A luxury train outing and dining experience from Belmond starting and finishing at Victoria Station, London
The British Pullman is a luxury train service owned by Belmond (also owners of Le Manoir aux Quat’Saison) with carriages that have a similar heritage to that of the Orient Express. The journeys are varied from simple afternoon tea or brunches on board (approx 3-hour journeys) to lavish 5-hour lunches or dinners or lengthier day outings to English towns including meals onboard there and back, examples of which you can see here. This occasion was a joint Birthday celebration over a 5-course lunch, lap of Surrey lasting approx. 5 hours with no stops (£410 per person, but mercifully discounted through The Luxury Restaurant Guide). The food served was classic and simple British dishes that pleased all guests albeit with one dip and overall was the perfect activity to do for a celebration. A full and detailed rundown of the meal and experience can be seen by hitting the button below.
Let me start with the cost, as this is probably the first thing you may be wondering. £410 is quite expensive for a lunch granted, but this is aboard a luxury train and was the Golden Age of Travel by Steam, using the original steam-pulled train. Such is the attraction of this locomotive, photographers and train enthusiasts alike were gathered all along Platform 2 at Victoria Station just to have a look before setting off and on return. You can also get a 10% discount as we did if you are a member of The Luxury Restaurant Guide (LRG) whose annual fee was actually covered for in full for the savings of 4 people enjoying this experience at over £160 in savings! I do not have shares with the LRG, but is genuinely useful as an option to consider if you dine a lot like myself for the benefits it brings.
I was also very pleased and somewhat relieved with the value for money of the wine list onboard which included numerous hitters including Dom Perignon 2010 for £200 which would actually cost £180 in Waitrose and therefore is not the normal, hideous mark-up that it can be of being at least twice as expensive retail in retail, far more in lavish restaurants. Veuve Clicquot was also provided to everyone as well on being seated and a £45 voucher to my group of four for spending on any wine included in the price. We obviously used this pretty quickly, but from these to the gin and tonics at £10, I was actually expecting it to be a lot scarier price-wise on the booze, being trapped on board with no other bar options. So this was better than expected.
The head chef onboard the Pullman has been in situ for the past twenty plus years and takes care of the seasonal menus all year round with the periodic guest-chef occasions for menus from Michel Roux Jr (Le Gavroche), Tom Kerridge (The Hand and Flowers) and the eponymous James Martin among others. For this 5 course menu from the resident head chef (which included coffee and petit four) we began the meal with canapes of some very good blue cheese mousse and fig bites (the blue cheese mousse being well-judged) and vibrant, tomato and asparagus blinis. The crab starter was served with avruga caviar, and spicy mango chutney and again, I was pleasantly surprised at the well-judged acidity and quantity of the chutney to spruce up the sweet crab meat. Thin, white sourdough shards and samphire gave an additional, pleasant crunch and texture.
Next came pea and mint soup with crispy shallots and summer truffle oil. I did not establish whether this was genuine truffle oil or whether this was oil using the very common 2,4-dithiapentane (which is actually a synthetic compound). However, the resultant effect was everyone immediately enjoying each mouthful as the soup itself was beautifully rich, viscous with a pleasant truffle-like aroma and lovely complimentary crunch from the shallots. Nothing rocket science level about this, but a very pleasing effect regardless.
The main course on this June occasion was salt marsh from Romney served with charred baby fennel, wild rocket puree, potato and caper croquette and a Kentish wine reduction. All in all, this was a pleasing main but the only disappointment was the lamb being a little tough and not as pink as advertised and therefore hoped. The large croquettes with its caper were a welcome addition with a pleasant breadcrumb shell, all held together with a particularly good jus. But this was the moment that for me that resembled something a little dangerously close to a Business class flight offering.
The cheese consisted of Oxford blue, Costa cheddar and Somerset Brie all served with a very agreeable pineapple chutney with its dialled down vinegar content and this was followed by a Devonshire clotted cream summer pudding made with Angus raspberries, and an elderflower cheesecake. Nothing to sing about on the dessert, but a harmlessly suitable sweet addition. Surprisingly the handmade truffle petit fours were more notable than the dessert and better than most restaurant petit fours and this accompanied tea from Tregothnan and Coffee by Drury.
As we pulled into Victoria there was a bit of a hold-up and we were delayed and the train management kindly offered another glass of Veuve to keep everyone occupied during the wait. On return to Platform 2, I think I can safely say that everyone was in a state that was entirely happy with the experience and stumbling into a taxi was the next and final hurdle to overcome.
My summary is that this is a wonderful celebration activity to do with definitely pleasing food for the journey. It will always be difficult to get high-end dishes for the multitude of covers in the numerous carriages from one, small carriage kitchen, but it was a non-fussy and well-considered to please as a menu selection, ableit with a little dip in the lamb and an adequate dessert. Was it worth £410 (£360 with Luxury restaurant Guide Discount)? I’d say yes with the discount based on what was had yes (including the original drinks offer which can be toned down) and the overall impact the day had. It’s not something you will do every day and inevitably you will end up wanting to splash out more when onboard which, the prestige and glamour of the train will no doubt keep ensuring happens to the many willing future passengers to come.
Food Grade: 62%