England, Europe and Middle East, London, Newsletter, Trip Reviews, United Kingdom

A Day Out on the Northern Belle. Britain’s Most Luxurious Train

14/12/2023 by .
the Northern Belle

Natasha Blair enjoys a day out in the Pullman carriages of the Northern Belle, billed as Britain’s most luxurious train.

It was easy to find the correct platform at London’s Paddington Station as people, particularly the women milling around, were dressed in their finery, several wearing long dresses or furs redolent of the ‘30s. It was abundantly obvious that, although we were about to travel on a train from a bygone-era we, the guests, were going to do everything we could to evoke the opulence of that period.

The Northern Belle

The train consists of seven Pullman carriages, with each carriage  named after a British castle or stately home. Originally the British end of the  Orient Express, the carriages have been upgraded to modern day standards but maintain the opulence of days past. Each one individually designed, my partner and I were allocated a table in Chatsworth, which had exquisite marquetry panels in colours associated with where they had come from, and ceilings painted with murals.

Dressed in smart black and red livery, Sabrina greeted us at the carriage door taking our coats and escorting us to our table. There are thirty seats in each carriage made up of tables of two or four. Ours were decorated in shades of red and terracotta. As we got settled  the people beside us, separated by an aisle, introduced themselves, four friends celebrating both a wedding anniversary, and a birthday. We, my friend and I, were just celebrating  what promised to be a lovely day out.

Once seated, Edward ,the steward for our carriage, introduced himself, and we were poured a glass of Laurent Perrier. champagne. Our table was covered with a crisp white linen tablecloth, and had an enormous Christmas cracker perched on each of our starched napkins. This particular trip was celebrating the Festive Season with the promise of a seven-course meal to look forward to. We didn’t have to wait long.

The Northern Belle

As the train pulled slowly out of London Paddington, we were offered a mini blini topped with a mixture of quail egg, pickled shallot and sour cream, and garnished with caviar. A promising start as there were also two dainty canapés  already on the table.

Service was just right. Each course following the next but without any pressure. Our starter of roulade of Scottish salmon was served with a dill, horseradish and lemon cream, topped with a sprinkling of a pea shoot salad which gave colour.

The Northern Belle

A puree of roasted cauliflower soup was followed by a ballotine of Norfolk turkey and Gressingham duck served with all the trimmings. Across the aisle

I heard one of the diners saying that she had chosen the vegetarian option – pumpkin and wild mushroom pie served with braised red lentils in a cranberry and port sauce.

While enjoying our meal, we were entertained with music from the ‘30s by two jolly musicians one playing the trombone and the other, a guitar. There was also a magician who I was particularly impressed with. He asked me to choose a card, and was then able to guess it. I was immediately accused  by everyone around me of being in compliance with him which of course I wasn’t!

Anticipating Christmas pudding, instead we were served a chocolate and cherry dessert which was delicious, and perhaps looked more appealing and certainly less heavy than  pudding! The accompanying literature for the trip did say how small the kitchen space was so I imagine this dessert was a delicate compromise!

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The much-anticipated cheese trolley which our menu said would be a selection of regional British cheeses was sadly depleted. Fortunately, our waiter was able to find me a small piece of the cranberry Wensleydale which as a lover of this particular cheese, often only available at Christmas, was really appreciated. Cheese and port are one of those very English luxuries especially enjoyed at Christmas, and a small glass of Taylor’s port was one of those unexpected additions, not on the menu, that was offered to us by our waiter.

I never thought five hours could go by so quickly. As we were enjoying our coffee and mini warm mince pie the train trundled back into the station.

An altogether special day out and one that will last in my memory as I am sure it will for my fellow travellers.

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Our trip departed from London’s Paddington Station. The five-hour train journey  followed the Great Western Main Line. Conceived by the famous 19th century engineer, Isambard Kingdom Brunel, our route took us  to Salisbury, returning via Basingstoke. When we weren’t eating and drinking, which passed very quickly, we were able to enjoy views of Britain’s lovely countryside!

Tell me more about The Northern Belle

The Northern Belle operates from different locations around the country with various themed occasions, offering a variety of choices and routes.

Our  trip celebrating the Festive season was £395 per person. A £90 surcharge is added for couples who want to be guaranteed a table for two. Our package included a glass of Laurent Perrier champagne each and a bottle of the house wine £28.50. It is also possible to have wine by the glass £9.50 to a maximum of £28.50. Any additional glasses are chargeable.

Vegetarian and vegan menus are also available as long as booked in advance. Kosher meals, which are brought in, are also available but include a substantial surcharge.

E:reservations@northernbelle.co.uk  T: 01270 907010


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