August 29, 2013

First Great Western Pullman Service

By In Food and Wine, Reviews, Tasting Reports
“I didn’t even realise anyone ran a Pullman dining car these days…” The reaction I’ve received from everyone I’ve mentioned my recent dining experience too. But six trains a day, run by First Great Western, do indeed offer a three course cooked-on-board meal. Welcome to the FGW Pullman dining service…

The provisions for the 12:55 Plymouth to London Paddington were loaded as we boarded, with a call to the tables announced just before arrival in Totnes. We sat, dined as the Somerset Levels and other stunning county side scrolled past, and downed the final wine remnants just outside Reading.

Which was lucky really, as had to jump ship for a connection at Reading…. The dining car is quickly reverted to a ‘normal’ first class carriage once service is concluded.

The logistics are amazing, especially considering the minute space the chef has to work in. There is a choice of three starters, an offering of four main courses and finally, two desserts.

“Steak is always on the menu” stressed Jon Filby, the team leader “we tried to remove it but people keep on asking for it…”

The First Great Western Pullman Service menu is designed by restaurateur and chef Mitch Tonks (who has also established Rockfish in Plymouth, a posh, family-friendly fish and chip restaurant and takeaway)

Mitch has created a menu using our wonderful local produce including the seafood of the South West which he strongly believes to be the finest in the world. The wines have been chosen from the wine list of his award winning Seahorse restaurant in Dartmouth and have been matched with the food.

“The menu is made up of dishes that I would like to eat on a journey, simple and full of pleasure and prepared and served by the great team on the Pullman services, it’s a unique and quality dining experience. I hope you enjoy great eating, drinking and a wonderful journey!” Mitch Tonks, restaurateur and chef.

With the excellent Nino Franco Prosecco out of stock, a glass of champagne (Perrier-Jouet Grand Brut £29 half bottle) seemed apt. A little age to the bottle saw this at its perfect best.

Interestingly wide rimmed, squat glasses were used for all the wines. Certain considerations need to be made on a fast moving inter-city. They also aide the waiting staff in pouring at the table.

Pullman Reserve Smoked Salmon starter for me. In keeping with the philosophy of local food (and frankly the journey takes in several counties) the salmon is smoked over Somerset oak. Devon Scallops, Mitch Tonks, signature dish for Douglas of Intoxicating Prose fame, my travelling companion. Couldn’t fault either. Nor the leafy, green apple led, Jean-Jacques Bardin Sancerre, 2011 (£16 half bottle).

The main courses are cooked to order and served with a selection of vegetables, in our case, roast potatoes, courgettes and cauliflower cheese.

Photographs: First Great Western Pullman Service

Main course – Tarragon Chicken (£23) was lovely but perhaps not the ideal match for our chosen red – Monte Bruna Barbera d’Asti 2010 (£18 half). Usually a decent glass, this Barbera offered great depth and presence of fruit than the ‘norm’; I’m rather a fan…

A choice of West Country cheeses (£8 and Douglas’ choice) or Chocolate Nemises with Devon Clotted Cream (£8 mine, and hang the calorie counting). And before we knew it the Pullman dining sign had been pulled from the window and the outskirts of Reading slipped into view…

Further Details:

Breakfast is also served on the same basis. The Golden Hind leaves Penzance at 0505 Monday to Friday with breakfast served from Newton Abbott at about 07:30… another experience I can’t wait to sample.

Pullman Dining services are open to all ticket holders although, on busy services, priority is given to First Class ticket holders. First class ticket holders can also pre-book.

With thanks to Jo at First Great Western for arranging the trip, to the service team on the train and to the chef, Paul Tregillis for allowing access to his galley.

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Top :: Comments

  1. Jeanne @ Cooksister August 30, 2013

    Looks like a great experience – and what’s up with the so-called calorie counting?! :o)

    • Andrew Barrow August 30, 2013

      It was indeed; I’m going to have to do the breakfast run soon… As for the calorie counting; its not so much a diet as just monitoring what I consume. If a few pounds drop off too, that can only be a good thing.

  2. David May 19, 2014

    Used to be good! As of this morning (19th May 2014), service has been destroyed as the staff have to juggle with one(only) first class passenger carriage on the train, apart from the half-buffet car supposedly for the Pullman restaurant. Was moved three times to try to fit those (first-class only) passengers in who had registered to have lunch. Staff were wonderful, no hope for this service to continue under these conditions (fully approved by management, one first class coach converted to standard).


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