All aboard for a touch of lux­ury

Sis­ter to the Venice Sim­plon-Ori­en­tEx­press, the Bel­mond Bri­tish Pull­man gives a chance to ex­pe­ri­ence lux­ury train travel

Staines Informer - - TRAVEL -

BEL­MOND Bri­tish Pull­man is the creme de la creme of Bri­tish train travel, trans­port­ing pas­sen­gers to a world of pure in­dul­gence.

De­part­ing from plat­form two at Lon­don Vic­to­ria, Sur­rey is in arm’s reach of ex­pe­ri­enc­ing ev­ery­thing the lux­ury vin­tage car­riages have to of­fer, even if it does come with a hefty price tag.

Glid­ing through stun­ning scenery to des­ti­na­tions all over Britain, in­clud­ing the Sur­rey Hills, guests can en­joy gourmet cui­sine on day trips or week­end ex­cur­sions.

While the fa­mous Fly­ing Scots­man runs a pro­gramme of trips around Sur­rey this sum­mer, Bel­mond Bri­tish Pull­man has launched a se­ries of celebrity chef ‘pop-up’ din­ners fea­tur­ing cel­e­brated TV per­son­al­i­ties and Miche­lin starred restau­ra­teurs.

The first pop-up event was held on M ay 6, hosted by award-win­ning Ital­ian chef, Aldo Zilli.

I was lucky to hop on board the train for an evening of glam­our, culi­nary ex­per­tise and won­der­ful views of the Sur­rey Hills.

Suits and posh frocks at­tended a red car­pet cer­e­mony on the plat­form be­fore the vin­tage car­riages that once ran on leg­endary 1920s ser­vices such as the Brighton Belle and the Golden Ar­row ar­rived. Cham­pagne flowed, canapes ap­peared and ex­cite­ment built in the exclusive VIP area.

When the iconic clas­sic car­riages pulled in to the plat­form at 6.30pm, guests put down their glasses and hur­ried to the track, tak­ing pho­tos with the mag­nif­i­cent train along the way.

We picked up an­other flute as soon as we stepped on board and the bub­bles con­tin­ued through­out our jour­ney.

The sto­ries of the car­riages that make up the train are as rich as the leg­end of the Venice Sim­plon-Ori­ent-Ex­press it­self.

We sat in Min­erva. Built in 1927, it has dis­tinc­tively del­i­cate Ed­war­dian mar­quetry and a long pres­ti­gious his­tory.

Put in stor­age dur­ing the Sec­ond World War, it was ex­ten­sively re­fur­bished in 1951 to join the new car­riages for the Golden Ar­row to cel­e­brate the Fes­ti­val of Britain and in the early 1950s the car­riage was in­cluded in spe­cial trains for state vis­its and royal use.

Ve­neered pan­els fea­ture ex­quis­ite art deco designs, art nou­veau lamps shed soft light on pol­ished brass, ma­hogany fit­tings cre­ate a warm feel and vel­vet arm­chairs make for in­ti­mate din­ing.

Im­pec­ca­bly well-dressed and pro­fes­sional waiters tended to our needs from the sec­ond we reached for our starter spoon to the mo­ment we fin­ished our cof­fee and choco­lates.

Not only was the ser­vice first class, so was the food and drink.

Draw­ing in­spi­ra­tion from his na­tive Abruzzo re­gion, Zilli mixed fresh and lav­ish in­gre­di­ents and pre­sented them through six sump­tu­ous cour­ses with pair­ing wines.

The gas­tro­nomic feast started with a smooth, rich lob­ster and brandy bisque with warm bread.

The train ride was so smooth, you didn’t have to worry about spilling soup down your crisp shirt or gor­geous gown. Salty Parma ham and fresh, crunchy as­para­gus was up next, fol­lowed by truf­fle and mush­room ravi­o­lli (a spinach filo pas­try for lac­tose in­tol­er­ants like me).

The star of the show was the main course – pink lamb rack with soft minted new pota­toes, caponata and a dis­tinc­tive blood red rose­mary jus.

It was fault­less com­fort food pre­sented el­e­gantly – and it tasted sublime.

Course num­ber four was a generous Ital­ian cheese board com­plete with grilled pear and truf­fle honey and dessert was yet an­other large shar­ing plat­ter of sweet treats in­clud­ing pis­ta­chio cakes, tiramisu, panna cotta and lemon tart.

The six ut­terly en­joy­able mod­ern Ital­ian cour­ses were paired with six de­light­ful red and white wines in­clud­ing Valpo­li­cella Clas­sico grapes.

En­ter­tain­ment was pro­vided on board by a live singing trio who were fab­u­lous to lis­ten to and watch and Zilli him­self walked through the car­riages to greet pas­sen­gers and sign copies of his veg­e­tar­ian book Fresh & Green.

Be­tween each course we sat back in our plush chairs and ad­mired the in­tri­cate fur­nish­ing and fit­tings of the cosy car­riage and gazed out of the win­dow as we passed through Egham, Ad­dle­stone, Wok­ing, Shal­ford, Dork­ing, Betch­worth and Reigate.

Shortly af­ter 11pm, we re­turned to Vic­to­ria and the real world, hav­ing been trans­ported to a more gra­cious era of travel filled with el­e­gance, glam­our and pure deca­dence. It was a jour­ney fit for a queen and an ex­pe­ri­ence that will stay in my mem­ory for a very long time. n The ‘pop-up’ din­ners con­tinue with Richard Cor­ri­gan on June 11, Tom Ker­ridge on Au­gust 13 and James Martin on Septem­ber 29. Tick­ets cost £510 per per­son. To book call 0845 0772222 or visit Bel­mond.com.

Dressed to im­press for a jour­ney on the Bel­mond Bri­tish Pull­man.

A beau­ti­fully-fur­nished Pull­man car­riage and, right, ser­vice to match.

Raise a glass of bub­bly to the by­gone days of the train.

Celebrity chefs such as Aldo Zilli and Tom Ker­ridge en­sure the food is fit for a queen.

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