Step into the glamorous past with a foodie journey on the Sunset Steam Express
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The Sunset Steam Express wound its way out of Waterloo Station earlier this month, on its inaugural journey - a delightful roll through the Surrey countryside.
Lead image courtesy of Steam Dreams Rail Co.
Image courtesy of Steam Dreams Rail Co.The train is offering its passengers a chance to step back into the past for an evening - to the days when train travel was glorious, when the journey was an event in itself, and when onboard gastronomy wasn’t limited to limp sandwiches and sticky train wine drunk from plastic cups. As the first scheduled steam train departure from London Waterloo in over 50 years, the Sunset Steam Express - alongside its Champagne-fuelled brunch-time equivalent, the Royal Windsor Steam Express - will be hosting guests every Tuesday throughout the summer. The perfect delayed Father’s Day present? We’d say so. It’s a picture-postcard journey, which starts with the apple green Mayflower train (built in 1948) arriving at the platform with a flurry, and only continues as we step onboard and are shown to our seats inside the wood-panelled carriage. Every car is a dining car here, and white tables and champagne welcome us as we await our four-course moveable feast.
Image courtesy of Steam Dreams Rail Co.The food is delightful, with the non-veggie option starting with tasty tomato soup canapes, followed by a salmon and mackerel sharing plate with citrus garnish and then a main of rosemary and garlic chicken in tarragon sauce. Dessert is chocolate trios with honeycomb, berry compote and raspberry and caramel crisp, and it’s all complimented by an extensive drinks menu. Coffee and truffles follow dinner. All food is prepared on board by the Mayflower’s executive chef, James, and his very talented team. On the Windsor brunch journey, you can expect your champagne to be accompanied by a double (free range) eggs benedict with ham hock, hollandaise and grilled tomato. If you want to keep the journey more budget, there is also the option to bring your own picnic onto the train rather than opting for the Pullman-style dining. Throughout our journey, curious residents gather around their kitchen windows as the train chugs past. At Chertsey, we stop to stretch our legs and get a photograph of the majestic front of the train, which is framed - as was likely the aim - in an orange hue by the fading June sunlight.
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Image credit: Lucy MillerThere are a couple of issues that need ironing out, based on our departure. Service is slightly harried on this first journey, with the serving staff clearly suffering from opening night teething problems - but hopefully this is something that will be rectified quickly, if it hasn’t been already. The views were stunning, but unfortunately our departure time of 7.20pm in early June meant that the majority of the Surrey Hills were in darkness by the time we reached them - something that it’s important to note, but which hopefully won’t continue to be a problem throughout the summer’s long evenings. On a more positive note, the company is actively striving to offset the carbon emissions that steam engines produce. The Steam Dreams Rail Co., which operates the journey, is the first rail charter to be carbon neutral, and it also makes a donation to carbon reduction projects every year. The cost of a ticket on the Mayflower is steep on a student budget, but we think it’s a justifiable gift for a special occasion - a 50th birthday or your parents’ wedding anniversary, maybe - especially if you can split the cost between siblings. If you’ve got a train fan in your midst but want to stay on budget, opt for the picnic option - it’ll be a journey that your dad/grandad will never forget. The Sunset Steam Express departs from London Waterloo at 7.20pm and returns at 11pm. Prices from £99 per person in Premier Dining up to £129 per person travelling Pullman Style Dining. A standard ticket at £49 offers seating at tables where snacks can be purchased and picnics are welcome. Find out more at www.sunsetsteamexpress.co.uk The Royal Windsor Steam Express departs from Waterloo three times per day, at 8.05, 11.18 and 14.09. Tickets range from £35 up to £85 per person for the Pullman Style Dining experience with champagne brunch. Standard tickets are also available. Find out more at www.royalwindsorsteamexpress.co.uk Both are running every Tuesday until 3rd September.
Lead image courtesy of Steam Dreams Rail Co.