Riding the Eurostar for the Food

"The menu fit in perfectly with my ideal of old-fashioned romantic trains."

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[Flickr: takaki]

You know how you’re supposed to book your ticket in advance when vacationing? Way in advance? To pay less? I have a terrible confession—I wait. Well, I wait, on purpose, when I am traveling from London to Paris.

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[Other photographs: Kerry Saretsky]

I wait, just long enough, because I play a game with myself. At a certain point on the Eurostar, the lowest fare tickets will soar in price but the leisure class stays the same, quite low in fact—only a couple of pounds more than the economy. That’s when I buy. Because, truth be told, of the food.

I suppose being born in the 1980s somewhat damns you to wistfully imagine old movie versions of romantic train rides. The Orient Express, I tell myself, had fantastic food, romantically served by candlelight on white tablecloths to ladies with Marcel waves and a flourish of diamonds. OK, so that probably never happened, but I like to imagine it did, especially while eating on the Eurostar.

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Organic baby leaf salad

Last time I rode the Eurostar, I was served a lunch of wild mushroom risotto, red pepper flan, pear frangipane tart, and a carafe of rosé. This time, I had, and I quote: “organic assorted baby leaf salad with steamed asparagus, seasonal tomatoes, and walnuts” with “spinach and ricotta cannelloni with tomato and basil sauce, cheddar, and grilled courgettes.”

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They were served with a blueberry tartlet, rustic rosemary bread, sweet cream butter, an Earl Grey scented dark chocolate square that was a post-meal cleanse by fire with its bitter and bergamot aftertaste, and fresh, real mint tea. I ate it with real silverware, and washed it down with another carafe of rosé.

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Blueberry tartlet

The other option on the menu? “Chicken fillet strips with a coconut cream sauce, summer vegetable tagliatelle and steamed broccoli.” The menu fit in perfectly with my ideal of old-fashioned romantic trains—except, sadly, I was traveling alone.

The cannelloni was decadent and fresh; it was hot and oozing but still verdant and light. The menu pays special attention to organic and fair-trade food products, but above all, it's delicious. I base my train journey around this meal—and I suggest you do too. Eating such a marvel while racing from one country to another, at unheard of speeds, is like simultaneously traveling back to black-and-white silent pictures. Maybe train romance and dining isn't dead after all.

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