After 20 plus years of living in Los Angeles, I finally made my way down to Long Beach and spent some time aboard The Queen Mary. Sure, I’ve driven by on the way to the nearby cruise ship terminal, taken photos from across the harbor from Shoreline Village and even walked by to get a close-up look, but never actually stepped aboard. All that changed recently as I spent a luxury weekend getaway exploring the ship and spending the night in one of her spacious suites. During my getaway on The Queen Mary, one discovery that really stood out and surprised me was my dinner at Sir Winston’s, the ship’s fine dining restaurant.
This is a true, old-school fine dining experience, and I mean that as a compliment. The dining rooms are beautifully appointed, rich woods, elegant design and furniture. Dim lighting, candles on the tables and a curving wall of windows looking out at the bow of the ship and the city skyline. I didn’t plan on dining here but when I visited during my tour of the ship, I was instantly attracted to it, and made a reservation on the spot.
The servers are worthy of a special mention, true professionals who take their job seriously. I find you can tell a lot about a restaurant by how long their servers have been serving. My waiter had been there 26 years, several others more than 30 years.
After (or before) dining at Sir Winston’s, you also have the benefit of being on this beautiful ship. So after dinner, a romantic stroll on deck, with views of the lights of Long Beach is great way to walk off some of those calories.The ship also has a lounge, the Observation Bar, for some fun and dancing after dinner.
Since I didn’t expect such a wonderful experience, I had a very simple meal of a steak. No starter, except for the hot, fresh French bread and some truly delicious, obviously fresh butter. Starters on the menu include lobster bisque and lobster salad, French onion soup and several salads.
For my entree, I went for the New York Strip, which was just a perfect steak. Not only was the cut tender, but it was cooked to absolute perfection. I like my steaks done a certain way, medium well, with no char, and that’s just what I got. Evenly cooked from the edge to the center by the bone. The steak was served with asparagus, green beans and mashed potatoes. A bit of Cabrales cheese was sprinkled on the steak, which was cooked with a Rioja demi-glace. Cabrales cheese is a Spanish blue cheese and Rioja is a Spanish wine. The flavors were deep and intense and while I liked the Cabrales cheese better on the French bread, the Riojas wine demi-glace was really, really good. Usually I don’t like too many flavors with my steak but this was a unique treat.
The house specialties are Beef Wellington, made with a truffle sauce, and Chateaubriand, served with a red onion marmalade, Bearnaise and a red wine sauce. They also serve a Vegetable Wellington made with a tomato herb compote, and the Chateaubriand is served either for one or two.
For dessert I went a little out of the box and made a special request for my own, which was served without hesitation. I had the vanilla bean ice cream normally served with the souffle, topped with the incredible warm berry compote normally served with the creme brulee. It was a sweet end to a great meal.
Sir Winston’s has an extensive wine list with a good range of choices both by the glass and the bottle. I must admit as a Francophile, I would have enjoyed more French selections by the glass. I went with a California wine, a 2011 DeLoach Merlot, which was a silky, smokey treat. I was also surprised by the large portion, it filled close to half the large wine glass for $9.00. The DeLoach, a winery I had not tried before, was a perfect compliment to the steak, pairing especially well with the Riojas demi-glace.
Before the jet age, The Queen Mary (and luxury liners like her) was the way the super-rich traveled. Built in 1936 to the highest standard, the ship’s incredible design and construction is still apparent and the elegant interiors are an art deco wonderland. Host to royalty, the wealthy and celebrities, she was the fastest and most luxurious way to cross the Atlantic, which is what the ship was built to do. The Queen Mary wasn’t built as a cruise ship to sail around the Caribbean, she was designed and built to cross the rough waters of the North Atlantic between Europe and America. When jet travel made luxury ocean travel more or less obsolete, the ship was retired in 1967 and put up for sale. She was bought by the City of Long Beach to become a hotel and tourist attraction and has been there ever since.
Sir Winston’s on The Queen Mary
Sir Winston’s is on The Queen Mary (1126 Queen’s Highway, Long Beach), which is permanently moored in Long Beach harbor. Access is very easy from the city of Long Beach or from the 710 freeway, just follow the many signs for the ship. Valet parking ($12) is available at the ship’s entrance. Dinner is served Tuesdays through Thursdays from 5:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. with live piano music on Friday and Saturday nights. Prices are reasonable for Los Angeles fine dining, my steak was $38, the Beef Wellington is $47 and the majority of other entrees are between $30 and $40. Sir Winston’s is named for Sir Winston Churchill, former British Prime Minister and frequent passenger on the Queen Mary.
Freddy Sherman is a world traveler and editor of the travel blog luxuryfred.com. In the past year, he has visited Turkey, done a foodie week in Hong Kong, cruised the Mekong river in Vietnam & Cambodia, stayed in an Ice Hotel in Canada, and toured Peru. You can follow him on Twitter -@luxuryfred and on Instagram – @luxuryfred.
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