I must admit, apart from taking the Eurostar to Paris or Brussels and the train from Milan to Lake Como, I don’t really travel by trains so much. It’s not that I don’t like the beautiful scenery you witness sitting next to the window, but more the fact that flying just seems to be so much quicker as a means of transportation.
However… I was recently invited to step on board the Belmond British Pullman (sister train to the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express) and experience the wonders of luxury train travel. And how could I resist being transported to a world of pure indulgence in true 1920s style – old-school glamour of luxury vintage carriages, black tie atmosphere setting and a fine dining menu crafted by two-star Michelin chef Tom Kerridge, our on-board Executive Chef!
Meet Lucille. One of the beautiful carriages of @Belmond @BelmondBritishPullman. I love the elegant decor and the trip somehow reminded me of Wes Anderson’s films in The Grand Budapest Hotel. It was as if I was travelling through time while experiencing the amazing culinary skills of @cheftomkerridge. 🚆🍸#DiscoverBelmond #ootd
Arriving at Victoria station’s platform 2, Belmond rolled out the red carpet to welcome us glamorous-looking guests wearing sharp black suits and stylish dresses. Despite having just arrived back from a week in New York the day before and still recovering from a little jetlag, the excitement that kicked in at the sight of the Belmond welcome accompanied by a jazz band belting out appropriately classy tunes injected me with the energy required to last the evening.
With a glass of champagne in hand, I had the chance to meet some of the guests who would be joining me for the evening in Belmond’s departure lounge. London is often said to be a ‘small world’ and this evening proved it yet again as I connected with Luiz Hara (otherwise known as The London Foodie) over our shared passions of food and travel, as well as finding out that we would be dining in the same carriage.
After about 45 minutes of mingling with other guests and having the opportunity to speak with chef Tom Kerridge, we were told that the train was ready for us to begin boarding. Typically, these trains have a destination that they are travelling towards but this evening however, it would be working its way past Gatwick towards Heathrow and then back to Victoria again in a circular tour of the English countryside lasting just over a few hours. This was more about experiencing Tom’s cooking skills in a unique and glamourous environment.
As I made my way down the platform towards the carriage we would be dining in for the evening, I couldn’t help but be ‘wowed’ by the carriages, each being individually named and with a unique story to tell. Some have been used regularly by the Royal Family, while two were part of former Prime Minister, Winston Churchill’s funeral train. Lucille in particular caught my eye and I’m sure it was because of what I saw from looking through the windows. Perhaps it was the excitement of knowing what the train would be like once inside?!
Upon stepping into our carriage, it becomes clear why this has been referred to as ‘a palace on wheels’. Tables were laid out with the finest silver, linen and crystal, complete with a delicate table lamp. The chairs were more like plush couple seats and I could easily see myself curling up with a nice book and cup of hot chocolate in them. Veneered wooden panels surrounded us with brass luggage racks sitting above the relaxing chairs.
Sitting side by side with Mr New Yorker, we tucked into some canapes and poured our eyes over the menu for the evening, which comprised of some of Tom’s top dishes from his latest cookbook and two star Michelin restaurant, The Hand and Flowers, based in Marlow. And as our glasses began to fill up with champagne, we waved goodbye to Victoria station as the train began making its journey towards the countryside.
Dinner began with something light and refreshing: chilled parsley soup with smoked salmon. A simple yet refreshing dish that was combined with confit lemon and borage, and was just perfect for a warm summer’s evening!
Next up was a terrine of ham hock and pistachio, which was served alongside some apple caramel. These delicate apple pieces had a popcorn-like consistency and the dish as a whole went superbly well with some German Riesling from Rheingau. Riesling, I must say, is one of our favourite white grape variety; something about that deliciously refreshing taste together with its perfumed aromas and fruit nectars.
In between courses, we were pampered by the five star service on display from the staff who made sure we had everything we needed and the on-board entertainment. In addition to the jazz band trio (who earlier had welcomed us to Belmond’s departure lounge alongside Victoria station’s platform 2) joining us on board the train, we were also awestruck by a close-up magician who effortlessly worked his way through the carriages with tricks that had us all scratching our heads.
Main course was a slow roasted beef brisket with ratatouille, topped with a black olive cracker. Hints of clove in the ratatouille helped to bring out some wonderful flavours and the tender brisket just melted on our tongues before diving south into our hungry stomachs.
After a short break to allow the food time to digest, we were then presented with the dessert section of the menu. First up, was a well-presented board of cheeses from around the British Isles. We were treated to three varieties – Cornish Blue, Lord of the Hundreds, and Stinking Bishop – the latter being especially quirky in name that it got a nice laugh from passengers in our carriage. Stinking Bishop however, had the last laugh. Between the three, Mr New Yorker and I both agreed that this was our favourite cheese with its soft textures and slightly pungent smell. To accompany our cheeseboard, we had small glasses of 10 year old Tawny Port from Porto.
The second part of the dessert section provided us with the opportunity to try one of Tom’s most popular recipes – the whisky and rye pudding. Soaked in a generous amount of whisky, this sweet pudding was a good way to finish off this epic menu. After patting my tummy on a job well done, I was feeling a little less guilty about the evening’s food extravaganza when I remembered I had a Barry’s Bootcamp session the next morning!
The experience on board the Belmond British Pullman is one that comes highly recommended to all discerning Londoners and travellers. It’s a great excuse to get all dressed up and looking glamourous for an evening of luxurious indulgence. While it’s certainly not cheap, I can guarantee that the experience will be unforgettable and like us, you’ll want to introduce others to how amazing train travel can be.
Here is a lovely video showcasing the Belmond British Pullman experience.
Your can find out more about upcoming journeys on the Belmond British Pullman by clicking here.
Belmond British Pullman
Victoria Station, Platform 2