Digesting the Orient Express
While onboard the Orient Express there are four main activities: 1) Looking out the window 2) napping/sleeping 3) Eating and 4) Digesting. (Plugging in your laptop isn’t even an option as there are no outlets). As the scenery outside passes you by, the inner feel of the train is constantly morphing and transforming from day to night. One thing is for sure, you will never go hungry on this journey, as life revolves around meals, and even between meals there is tea time, which often feels like a meal within itself. I was lucky to have Margaret for the insider with tips like, “eat lunch at the first sitting and dinner at the last sitting in order to give yourself ample time to digest.” All told there were three dining cars and we experienced each one for a different meal – lunch, dinner and brunch the next day. Each menu tied into the location we were passing through at the time. Although a set menu, the waiters would come by to confirm our order and was happy to make substitutions to our liking (I changed nothing). I can honestly say I don’t think I’ve ever eaten so well, and meal after meal, in my life. I’m not sure that I ever will again after this.
Shortly after leaving the Venice train station we were called to lunch. As we were in Italy, we of course had to start with Bellinis. Besides, they matched the lampshade and flowers. The glass decoration in this dining room was amazing.
First came this delicious “Tonno del chianti” with apples.
Then one of our favorite meals of the trip, a pan-friend anglerfish with braised celery and saffon pistils, green cabbage with mushrooms, and steamed purple potatoes. We were sold with the color palette alone.
The soufflé dessert with passion fruit sauce was the perfect end to our first meal. Then off to nap and take in the scenery.
Luckily the second seating didn’t start until 9:30pm, and even that wasn’t enough time to digest (insert top image of tea time between lunch and dinner here). It did give us enough time to hit up the bar car (gin + tonic and a Pimm’s Cup for me, while Margaret tried their signature Agatha Christie with 12 secret ingredients). It was an amazing ambiance with many men in tuxes with the piano music behind me. We’re still impressed with the ability of the bartenders to navigate with so many drinks in a moving car.On the way back from the WC I waited for a waiter’s order to come up. A couple cocktails and some wine in my system, and the next thing I knew was the chefs were inviting me into their kitchen. The kitchen is a traditionally French speaking crew, so it was quite entertaining being invited back for a quick chat en francais. The waiter kindly notified Margaret that I was indeed not lost, but was hanging out in the kitchen.
Chefs at work, and for the record, this Ecurie butter was amazing.
Inside the kitchen of our dining car. Very impressive to see this is where they prepare up to 180 meals as we joked about my 12m2 apartment, I could relate to them working in such a tight space. Christian Bodiguel was the chef de cuisine behind all of our meals.
I think I was too full to photograph much of dinner, but luckily our waiter offered to take this shot (note: the entire crew have become talented photographers due to the nature of their job and everyone wanting to remember the experience). By the time dinner was done we were ready to roll back to bed. But by 9am we were already enjoying breakfast brought to our cabins.
And a couple hours later it was brunch.
After the scrambled eggs we were served this amazing lobster with potatoes.
Since we were now in France, we had tarte tatin for dessert. (In case you’re curious there was caramel inside that slab of chocolate!). I almost keeled over when they brought by another plate of chocolates after this – I’d finally hit my limit.
When we got to Calais, France we bid farewell to our train that had carried us so far, boarded a coach, went through customs and our coach was inside a carriage (not the old school kind) as we crossed under the Chunnel. On the other side, the Pullman train was waiting for us (with a live band, like in the old days). This train is only composed of dining cars, and each one was carefully restored and has a bit of a style of its own. Full tea-time consisted of a range of tea sandwiches, scones with clotted cream, and small pastries. We stayed hydrated with what felt like a bottomless glass of champagne and hot tea (for digestion, I kept telling myself). A couple days later, and I still don’t really feel like I ever need to eat again after this experience.