If you’d like to book a Virgin Voyage I encourage you to use the following link, courtesy of my friend Isabella, who can answer even more questions than me (leave a comment and I’m happy to put you in touch with her!).  Full disclosure: I do not receive a thing from her if you use the following link, just supporting a dear friend: Virgin Voyages Booking Link

Ok let’s get you caught up on the other review posts, since this is a multi-parter:

It’s time for the pictures from one of my favorite specialty restaurants: The Test Kitchen.

The Test Kitchen

The Test Kitchen is Virgin’s take on a fancy Michelin-starred modern cuisine concept.  It’s a six-course meal with no real menu, just a few options for the main course (meat- or plant-based).  I forgot to mention this elsewhere, but Virgin is very accommodating when it comes to different food allergies and you’ll be asked if you have any food allergies as part of every order.

On longer cruises, the Test Kitchen will have two menus, but you can’t pick and choose which one you would like.  You either get all of the first menu or all of the second menu.  I’ll split my review up into first menu and second menu, to try and make it obvious.

The restaurant itself

When you walk in, you’re greeted with a welcome drink as you check in and are guided to your table.

The Test Kitchen restaurant itself is absolutely beautiful.  There’s a variety of seating options depending on party size but I love the muted blue hues, it really helps the colors of the dishes pop.

The lavender centerpieces were gorgeous as well.

The food is cooked in a galley off the back of the restaurant.  The chef there was immensely proud of his kitchen and the food being made there and was all smiles as I brought my camera up.

Other dishes were being plated and made ready for service at one of the two bar areas.  I was really impressed at the precision being shown to get every ingredient in the right place, even if it meant delicately placing it with a pair of tweezers.

After you’re seated, they give you the option of having a cocktail pairing alongside your meal for a very reasonable $35 (bear in mind I had just paid $140 for a juice pairing at noma, so maybe my barometer was miscalibrated a bit but I thought $35 was reasonable).  I went ahead and got the cocktail pairing for both menus (you know, for the pictures and not because I enjoyed them thoroughly #forscience).

The First Menu

I don’t remember each individual ingredient of each course, but that’s ok because each one was beautiful and flavorful.

It started with a mushroom pate, or a gazpacho for me (who hates mushrooms unless they’re cooked by the best restaurant in the world).  The menus are pretty set in place, but if you have a strong hatred for something let them know because there might be alternatives.

As each new course came out, a cocktail joined it.  I enjoyed seeing how the cocktails complemented the courses being served, something light and zestful to offset a rich dish or something sweeter to cut through a tart course.  It was very smart menu/mixology design.

The second course arrived with glass covers and a shroud of smoke encasing it.

With a whoosh, the covers were removed and the smoke revealed a really interesting pea and egg yolk dish (opinions are universally mixed about this dish in all the Virgin Voyages groups).  I liked the dish because it photographed incredibly well.

And of course another cocktail appeared, it was citrus-y and wonderful.

Up next was one of my favorite courses: seared scallops accompanied by some rolled prosciutto and a really flavorful sauce.

I’m a sucker for a good scallop and these were cooked perfectly.  The cocktail was, again, the perfect complement for the dish.

It was time for the main course.  I chose venison, which was served with a gusto of accompanying red wine sauce.  The combination of the sauce and the venison fillet was striking, with an artsy “splatter” effect.  Or, as one person in our party asked, it kinda looked like they had just unalived the deer in the kitchen.

Plating aside, the meat was flavorful and not gamy at all (always my test with venison).  The mains were served with a beautiful potato dish with thin slices of potato laid on its side that reminded me of a mille-feuille of sorts.

The cocktail was equally as beautiful, crested with a mint leaf.

Dessert had two options: a beautiful bleu cheese semifreddo with citrus oil that was immaculate, really fought for my favorite dish of the night.

The other option was a chocolate cake situation with a coconut sponge.  Remember how I don’t like mushrooms or artichokes?  I’d rather swim in an ocean of them than eat coconut.  Others at the table said it was great, though, and the plating was gorgeous.

As I left, I thought to myself, “man, what could be better than this?”

And then I got to try the second menu on my next cruise.

The Second Menu

Part of the fun of Virgin Voyages is seeing the crew of the ship out and about and getting to know them a bit.  I had been introduced to the food and beverage manager as well as the manager of Test Kitchen by a friend who wanted me to show them my photos from the first menu.  They loved the pictures and were even pointing out how things should have been plated differently and things like that.

The manager of Test Kitchen invited me to come back to take pictures of the second menu as well on my next cruise and I happily took him up on the offer.  Super nice guy and he and I walked around the restaurant so I could tell him where I wanted to sit for the best photography lighting.  I needed one of the biggest tables he had because the light was so perfect and he made it happen for me!

To keep tradition alive, I went ahead and got the cocktail pairing for the second menu as well.  This time I was dining solo and didn’t have friends to order other entrees, so I doubled up on a few occasions (again, just to show how loyal I am to my readers and not because it was all delicious).

I began with a similar cocktail to the first menu, which played nicely with the lavender centerpiece.

Another smoke dome was deployed, but this time for the first course: a delicious corn pate.

It was served with bread to make a spread of sorts.

(by this point people were turning around to look at Food Photoshoot Guy.  One guy asked if I was with a food magazine and I respected him enough to say yes)

Another cocktail was served as I prepared for the next course.

The second menu seemed to feature more sauces and foams than the first, which is always welcomed as far as I’m concerned.  The second course was a beautiful fish dish with cucumbers and a lovely sauce.

The sauce was a perfect complement, even though I’m not crazy about cucumbers.

(Loved the lighting!)

Another course was coming, so another cocktail it was.

It was time for probably the most beautiful dish on either menu: beet cannoli.

I loved the bold, vibrant colors.  AND THEN THE FOAM HAPPENED, applied personally by the Test Kitchen manager.

Absolutely wonderful dish, you have to try it when you go!

By this point, both my waitress and the manager were getting into the swing of things and came up with ways of making each picture look the best it could.  We all were laughing and having a great time and, to their credit, the things they thought of ended up helping a lot!

(they misted the leaf with some water to make it more reflective!)

It was time for the mains.  Since I wanted to show all of the options they had, I looked like Gorging Fat Guy instead of Food Photoshoot Guy for a minute.  The mains were very vibrant but in a different color palette than the first menu.

There were three options: a lamb dish, a seafood pasta, and a plant-based dish with roasted pumpkin.

The dishes were just stunning.

I tried all three and was pleasantly surprised when the plant-based dish was my favorite, because of its rich flavors that were very well-balanced and not too heavy.  That’s taking nothing away from the other two dishes either, the plant-based dish was just that good!

The cocktail served with the main was just beautiful as well, with some candied ginger adorning it.

The dessert course began with one of the most unique dishes I’ve ever seen: asparagus sorbet.

From what they said, the sorbet (with a little bit of candied ginger on top) received bipolar reviews, but I loved it.  The ice in the sorbet gave it a texture that countered the rich flavor of the asparagus.

One last cocktail and one last course, at least until my next Test Kitchen experience.  The freeze-dried strawberry in the cocktail heralded the last dessert course, a colorful dish with a variety of textures which complemented the cocktail perfectly.

Every bite of the dessert was different than the one before it and I enjoyed each of them immensely.  The only thing better than the food was the incredible service from the Test Kitchen team.  They made it easy to take such great food photos and couldn’t have been nicer people.  I love that Virgin Voyages encourages their staff to take ownership of each sailor’s happiness and do what they can to put a smile on their face.

Up next

Ok, we’ve covered the cabin and all of the specialty food on board Virgin’s Lady Ships fleet.  What’s next?  How about the entertainment?  Stay tuned!



Which course looks the best to you?  Tell me in the comments below!

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