First Great Western PullmanBack to Forum
Anonymous18 Jul 2014
In a moment of devil-may-care self indulgence (at least so I thought), I decided to make a Pullman reservation for my return from Plymouth to London. There are a few online reviews – a mixed bag – and sample menus/video on the FGW website, so I soon learned that this was (a) not going to be a cheap treat and (b) may not be a treat at all, depending on your point of view..
The Pullman service is available on a first come first served basis. The FGW website suggests that there are a few services for which a prior reservation is essential. I decided to make one in any case, which proved to be a sensible move as on the day all places were taken. No booking confirmation is provided, but I was assured that my reservation would be available and I would be advised once on board when lunch was served. This all worked according to plan. An announcement was made shortly after Newton Abbot, and we made our way to our table.
Which table to choose.
Not clear that you have a choice. My daughter and I had a table for two, but it was next to the door, and not advisable if peace and quiet are high up your list of priorities. There is a service station on either side of the automatic doors which open with a blast of air and noise on average once or twice a minute. The train was packed and a passenger sitting on the floor in the vestibule also triggered the door when no-one was coming through with his wayward foot. It got a bit irritating.
The table was well laid with glasses, silver ware, a bottle of mineral water etc, a thick white paper table cloth and thickish black napkins. Drinks orders were taken and menus provided.
I think quite a good selection to suit most tastes:
+ Pullman Reserve Smoked Salmon with capers, cornichons & Blackmore
Vale Dairy cream cheese and rye bread
+ Fish Soup with tomato and fennel
+ Chopped Beets with Laverstoke Farm Burrata with grated walnuts
+ Prime Somerset Reared Fillet Steak with Café de Paris butter, a choice of Tracklements mustards or horseradish
+ South Coast Lemon Sole with Brown Shrimps in a mace, lemon and parsley butter
+Slow Cooked Dorset Lamb Shoulder with white beans
+ Gnocchi with truffle sauce and Parmesan cheese
+Devon Blue Cheese and Fig Tart
DESSERT & CHEESE
+Chocolate Orange Mousse with candied orange peel
+ Artisan Cheese Selection with quince jelly and Fudge’s biscuits from Dorset
Much as I love the idea of soup on a train, if nothing else for the sheer comedy potential, my daughter and I both chose the salmon, which arrived some twenty minutes after ordering. A fairly generous serving, well balanced with baby watercress and other accompaniments. All perfectly pleasant. My sole on the bone was delicious, and a good size, with a generous serving of shrimps. Accompanying potatoes (a little sour) were well cooked, as were leaks. My daughter’s steak was cooked to order, if anything on the rare side of medium, but better that way. She also took the carrots which were fine. Alas, when things were going so well we spoiled it with the desserts. The chocolate orange mousse was in fact salted caramel on the day, but the rum (?) sauce just didn’t work and the overall effect was extremely sickly. It took a decent pot of Lipton’s Red label, and thankfully not the usual solitary bag floating in a large pot, to take the taste away. It being a hot day I gave the wine list a pass, but there was a good selection of bottles of different sizes to suit the fact that small groups/individuals probably weren’t going to get through a full bottle, and I guess serving by the glass would be wasteful.
This is where I was left with mixed feelings. The serving staff were very friendly indeed and keen to please. But it was all a bit “crash bang wallop”, lots of shouting and slightly odd ways of addressing the the passengers – our waiter boomed “and what about any drinks here” in a way which left us slightly startled. It all needed dialling down a few notches, and just a little bit more training and poise could have made it a significantly more elevated experience.
Ah, now here’s the sting. Yes I’d read the sample menu and I’d done the math so I new this was going to be the equivalent of a michelin star meal, even though it wasn’t. With no wine and soft drinks we topped £50 a head.
It really is quite a lot of money for what it is. The combination of the slightly brash service, a lot of people pushing past as a result of a crowded train, and it being en-route to the buffet for first class passengers, meant that it wasn’t really quite as relaxing as it could have been. With just a little more polish (and the removal of that chocolate mousse) the whole thing could be much more of the dining “event” that a Pullman service deserves to be.18 Jul 2014
Interesting review! I agree that the price seems high for what you got? Were you travelling First Class? If not, is this meal included in a first class fare?
I have had two experiences of dining on trains in the UK this. East Coast from Kings Cross to Edinburgh where we had breakfast & lunch, and Arriva Train Wales from Newport to Bangor via Chester. In both cases, the meals were included in the 1st class fare. In both cases, I paid £46 one way and the value of the meals in both cases was easily half of that, so I was a very satisfied customer!18 Jul 2014
Yes I was travelling First Class, but the meal is not included in the fare. First Class passengers apparently have priority for Pullman reservations. FGW is a bit different in that the only food items included in the First Class ticket price are snacks (biscuits, crisps etc) and drinks. On some services they have a travelling chef and you can order from your seat. But you have to pay for that.
Like you, I’ve also had the meals included in the First Class fare on East Coast to Edinburgh, which aren’t bad and all in all constitute good VFM.18 Jul 2014
I have always wanted to try the Pullman service, however have been put off by the fact that up until recently it was only available on the very crowded 1803 and 1903 services from Paddington.
A lunch service has been added which is tempting!
The best meal I have had on a train was on Arriva Trains to Holyhead. (I know! )10 Aug 2014