, was invited to London for a delicious evening of culinary delights. Food Heroes have been a big part of P&O Cruises’ dining options since the launch of Britannia and now the line-up is being shaken up a little.

Still led by wine expert and all-round lovely guy, Olly Smith, the team now has three new additions that will help introduce guests to the food of Norway and Spain, two of Iona’s destinations during her maiden season.

Three New Heroes

Olly and Kjartan

Kjartan Skjelde, who has lived in Stavanger all his life; José Pizarro, known as the Godfather of Spanish Cooking and who now operates four restaurants in London; and Marte Marie Forsberg, a home cook from south Norway were all introduced at an event at Pizarro’s restaurant in Broadgate.

Each spoke about their passion for the dishes they create and how they love to show a clear route from source to the table. Both Kjartan and Marte jokingly expressed a desire to help guests understand that Norwegian cooking can offer more than the stereotypical brown cheese and cinnamon rolls.

Olly and Marte

As for the food, Chris and the other assembled diners were treated to a fantastic menu that started in the mountain streams just outside of Stavanger, with a melt-in-the-mouth trout fillet, and ended in the kitchen of José’s grandmother, thanks to an indulgent chocolate pot adorned with a dash of salt and glug of olive oil. Each dish championed fresh, local ingredients brought together by exquisite presentation and a touch of flair.

You Can’t Fight Against Mother Nature

Trout Fillet

Kjartan explained how the short seasons in Norway put emphasis on making the most of produce while it’s available, explaining that “you can’t fight against Mother Nature” by going against this philosophy. He continued by saying that he first started working like this when he bought artichoke hearts from a local producer and quickly fell in love with this way of cooking.

Marte, the owner of a stunning Instagram page that showcases her passion for photography and making dishes look pleasing on the eye, explained that she hoped the courses on offer were also “pretty on the belly”. Meanwhile, José pledged to “bring some olé” to the plate for everyone on board Iona.

Chocolate Pot

As well as the aforementioned trout and chocolate pot, the new Local Food Heroes served up a medley of suckling lamb leg, presa Iberíca, new potatoes and roasted red peppers for main; a cheese board laden with Spanish and Norwegian varieties (no brown cheese in sight); and Kvæfjordkake, a light dessert of meringue, strawberries, almonds and cream that’s known as Norway’s national cake.

Delicious Pigs From Little Acorns Grow

Presa Iberica

Whilst everything was amazing, Chris was keen to comment on just how good the presa Iberíca was. This cut of pork comes from the famous Black Iberian Pig from which we also get Iberico ham. It’s served rare, a cooking method that some British diners may be uncomfortable with, but José ensures this is the best way to enjoy it. And, by all accounts, he wasn’t wrong. The meat was so tender and, thanks to the oils from the acorns that the pigs eat, was enhanced by a luxurious texture that could only be achieved by serving it red.

So, it goes without saying that the food on board Iona is certainly in safe hands. When the ship launches in 2020, you can expect to find all of the dishes mentioned above on the menu in venues such as The Glass House, The Epicurean and a brand new restaurant by the name of Taste 360. Is that your stomach rumbling or ours?

Olly and Jose

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