The British Pullman – Orient Express:
What would be your idea of the ultimate in luxury travel? A cruise? A first class ticket on a long haul flight to somewhere special? Or a trip on the Orient-Express perhaps? When I was asked if I’d like a short trip to Whitstable with lunch on the British Pullman, the sister train of The Venice-Simplon Orient Express, I was thrilled because it’s something I’ve always yearned to do..
In general if you book a UK day trip or short break with Orient Express, you will be travelling on the British Pullman. And the experience is amazing. Each one of the carriages is unique, refurbished to the highest standard and beautifully set up as a dining carriage. My seat was in Audrey. Originally a first class kitchen car for the Southern Belle, she first appeared in 1933. She has a history…in 1940 she was caught in a bombing raid at Victoria! She’s quite special because her walls are decorated with 12 different marquetry panels of landscapes. But, if I am honest, every one of the carriages was beautiful. And different! We took our seats and celebrated the trip with a glass of kir royale…before our silver service lunch.
Tiny canapés were a nice touch while we waited for Lunch. Our starter of Tian of Cornish Crab on Grilled summer vegetable and nasturtium salad with basil dressing and black olive tapenade was as delightful as it sounds. The crab was incredibly fresh and the salad beautifully dressed.
This was followed by a garden pea and Suffolk ham hock soup with mint crème fraiche. Again, faultless, a smooth pea puree flecked with tiny morsels of ham.
The main course was a roast breast of Kentish guinea fowl on Dyas farm asparagus, spice puy lentils, tarragon sauce and potato gratin was, to me, the least successful of the dishes, not because any individual component was at fault, but simply because there was too much and too many quite complicated flavours. When service started, I hadn’t checked the menu and I would have been quite content with nothing more than the guinea fowl with spiced lentils and tarragon sauce.
For me, the cheese board was a real triumph. A choice of six fabulous cheeses from around the UK. I picked Cornish blue, an unpasteurised cows milk blue cheese which I know and love, Dorstone, an ash coated soft goats cheese and Lord of Hundreds, a Sussex Sheep’s Milk cheese.
Dessert was one of the prettiest summer puddings I’ve seen, served as a ‘stack’ with a little plate of fresh red berries on one side.
Throughout the meal we were served a selection of wines from Biddenden Vineyards, all of which were delicious. Again, I hadn’t checked the menu until after we ate and didn’t actually realise until then that we were being served British wines throughout the meal. A particular success for me was the Gribble Bridge Dornfelder red wine, light and fruity and a perfect accompaniment to the cheese and guinea fowl.
The English theme of the menu was, I suspect partly due to the nature of the event which was sponsored by Visit England. Each one of the carriages was hosted by a region. We were looked after throughout the trip by Visit Berkshire, Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire – who were all resplendently dressed and who provided each of the ladies with their very own Lady GaGa handmade liquorice allsorts made by celebrity Oxfordshire milliner Adrienne Henry. We also had our very own ghost expert in Bill Spectre from Oxford.
For me, apart from the thrill of the trip itself and the very delicious food, I really enjoyed meeting representatives from around England. It really highlighted just how special our Country is. I’m slightly embarrassed to admit that I couldn’t remember whether the Lake District was further north than the Peak District or vice versa before the trip…and even though I have to admit they bribed me with jelly beans and rock I was genuinely intrigued by the Visit Blackpool representative’s description of what was on offer up north.
And, finally, we were joined throughout the trip by M Poirot, who may hail from Belgium but who told us very firmly that he was created in Devon!
Thank you very much to The Venice Simplon Orient Express and Visit England for a superb press trip and a great way to get to know a bit more about my home country. If you would like to try a day trip or short break on the British Pullman, there are a whole range of themed trips on the British Pullman Orient Express website