Taking a luxury ride on The Belmond British Pullman to Southend
PUBLISHED: 10:36 22 January 2019 | UPDATED: 10:45 22 January 2019
The Belmond British Pullman, sister train to the legendary Orient Express, offered passengers in Southend a reminder of the age of luxury travel recently, and all to raise funds for a worthy cause
Essex welcomed one of the most famous and luxurious names in travel before Christmas, and all in the name of charity. The Belmond British Pullman, whose family of luxurious trains and carriages includes the legendary Orient Express, pulled into Southend Central station on Saturday, November 3 as guests were taken on a lavish train ride through the Essex countryside down towards Twickenham before returning to Southend.
The trip was organised by Havens Hospices and proceeds will be put towards the new adult hospice the charity has started building in Southend.
Guests dressed in their finery boarded with excitement before relaxing in the famous Art Deco carriages that have hosted royalty, been celebrated at the Festival of Britain and provided the backdrop for many Hollywood films.
The immaculate decor and luxurious furnishings throughout the carriages create an atmosphere reminiscent of the Golden Era of Travel, while a Champagne reception offered the perfect start to this once in a lifetime journey through south Essex and into the capital.
All the guests, including myself, were dressed in either black tie or ball gowns while the staff were in traditional 1920/30s costume, creating the atmosphere of an Agatha Christie adventure – although fortunately without the need for Hercule Poirot!
The Belmond British Pullman train features some of the more famous carriages in travel including those that are steeped in prestigious history, such as Audrey, Cygnus, Vera, Phoenix and Pegasus. Audrey and Vera are always twinned. Both of these carriages were hit in 1940 during an air raid at London Victoria and both have hosted royalty, including Her Majesty the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh.
Cygnus was used in the Festival of Britain in 1951 and also provided Dustin Hoffman and Vanessa Redgrave the set for their 1979 film Agatha. Phoenix was the favourite carriage of both the Queen and Queen Mother and has most famously been used for visiting heads of state, while Pegasus famously carried Winston Churchill’s coffin from London to Bladon as part of his funeral.
Before long, dinner was served and we took our seats for the four-course gala dinner. Just as you would expect, the dining table is adorned with crisp white linens, crystal glasses and silver service, all adding a little extra glamour to this unforgettable experience.
The meal could rival many Michelin star restaurants with choices from the four-course menu including smoked haddock cake with creamed leek and mustard rocket leaves with a tomato butter sauce, and roast breast of chicken filled with a wild mushroom and spinach farce, celeriac dauphinoise, savoy cabbage and a thyme jus. Both were simply divine and married well with our choice of wine, Lapostelle ‘Casa’ Carmenere, Rapel Valley, 2015.
On the return leg of our journey we enjoyed a sense of England in its pomp, relaxing in pure luxury, sipping wine in a plush armchair while being entertained by the close-up magic genius of Mike Davis and a 1930s-style soiree with jazz music from The Daisy Bowlers.
Pulling into our final destination and returning back to modern day after five hours of decadence and vintage glamour, I reflected that this really is a once in a lifetime experience and I couldn’t recommend it enough.
The five-hour round-trip, including a Champagne reception and canapés, a four-course gala dinner with half a bottle of wine and entertainment, is £299 per person. The experience is worth every penny.
No need to miss out!