Exeter via Pullman and Brompton
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 in to a beautiful classical 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 of to Exeter St David’s on the latest
offering in luxury travel from First Great Western. Partnering with chef Mitch
Tonks 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 combination that is sure
to be a hit.
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, is a
revelation – I’ve always been hugely suspicious of any English wines but this
really is a delicious delight. The Trevannion is light, fresh, floral and a
beautiful English offering.
|Knightor Trevnnion Cornish white wine |
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 desert I’ve opted for the West Country
cheese board, served with Somerset quince jelly (£9). Beautifully creamy and an
incredibly generous portion later, we roll in to Exeter St Davids after just 2
hours and I feel a million miles away from the chaos of the capital.
|West Country cheese board|
I’ve brought Bertie the Brompton, my new
folding bike, with me and we’ve got 40 minutes before catching the train back
to London. While the rest of the Press traipse over the road for hotel coffees,
Bertie and I are off on our guerrilla style speed tourism adventure. I’ve never
been to Exeter but it’s the town my mum went to university in and after a quick
scan of a map before leaving I’ve worked out it’s only a mile from the station
to the city centre. I hadn’t quite bargained on that being up a stonking hill
but Bertie is armed with two gears and more than capable of the challenge. I’m
rewarded at the top with the beautiful Saxon cathedral dating from 1200. It’s
vast and the ceiling inside is completely incredible: in fact it’s the longest
vaulted ceiling in England.
|Bertie outside Exeter cathedral|
|Inside Exeter Cathedral|
Back on the road and up hill a bit further I
find Rougemont Castle, built by William
the Conqueror soon after 1066. Now just tumbling walls and sections of the
gates remain but it’s impressive nonetheless and you can imagine how this
prominent hill side fortification would have been a stronghold back in the
|Rougemont Castle |
|Mural in Exeter city centre|
Bertie and I whiz back down the hill to the
station and I’m back with time to spare before the train. The other reviewers
look round confused “Where’ve you been?” They’re half way through their coffees
and I meanwhile am flushed with the excitement of a new city and a small but
mighty adventure. “Oh, just nipped round Exeter quickly, did the tourist thing”
I reply nonchalantly, grinning to myself.
As I step back on to the train I’m plotting
my next visit – a chance to take on both the beautiful old-school romance of
the laid back first class travel with the highlights of the exceptional food
produced on the Pullman train and a chance for Bertie and I to get out and
about on another adventure.
By stepping back in to the past, I feel I
have come face to face with the future of travel: because, after all, shouldn’t
the journey be as important as the destination?
|Me with chef Mitch Tonks|
Post a Comment