Are you ready to be taken back in time to a world where luxurious travel was as much about the journey as the destination?
I’ve arrived at London Paddington ready to journey to the South Coast via a culinary railway treat. I’m ushered into a beautiful architectural gem that constitutes the first class lounge, complete with coffee and pastries. As I curl up in a leather wingback armchair I feel like I’ve been taken back to the magic of 1930s rail travel. All I need now is a leather suitcase and a mysterious date with a trilby-wearing stranger at the other end.
I’m off to Exeter St Davids on the latest offering in luxury travel from First Great Western. Partnering with chef Mitch Tonks (pictured) they have launched a new menu on board the UK’s only daily fine dining rail car service, the Pullman. Featuring produce sourced locally, to the railway line and beautifully fresh seafood straight from Brixham market, this fusion of classic whirlwind romance and exceptional dining is a promising combination.
Sitting in a luxurious, wide carriage, at a linen-covered table, I order a Cornish white wine and as we begin to slip out of London I feel as though I’m already far away from the noise of the city. Specially sourced, the white Cornish wine from Knightor Trevannion is a revelation – I’ve always been hugely suspicious of any English wines but this really is a delight. The Trevannion is light, fresh, floral and a beautiful English offering.
To start I order the fresh crab from Devon – a dish featuring both the white and brown meat (£10). As tastes and fashions have changed, brown crab meat has been dropping off more and more menus, but it’s great to see the deeper flavoured dark meat partnered against the sweeter white meat here. On to mains and I’ve opted for Mitch’s personal recommendation, the monkfish (£25). A beautiful meaty piece of perfectly cooked fish is presented before me, served with a mint and caper sauce and traditional British sides including cauliflower cheese. The next time someone tells me there is no such thing as traditional British food I’d like to wave the Pullman’s menu in front of their nose. Taking influence from Italy and France but firmly rooted in the traditional British palate, the menu is classic and reminds me strongly of home, which seems appropriate for a train that might be whisking you away from the city to your beautiful seaside home.
For dessert I’ve opted for the West Country cheese board, served with Somerset quince jelly (£9). One beautifully creamy and incredibly generous portion later, we roll in to Exeter St Davids after just two hours and I feel a million miles away from the chaos of the capital. A 20-minute stroll from the station later and I’m exploring the magnificent Saxon cathedral and the beautiful broken castle walls at the top of the town.
By stepping back into the past, I feel I have encountered the future of travel.
Step onboard the Pullman and be prepared to be swept away via exceptional seafood to the stunning South West.