P&O Iona The Epicurean Restaurant Window Table

Gluten Free Foodie’s Guide to P&O Iona’s Specialty Dining (Extra Charge)

As a gluten-free cruiser who loves to indulge, I always look forward to exploring the specialty dining options on a cruise. Not all extra charge or specialty dining options on Iona were equally gluten free friendly, so join me as I share my honest opinions on which ones are worth the splurge for a gluten free foodie!

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Which Specialty Dining Venue is Most Gluten Free Friendly on P&O Iona?

Of the extra charge, specialty dining restaurants, I would rank these from the most gluten free friendly to the least in this order:

  1. The Beach House: Multiple gluten free options for each course and budget friendly at less than ยฃ10 per person, if you pre-book before you board.
  2. Sindhu: Iona’s Indian restaurant has loads of GF options for all courses. If you want to treat yourself, pre-book before you board – Sindhu was completely booked out throughout my cruise!
  3. Limelight Club: Despite being a set menu, there’s a range of GF options. So if you’re after a night of entertainment (surcharge) with inclusive dining, then the Limelight Club caters well for GF cruisers.
  4. The Keel & Cow: If you love steak, this is the place to get it! There’s one or two other options besides steak but overall, other dining venues are more GF friendly.
  5. The Epicurean: Iona’s fine dining restaurant does have GF options but I thought other dining venues’ food was better.
  6. The Glass House: Just want nibbles or small plates, while you enjoy your wine? Then the Glass House has a few GF options too. I didn’t rank it higher, as I think the food is definitely more snack size and a typical diner will still need to eat dinner afterwards. (The “big plates” options are not GF.)

I’ll also discuss below the gluten free options available at Ripples (the Ice Cream bar) and Vistas Cafe Bar.

Note on P&O Pricing: Prices for Specialty Dining venues vary but generally, it’s 20% cheaper if you pre-book before embarkation day. You can still book once onboard but without the discount. I’ll discuss how each venue is priced below, as each venue is different.

Gluten Free Options at the Beach House Restaurant

The Beach House is located on Deck 16 mid-ship. This section of Deck 16 is used as part of the Horizon Restaurant during the day and turned into the Beach House on evenings. I would describe it as American style Mexican food. There’s a great selection of GF starters and main courses and that’s why I’ve ranked this as the most GF friendly specialty dining venue onboard the P&O Iona.

Beach House Menu, P&O Iona, June 2024
Copyright P&O Cruises – The Beach House Menu

Gluten Free Starters at The Beach House

Pork Chiacharrones served at the Beach House on P&O Iona June 2024
  • Pork Chicharrones: It’s a combination of fried pork belly with pork crackling. Both were wonderfully crispy!
  • Sweet Potato & Mozzarella Crispy Skins with salsa and crunchy onions
  • Crab Tostadas with guacamole, chilli, sour cream, red onion, coriander and lime.
  • Mexican Poke Bowl with black beans, red rice, tortillas, sweetcorn salsa, tomato, romesco and cucumber

Gluten Free Main Courses at The Beach House

Chicken Fajita Sizzler served in the Beach House restaurant on P&O Iona June 2024
  • Mexican Fajita Sizzlers with either chicken, steak (surcharge) or halloumi – all could be made gluten free. The chicken fajitas tasted good and was an excellent portion size but it came with only 3 tortillas.
  • Chilli Sin Carne: Three bean and sweet potato chilli, black bean and cheese filled pepper, creamed corn and coriander rice – this is a good GF vegan option!
  • Honey & Garlic-Glazed Chicken with crispy chorizo patatas, stir-fried callaloo, Amarillo chilli and green tomato dips
  • Lava or Salt Block Prime Fillet Steak with grilled king prawns, served with cajun fries or baked potato and dips (surcharge)
  • Beer Can Chicken Sharer for two: Whole Roasted chicken with rice, peas or fried with GF chicken gravy (surcharge)
  • Fisherman’s Hanging Kebab with garlic king prawn, Caribbean lobster tail, octopus, snapper with fries or red bean rice and chipotle dip – the table next to mine ordered this and it was spectacular! I wanted to return to the Beach House to try this but I didn’t have enough meals on this cruise to try everything!

Gluten Free Desserts at the Beach House

Coconut and Chocolate Budino served at the Beach House restaurant onboard P&O Iona June 2024
  • Coconut and Chocolate Budino: This was to die for and probably the best dessert I had onboard the entire cruise! It’s a chocolate mousse with a salted caramel centre. The GF version swapped the vanilla waffle for ice cream.
  • Toasted Marshmallow Fondue Sharer with warm chocolate sauce and fresh strawberries. The GF version swaps the banana cake and churros for more fresh fruit. (If you’re sharing this with a non GF diner, you can ask for banana cake and churros to be served on a different plate).

Pricing: There is a per person cover charge to eat at the Beach House plus some items carry a surcharge on top of the cover charge. If you pre-book prior to boarding, the cover charge is 20% cheaper than booking onboard. I pre-booked at ยฃ9.20 per person cover charge, so onboard charge is ยฃ11.50 per person. Note that there is a ยฃ10 per person late cancellation charge if you cancel within 24 hours of your reservation or is a no-show.

Can I pre-order at the Beach House? I’m not sure and I did not try. There were enough gluten free options already on the menu that I could easily pick something for each course without pre-ordering. If there’s something specific that you want to try that’s not marked gluten free, you can try coming the night before and see whether they’ll take the pre-order.

Gluten Free Options at Sindhu Restaurant

Sindhi is the contemporary British-style Indian food on Deck 8 midship. As with much of Indian cuisine, most of the menu items are gluten free, so you won’t be short of choices.

This is the most popular specialty restaurant on Iona and if you’re interested to dine, it’s best to pre-book before you board. All reservation slots were completely booked out by the second day of my cruise. I snoozed, so I didn’t get a reservation! I did speak to a few fellow cruisers onboard who ate there and everyone thought the food was excellent.

Pricing: Every menu item is a la carte, so you pay as per the menu’s stated prices. Nothing is included. If you pre-book before you board, you’ll be charged a ยฃ10 fee per person and that will be deducted from your bill plus a 20% discount. You don’t get the 20% discount if you book onboard. If you cancel within 24 hours of your reservation time or a no-show, the ยฃ10 per person fee is non refundable.

Gluten Free Options at the Limelight Club

The Limelight Club is an adults only venue that combines a set menu dining experience with entertainment. Think of it as a supper club with upscale cabaret entertainment. The entertainment changes on every cruise, so check ahead of time on the P&O website. Alternatively, when dining pre-booking opens 14 days before sailing date, you’ll also see the entertainer for your cruise.

Menus are subject to change for every cruise but I was pleased to see that there’s at least two options for starter and for main courses. For a set menu with limited choices, this is excellent effort from P&O. Here’s the GF options for each course on my cruise:

  • Starters:
    • Mojito Cured Salmon with cucumber jelly, picked cucumber, nori crisps and basil
    • Crisp Honey-Glazed Berkshire Black Ham Hock with pea pan cotta, picked carrot and mint emulsion
  • Main Courses:
    • Pan-Roasted Fillet of Beef with confit shallots, onions, sautรฉed leeks and ginger-glaced carrots
    • Butternut Squash, Mushroom and Cashew Nut Spring Roll with broccoli, sesame, baby carrots and pencil leeks and a cashew nut sauce
  • Dessert:
    • Dark and White chocolate Mascarpone Bomba

Pricing: Limelight Club seems to vary according to cruise, depending on the entertainment. On my cruise, it was around ยฃ42 (pre-booking price) but that’s likely to be different for your cruise.

Pre-Order from MDR? I didn’t try to do this but I’ve read online reports that it’s possible to pre-order from the MDR’s menu for the evening if you cannot pick something from the Limelight Club fixed menu. If you’d like to do this, be sure to inform the MDR head waiter the night before, as the Limelight Club is not staffed during the day.

Gluten Free Options at The Keel & Cow

P&O Iona Keel & Cow Menu June 2024
Copyright P&O Cruises

The Keel & Cow, on Deck 8 midship is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. The food is gastropub style and for GF diners, the Keel & Cow is best if you like steak, as the menu is not particularly GF friendly otherwise. Red meat gives me indigestion, so I didn’t eat the Keel & Cow on my cruise.

P&O doesn’t seem to stock GF burger buns, so I don’t think that the GF burger is an option. Of course if you’re willing to settle for a bun-less burger with just the patty and salad, I’m sure that they can accommodate.

Note High Traffic Thorough-Fare: Many cruisers don’t like the Keel & Cow for its unusual ambience. It’s in the middle of a high-traffic area on Deck 8, as it is right where the stairs lead down to the central atrium. So if you eat here, be prepared that random people will keep walking up and down around your table.

  • Breakfast: The only GF breakfast items are porridge and fruit salad. If you’d like a sit-down breakfast experience, go to the MDR instead. You’ll have a much wider choice including GF toast and GF Eggs Benedict served on a GF bagel (no GF muffins unfortunately)! If you want to grab something quickly, then head to the coffee bar on Deck 6 for a GF muffin (surcharge).
  • Lunch and Dinner: There’s no GF starter options but there’s a few GF main courses and only ice cream for desserts is gluten free:
    • Slow-cooked free range pork belly with crackling, Somerset Cider Brandy Relish, Roast Potatoes, Cabbage and Pan Jus
    • Vegetable Kofta Balti Pan with pilau rice, kachumber salad, lime pickle and mango chutney
    • Steaks cooked to your liking, from 8oz fillet, 10oz rib eye, 10oz sirloin, 18oz T-Bone to 32oz Tomahawk, with chips, mushrooms, grilled tomato and lettuce wedge. I’m not sure whether they can make GF beer-battered onion rings.

Gluten Free Options at the Epicurean

Window table at the Epicurean, P&O Iona

The Epicurean is the Iona’s fine dining restaurant on Deck 17 – this specialty dining venue has undoubtedly the best views – with floor to ceiling windows on one side throughout the restaurant. It’s only open for dinner.

Top Tip: Stop for a drink at the Crow’s Nest bar before hand – this is also my favourite bar on the ship. The seating areas are lovely and because of the spectacular views from the bow of the ship, is also a perfect space to read a book during day time.

For a typical 7-night itinerary, the Epicurean does three different menus:

  • Signature Afternoon Tea: Eric Lanlard Afternoon Tea in the Epicurean – typically this is served only on sea days. For GF diners, you need to pre-book AND flag your booking as requiring GF on embarkation day. If you forget, you’ll need to stop by the Epicurean at least the day before, to ensure that the GF cakes, sandwiches and scones are made for you.
    • Pre-ordering is not necessary for the included afternoon tea served at the Horizon Restaurant between 3pm – 5pm, as there will automatically be GF items served every day. Pre-ordering is only needed for the specialty afternoon tea (surcharge) served in the Epicurean.
  • Epicurean Dinner: This is the “standard” menu available every evening – the GF options for each course are below. The full menu is available here.
  • Norwegian Taster Menu: This menu is served for one night only if you’re on the 7-night Norwegian Fjords cruise onboard the Iona. It’s a set menu with no choice but they’ll make the dish gluten free for you if you book this taster menu. You can see the menu here. I didn’t like the menu so didn’t try this.

Dinner Pricing: The Epicurean charges a flat cover charge for a 3-course meal – in June 2024, I paid ยฃ28 per person when I pre-booked prior to getting onboard. None of the items carry an additional surcharge. Onboard price was ยฃ35 per person. The Norwegian Taster Menu was ยฃ38 if pre-booked.

Gluten Free Starters at the Epicurean

Seared King Scallops and Scallop Tartare, served at the Epicurean, P&O Iona, June 2024
  • Seared King Scallops and Scallop Tartare with charred cucumbers and cucumber ketchup – the seared scallops were well-cooked though the pan was not hot enough to sear well. The scallop tartare was divine.
  • Roasted Red Pepper Parfait with goat’s milk curd, sun-blush tomatoes and spinach and basil puree
  • Seasonal Soup, served with GF bread if you wish

Gluten Free Main Courses at the Epicurean

Black Cod & Lobster Tail at the Epicurean Restaurant onboard P&O Iona June 2024
  • Black Cod and Canadian Cold Water Lobster Tail with Caviar Gratin – the black cod was perfectly cooked but I was disappointed that I was given only half a lobster tail. (It’s difficult to see on the photo – despite being the “full shell with the tail”, half the tail had been sliced off sideways. So I only got half a tail, which I thought was very odd.)
    • Sides: I was offered a choice between spinach, long-stem broccoli, chips or potatoes. I should have said “all of the above”! ๐Ÿคฃ (But when my server implies that I could only pick one, I didn’t want to seem too greedy!) To say that the sides look decidedly sad, limp and tasteless was an understatement ๐Ÿ‘‡
Steamed long stem broccoli and spinach served at the Epicurean Restaurant onboard P&O Iona, June 2024
  • Torchon of Wild Atlantic Halibut Grenobloise for Two with saffron poached fennel and petit salad
  • Miso Glazed Rack and Slow Cooked Lamb Belly with caramelised aubergine and cauliflower tabbouleh
  • Maple Glazed Saddleback Pork T-Bone with crackling
  • Aged Black Angus Sirloin or Rib Eye

Gluten Free Dessert at the Epicurean

Unfortunately, there’s only one choice! It’s the Apple and Juniper Berry Crumble with Granny Smith apple sorbet and elderflower parfait. It was the best “light” dessert I had all week.

Apple Juniper Berry Crumble served at the Epicurean Restaurant onboard P&O Iona June 2024

My Take: Overall, my dinner at the Epicurean wasn’t bad but I’m not sure I would go back if I had a choice of specialty dining venues. And if I choose to go back, I will make a MDR reservation to have a second dinner afterwards! ๐Ÿ˜‚ I was still hungry after my dinner, so I headed to the Quays in search of GF fish and chips. If you intend to order steak, then the portions are huge and no second dinner is necessary! (I saw the portion sizes as the next table ordered steak.)

Gluten Free Options at the Glass House

The Glass House is a wine bar on Deck 7 mid-ship, at the Atrium area. While you can grab a few GF small plates here, the more substantial options, called “Big and Bold” options are not GF friendly. But there’s a GF trio of desserts which I didn’t notice when I was onboard. You can view the full menu here. Everything at the Glass House is priced a la carte.

Gluten Free Options at Ripples (Ice Cream Bar)

Hazelnut ice cream stick served onboard P&O Iona June 2024

There’s an allergen menu, showing which ice creams and sorbets are gluten free. If opt for a cup for your ice cream, be sure not to use the edible spoon as it’s not gluten free. I opted for a stick instead – it’s basically a Magnum. All items at Ripples are individually priced.

Gluten Free Option at the Vistas Coffee Bar

Vista Coffee Bar Food Counter onboard P&O Iona Deck 6, June 2024

Vistas Coffee Bar is on Deck 6 in the Atrium area. All breakfast items, pastries and snacks are additional charge, as are the barista made coffees. There’s a single GF item here and for the entire cruise, it was a lemon muffin! In the photo ๐Ÿ‘†, it’s on the bottom left.

Some of you may not like the fact that they put the GF muffin next to all the other food that’s jam packed with gluten. And they put it on the bottom shelf, rather than the top shelf. But at least the muffin was somewhat wrapped, to reduce contamination risks.

Featured Image was taken at the Epicurean Restaurant, Deck 17 of P&O Iona

I hope that this blog post has given you a good overview of what the gluten free options are in specialty dining venues onboard the P&O Iona. Here’s my other gluten free blog posts. If this is the first blog in my GF Iona series that you’re reading, then you may find going back and reading my first post (a general GF guide for Iona) helpful.

If you have any questions about gluten free dining, please do drop me a line in the comments section below! Happy GF cruising!

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