Last weekend, Marc and I were treated to a very special evening on-board the Belmond Northern Belle. An elegant and lovingly restored pullman train straight out of the 1930’s.
The Belmond Northern Belle departs from Birmingham, Liverpool and Manchester, and can take you to Ascot, Wimbledon, historical cities such as Bath and Edinburgh, to the coast or the countryside. They offer romantic, luxury train travel experiences, reminiscent of a bygone era.
Dressed up in our finery, we met the rest of the group on the platform at Chester station, and marvelled at the gorgeous old beauty.
Every inch of the carriage is ornate and evokes the glamour of rail travel in the 30’s.
After a few customary snaps (it’s not everyday you board such a beautiful train) we were shown to our table.
Once we were settled, our charming waiter filled our glasses to the brim with Laurent-Perrier and talked us through the evenings events.
We would shortly be joined by Monsieur Raymond Blanc- Michelin starred chef, and our fabulous host for the evening.
We befriended our fellow diners, and settled in for a very special supper, Monsieur Blanc style.
Dinner began with roasted pumpkin soup, and a hazelnut biscotti topped with Cashel blue cheese.
It was at this point that we befriended Monsieur Blanc. A chef Marc and I have admired for many years and I can honestly say he was more charming and passionate about his food than we could have hoped for. Monsieur Blanc told us briefly about his new book which has been five years in the making, and is part biographical, complete with illustrations. Although it wasn’t long before he was distracted by the onboard entertainment.
Our next course was leek terrine, Jerusalem artichokes and Truffle dressing, paired with a wonderful white Burgundy that tasted of almonds. A love-letter to the humble leek, this dish was one of the highlights for me.
A magician (who really ought to be a comedian too) wandered through the carriages in-between courses, entertaining guests, whilst a wonderful accordion player beguiled us with her raspy voice and beautiful French songs.
For the main event, we were served butter-soft Jacobs ladder, mashed potatoes and red wine jus, paired with a full-bodied red wine that tasted of cherries and blackberries. A classic dish served with finesse (of course).
And really, the most ridiculously good cheeseboard. I mean LOOK AT IT.
By this point in the evening, we were well on our way back to Chester, having been as far as Birmingham. We came to a stop in a field, and all the lights went out, plunging us into complete darkness. The next thing we know, the whole sky lit up with silver and gold sparkles, crackling back down to earth. We gazed on, completely spellbound.
The last course of the evening was a Chocolate Marquise with Hazelnut and lemon butterscotch sauce, served with a red dessert wine from Corsica, which incidentally has gone straight on my Christmas list.
Very full and very happy, we rolled onto the platform, into a cab and back to our charming room at The Boathouse.
‘The Dinner‘ hosted by Raymond Blanc on-board the Belmond Northern Belle is a bucket list experience. There really is something quite magical about travelling by train, without an end destination. I can’t recommend it enough for anyone who deserves a good spoiling (even if that person is you). You can also enjoy a luxurious Afternoon Tea, or a very special Valentine’s Day dinner -you’d be pushed to find a more romantic setting.
Ph. My own.
Huge thanks to Belmond Northern Belle for their hospitality.