Europe

A Dinner onboard the Belmond British Pullman


There is something about certain train journeys – the old-school glamour, fine dining and fabulous outfits. And copious amounts of champagne – I have to confess, it had my name written all over it. The magic of the golden age of travel has been brought back to life by the Belmond British Pullman (the new brand name of Orient Express Trains & Cruises).

I had to take this photo, I had to!

I had to take this photo, I had to!

The British Pullman, is made up of 11 carriages that formed part of the most famous services in Britain in the 1920s and 1930s – each with its unique style and personality, beautifully restored and refurbished.

To say we were excited to go on this journey, would be an understatement – and funnily enough, we weren’t exactly going anywhere: the train ride was the experience, as we were to return and depart from London Victoria Station, after a 5-hour fine dining experience.

Not your average station experience!

Not your average station experience! The black-tie dress code made the experience even more special, in my opinion.

The 100+ passengers arrived at the station, half an hour before its departure. During this time, we got to enjoy the British Pullman lounge, which is conveniently located by its boarding platform. On arrival, we were immediately greeted by a glass of champagne and were handed a beautiful box with our tickets, which were part of our personalised travel journal. I loved this detail and how special it made everyone feel – this train journey is certainly a special occasion and this keepsake would be one of the memories to take back home.

Not your average train ticket, either!

Not your average train ticket, either!

The British Pullman operates both lunch and dinner services throughout the year, but this year, there is something even more special – Belmond has invited some of the leading British chefs to team up with its executive chef Robbie Gleeson and serve truly unique dining experiences. In our travel date, the pop-up chef was Tom Kerridge, the executive chef of the 2-star Michelin pub The Hand & Flowers (the only pub with stars in the UK). Needless to say, Tom was at the lounge meeting and greeting every passenger.

After a couple of glasses of champagne, it was time to board the British Pullman!

Our carriage: Cygnus.

Our carriage: Cygnus.

Obviously there was no luggage, so it was easier for everyone – but made even more special by the staff, which welcomed each passenger to its correct carriage. These are named and not numbered, so we did need a little help to find Cygnus, which was designed in 1938, but not completed until 1951.

The excitement was about to begin!

The excitement was about to begin!

When we got to our carriage, all we could say was ‘ahhhhhhhh’. It was stunning – and every person who boarded the train had exactly the same reaction. The tables were set and looking stunning and you could just feel the excitement in the air.

One of the few places in the world where each table has a view :)

One of the few places in the world where each table has a view 🙂

There are tables for 1, 2 and 3 on the main part of each carriage, with separate areas for tables of 4 (called coupes). We were actually assigned a table for 3, which meant we had an extra seat which was perfect for all the goodies we had – a signed Tom Kerridge book, a magazine, and of course our lovely box with our tickets.

It didn’t take long until we left. And to be honest, no one had any idea where we were going – but we found that information in our travel journal, which indicated that we were going on a loop journey via Ashford, Canterbury West and Whistable. It was actually interesting to see the various types of scenery, which changed dramatically from urban to rural and we even got some peeks of the sea.

Couldn't you tell how happy I was?

Couldn’t you tell how happy I was?

Champagne continued to flow and our culinary journey was about to begin – some pretty canapés arrived before our 5-course dinner.

Delicate and delicious canapés, which were matched to the Laurent Perrier champagne served on board the British Pullman.

Delicate and delicious canapés, which were matched to the Laurent Perrier champagne served on board the British Pullman.

Things got off to a flying start with the actual first course – an English cucumber gazpacho, served with creme fraiche and vodka. It was incredibly delicious (and something we will be attempting to recreate at home one day) and if I am perfectly honest, I have a complaint to make: it was too small. It was absolutely fantastic and a few weeks later, we are still talking about it. The cold soup was paired with a Jake’s Orchard Sparkling Cider & Nettles (I kid you not), from Kent, England, which was very nice.

My favourite dish of the meal!

My favourite dish of the meal!

The second course was chilled Cornish mackerel escabeche with pickled carrots, and I had to ask Mr. O if he had called in advance to let them know about two things I really don’t care for! Obviously, he had a little bit of mine. This course was paired with a cold Beaujolais (2011 Morgon Domaine Jean Descombe from France), which was lovely.

Not my cup of tea, but it did look pretty.

Not my cup of tea, but it did look pretty.

The third course was a braised new season lamb shank which was absolutely fantastic. It was served with pea and mint ragu, pickled girolls and salsa verdi. I knew the food was going to be amazing, but I was also incredibly impressed with what the chefs were able to cook on a train – it cannot be easy. It was paired with a 2008 Bandol Domaine de la Begude (from France), which was, without a doubt, the best wine served.

Apologies for the slightly out of focus photo - but the train was moving!

Apologies for the slightly out of focus photo – but the train was moving!

Service was outstanding – a lot of attention to detail and the timings were perfect. I had wondered if 5 hours would be too long for a dinner – but it actually wasn’t. Everything was timed to perfection, and needless to say, our glasses (both wine and water) were always tendered to. No detail was too small.

During dinner, we also had some entertainment (which we obviously didn’t expect). There were some musicians who played in each carriage and they were very good. If you want to hear a little bit, have a look a the little video I did on Instagram (only 15 secs, but gives you an idea).

Doesn't Mr. O look fab? I love him in black tie.

Doesn’t Mr. O look fab? I love him in black tie.

After a little break, it was time for dessert. In the United Kingdom, that means the cheese course, of course! I think it would be fair to say that most people who do not know the UK well, never heard about one of its secrets: amazing cheeses. On this occasion, we were treated to Beenleigh Blue, Gubbeens, Wealdwad Goats and Somerset Brie, served with grapes and raisin bread. This little bit of heaven was paired with a 20-year-old Ferreira Duque de Bragranca Tawny Port, from Portugal (obviously!).

Needless to say, Mr. O only ate his portion. There was nothing left from mine.

Needless to say, Mr. O only ate his portion. There was nothing left from mine.

At this stage, we other visitors: a magician who was actually very good. It got all of the passengers of the carriage chatting and laughing and obviously I cannot tell you the tricks he played on us.

I have to say I didn’t have a lot of room left at this stage, but it would be rude not to try the last course: a summer fruit fool, with pink peppercorn shortbread – it seriously does not get any more British than that! It was paired with a lovely lovely lovely 2013 Moscato d’Asti from Piedmont, Italy and I may have asked for seconds.

A lovely Summer fool.

A lovely Summer fool. Apologies for the lack of focus, but it was a combination of the train moving and the Moscato.

At this stage, we had realised that 4 hours had come and gone – and I cannot tell you how quickly it went. Especially when Tom Kerridge did the rounds of all carriages and came to say hello and chatted for a bit with every passenger. It was a lovely touch (and he got me some ideas of how to get a table for the Hand & Flowers before May 2015). He also signed the book and happily took a photo with us.

Tom Kerridge was really nice and it was a pleasure to meet him.

Tom Kerridge was really nice and it was a pleasure to meet him.

And after coffee and tea, I am not sure how, but we got back to London Victoria station where it all began, 5 hours before. I loved our evening at the British Pullman, and it was also great to meet other guests and find what occasion led them to that night: a birthday, wedding anniversary, engagement and quite a few tourists who thought they wanted a true British experience – and I cannot agree more. If you are visiting, it is one of the most quintessentially British experiences you could have, and one you could take with you forever.

A glass of Moscato I won't forget in a hurry. Or ever.

A glass of Moscato I won’t forget in a hurry. Or ever.

One thing you also get to take with you, besides the menus and the (lovely) travel journey, is the silver napkin rings. They were removed from our tables when service started, but were given to every passenger before we got back to London (so no, I did not steal them!).

Another very thoughtful keepsake.

Another very thoughtful keepsake.

As we got back to the station, you could tell everyone was smiling and oh so happy – a fantastic evening, in my case, spent in the company of my fantastic husband. And it won’t be long until I am back, as later in the year I will be going on the Venice-Simplon Orient Express, from Venice to London, and once we cross the channel back to the UK, the British Pullman will be there waiting for us. And take us to Victoria again. And again.

And if you want to see what ‘The Dinner’ experience really looks like, I leave you with this video. It was truly exceptional.

xo

Mrs. O

 

Disclaimer and Fact Box: I was a guest of the Belmond British Pullman, and as always, opinions are my own. The ‘Lunch’ journeys start at £235 per person, including all food and drinks, and the ‘Dinner’ experience starts at £420 (£495 if hosted by a celebrity pop-up chef). You can find out more about upcoming journeys on the British Pullman, by clicking here


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31 Comments

  1. Katie

    July 31, 2015 at 4:42 pm

    The Venice-Simplon Orient Express is on my to-do list, but I’d be happy dining and going nowhere, too. How fun!
    Katie recently posted..This Is How You Spend 48 Epic Hours at Four Seasons HampshireMy Profile

  2. Denver Photographer

    September 6, 2014 at 6:34 am

    That looks like such an event! So much fun. I love riding on trains like that, hence why I love travelling in Japan so much.
    Denver Photographer recently posted..Meredith Model Portfolio Work { Denver Photographer }My Profile

  3. Chinmoy Lad

    August 5, 2014 at 12:57 pm

    Ana this is absolutely fantastic! This is one brand I’ve never stayed at or experienced, and would love to see more of your coverage of their stuff…they have some fantastic properties, and very legendary trains. One day, I WILL do the Orient Express!

    • @mrsoaroundworld

      August 5, 2014 at 3:18 pm

      Sounds like a fantastic plan! It is a fab brand indeed 🙂

  4. Joanna

    August 4, 2014 at 4:00 pm

    *Someone* is turning 40 soon, and someone needs to send this link to husband for inspiration. This is fantastic! I thought it was for OAPs, but if you enjoyed it 😉 I am now excited!

    • @mrsoaroundworld

      August 4, 2014 at 4:04 pm

      It is exciting!! Absolutely not just OAPs – there were obviously a few, but many couples in their 30s, 40s and 50s. Good atmosphere too!

    • @mrsoaroundworld

      August 5, 2014 at 8:46 am

      Nothing to worry about, it is a fab experience for all ages, really!

  5. HIDDEN EUROPE

    August 3, 2014 at 9:00 pm

    A mouth-watering account of what was clearly a wonderful evening journey. Just wonder if the emphasis on its being a “true British experience” or “authentic” is just a shade overplayed. This is a very upmarket evening out, one that is way beyond the reach of most Brits. You might want to take a regular early evening train from London on the same route to Canterbury and the Kent coast. That would give a more authentic rendering of a true British experience.

    • @mrsoaroundworld

      August 4, 2014 at 9:06 am

      I do not write for the mass market, with all due respect – it is very clear who my audience is. And if one is visiting England, namely from a country where trains are not part of life, wants to see the country, try outstanding British food and hospitality, this would be the experience I would recommend without a doubt! 🙂

  6. Caroline Green

    August 3, 2014 at 6:50 pm

    This is a perfect British experience. Bringing the best British pub chef on board makes it as British as it gets. In six weeks time we are having our 20th wedding anniversary. I think this would be perfect. You look lovely by the way.

  7. Ani

    July 31, 2014 at 5:10 pm

    Ana that experience looks absolutely marvelous. The food looks exquisite – my favourite has to be the lamb shank 🙂

    And you look beautiful as always !

  8. Becky Padmore

    July 30, 2014 at 10:08 am

    What an unique experience, you can’t beat a bit of traditional glamour! 🙂
    Becky Padmore recently posted..10 off the beaten track destinations to discover in IndonesiaMy Profile

  9. the lazy travelers

    July 29, 2014 at 10:12 pm

    we loved following you along on instagram during your ride, but seeing everything recapped here makes it look even more amazing! which we didn’t even think was possible! train travel is so romantic.
    the lazy travelers recently posted..perfetto puglia // five days in the heel of italyMy Profile

  10. Lucy

    July 29, 2014 at 4:06 pm

    Love train travel but this just looks like a whole new level of fabulousness! The vintage style looks beautiful too. I am going to have to do a trip sometime soon.
    Lucy recently posted..My third year On the LuceMy Profile

    • @mrsoaroundworld

      July 29, 2014 at 4:14 pm

      It is lovely and worth it! Very very old school (as it should be!)

  11. James Dalton

    July 29, 2014 at 2:12 am

    Totally Awesome

  12. Shikha (whywasteannualleave)

    July 29, 2014 at 12:04 am

    It looks just incredible! I’m totally sold! Reading your posts and seeing your posts, it is clear that it just oozes luxury!
    Shikha (whywasteannualleave) recently posted..Why I started travel blogging – Reflections One Year OnMy Profile

    • @mrsoaroundworld

      July 29, 2014 at 4:14 pm

      But it was also very relaxed, so very comfortable. Lovely experience indeed.

  13. Suzanne (The Travelbunny)

    July 28, 2014 at 7:43 pm

    I love, love, love (did I say love?) the British Pullman experience! I last went in May for lunch and afternoon tea.

    The traditional British fare is superb and I like that dessert is served after the cheese (as it should be in my opinion!) The first time I went there was a soup course and despite the train rattling along the tracks not a drop was spilled as the waiter served it. The attention to detail is second to none – all so terribly, terribly British!
    Suzanne (The Travelbunny) recently posted..The Leaning Tower of PisaMy Profile

    • @mrsoaroundworld

      July 28, 2014 at 11:05 pm

      They are true professionals. I loved how think and heavy the glasses were – we had no accidents either. And so so so British, loved the experience!

  14. Mary Anne

    July 28, 2014 at 6:31 pm

    What a fantastic adventure and so unique! I want to try it.

  15. Clare

    July 28, 2014 at 6:17 pm

    I’ve been looking forward to reading about this fabulously glamorous train journey! And I can see it was just as fabulous and glamorous as I hoped it would be! Looks like you had a wonderful time. This is definitely something I’d love to do as a treat for a special occasion.
    Clare recently posted..#Take12Trips: The Spring and Summer EditionMy Profile

    • @mrsoaroundworld

      July 28, 2014 at 11:05 pm

      I am delighted I did not disappoint! I think you would love it too, Clare!

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