Luke Mangan's new Dawn

Luke Mangan.
Luke Mangan.

THE description was intriguing: liquorice parfait with lime syrup.

The colour was unusual: a light olive green with a tiny moat of clear syrup, decorated with three half-moon lime portions.

The texture was velvety smooth: ice-creamy but light like mousse.

The taste was nothing short of heaven on a plate: a plate embossed with the name “Luke”.

The dessert was the perfect end to a delightful four-course degustation menu that officially launched the second Salt Grill by Luke Mangan experience aboard a P&O Cruises ship.

Renowned Australian chef Luke Mangan told invited guests at the lunch on board Brisbane-based superliner Pacific Dawn last Saturday that he had always wanted a restaurant on the water.

Now he has two, with much more than an ocean view, after his restaurant debuted on Sydney-based superliner Pacific Jewel in December, and the doors opened on Pacific Dawn on the May 29 sailing this year in response to passenger demand.

The next Salt Grill by Luke Mangan had not been expected until the Pacific Pearl launches in Auckland in December.

This is Melbourne-born Luke's debut in Queensland, having opened his first restaurant called Salt in Sydney in 1999 and now boasting glass brasserie in the Sydney Hilton Hotel, The Palace in South Melbourne, and Salt in Tokyo.

Carnival Australia CEO Ann Sherry described the latest Salt Grill as the “piece de resistance” of the Pacific Dawn multi-million-dollar refurbishment, which took place over two weeks at the end of last month, and Luke as “my newest favourite business partner”.

Featuring rich silver and dark blue contemporary Australian décor, complemented by sandstone and dark wood, the Deck 12 restaurant seats 60.

Operating independently from the rest of the ship, Salt Grill features an open kitchen for diners to see the skilled chefs doing what they do best, and temperature-controlled units for the carefully selected wines.

Passengers will pay a minimal surcharge of $30 a head ($20 for lunch) to dine on a menu of Luke's classic dishes.

Crockery, glassware and uniforms carry the “Luke” insignia or the four red squares logo. The restaurant will be open every cruise for dinner, and for lunch on sea days.

In a special ship's blog on May 31 on Pacific Dawn, Luke wrote: “Each Salt Grill will have its own variations here and there, but there are some things that won't change because it really goes to the heart of what I am all about.

Nearly 200 people took up the invitation to view the restaurant during a ship tour on Saturday, and the table talk at lunch in The Palm Court was peppered with compliments for the Salt Grill concept and dishes.

The rest of the carefully selected degustation menu – sashimi of kingfish, feta, rocket, and ginger-shallot dressing; roasted barramundi, cauliflower puree, zucchini, basil, pinenuts, and currants; and grilled sirloin of beef with barbecue sauce, soft polenta with blue cheese, asparagus and mushrooms – created a marriage of tastes as well suited to each other as ... well, salt to a cruise ship.

Fares on Pacific Dawn start from $829 quad-share and $999 per person twin-share for a seven-night South Pacific cruise departing February 12, 2011.

Contact a licensed travel agent or P&O Cruises on 13 24 94 or visit the website.

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