Belmond British Pullman, The Golden Age of Travel train journey: The gourmet dining experience that's all about glamour

​I arrive at London Victoria station in the thick of a 1920s and 1930s time warp. There's a jazz band dressed in matching suits, women in beautiful flapper dresses and floral cap sleeve swing dresses, and men who look very much part of an F. Scott Fitzgerald novel. I'm wearing my favourite silk blouse, a tropical palm and bathing women print. It doesn't quite fit the period era dress option, but it's fun and up-beat, and a perfect fit for the whimsically gourmet train journey I'm about to take around the English countryside on the vintage Belmond British Pullman.

"Welcome to Lucille," says Rocco, the head steward, as I board the carriage. Lucille is a beautiful 1920s first class parlour car that was built for the Queen of Scots Pullman, a luxury train that ran tours around Scotland's scenic countryside. Rocco shows me to my table which is set up with white linen and the distinctive Belmond blue fine bone china, silver and crystal glass tableware. There's a silver vase of white roses, poses and baby's breath, a gold art nouveau lamp with a silk lamp shade and what looks like a very comfortable and grand velvet armchair.

It's my first time on the Belmond British Pullman, an 11-car art deco steam train with elegant interiors that would have been the benchmark of sophistication for train travel in its heyday. Each carriage has its own name, distinct design and history. Lucille, which was built in 1928, features veneered panels, mahogany fittings, bevelled windows and woven brass luggage racks, making it one of the most beautiful carriages on the train. It's remarkable to think that Lucille is almost 90 years old; 16 of which she spent as a home to an advert railway enthusiast. Only the art deco marquetry of Grecian urns on dyed green holly wood, crafted by Albert Dunn in the 1920s, marks her true age.

It's not long before Rocco brings over a glass of champagne. "A drink to start with," he says, before asking whether I would like a bottle of white or red wine with my five-course meal. A bottle for each table is included in the price of the journey, but as I'm dining on my own, "you don't have to share it," Rocco humorously point outs. A point which makes me a little nervous, but when a corked bottle of French red arrives, rouge and silky, I relax in my armchair. I know I'm in for a delicious journey.

The train steam passes greater London towards Chilworth and the scenery changes from grey city buildings to vast greens of the countryside. The first course arrives – an entree of lentil pastry sans creamy sauce. I'm having the dairy-free option and Rocco pays extra attention that I'm given the correct dishes with the right lactose-free twists. The pastry is flaky and crisp, and the lentil is moist and well-flavoured. The next course is a carrot, turmeric and split pea soup with watercress creme fraiche (mine is served without the creme fraiche). It arrives full of colour with steam still rising from the bowl.

For mains we're served a Welsh lamb rump. Rocco again watches guard over my table making sure I get the right plate up – no minted crushed potatoes this time. I get roast potatoes instead. A quartet of waiters each bearing a dish to plate is all huddled around my table for one. They plate their dish in symphony; the tomato caponata first, then the vegetables, the potatoes, the lamb rump and lastly the black pudding jus.

We're more than half way through the journey when the train makes a water stop at Merstham. It's a round-tip so we don't get off. I take the opportunity to go for a wander through the train and observe the other carriages. Moving between the cars, each opulently decorated; it's easy to spot the intricate design features, the unique marquetry of each carriage, and differing colour themes. I find an Australian connection in the carriage Cygnus, a first-class parlour car begun in 1938 but not completed until 1951 because of World War II. It features original Australian walnut panels, mirrors and old prints.

The train picks up speed after we leave Merstham. It chugs and puffs steam as we pass Purely Oaks and South Croydon, the carriage swaying, my wine swirls around in the crystal glass. We're clocking about 40 kilometres per hour, Rocco points out. It definitely feels a lot faster as we speed pass green fields, country manors and farm houses. A selection of British Isles cheeses and a rhubarb dessert is served, and the whole car breathes a slow, rather full sigh, that our 135-kilometre 1920s and 1930s time warp is coming to an end.

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TRIP NOTES

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Traveller.com.au/England

visitbritain.com/au

FLY

Etihad Airways flies to London from Sydney or Melbourne via Abu Dhabi. See etihad.com/au

TRAIN

Belmond British Pullman offers a range of luxury train journeys from gourmet to themed trips. The Golden Age of Travel is a five-course fine-dining steam-train journey. This four-hour round-trip journey departs from London Victoria station. Belmond British Pullman caters for dietary needs. Please advise when booking. Priced from £374 per person. See belmond.com/trains/europe/uk/belmond-british-pullman

The writer was a guest of Belmond British Pullman. She paid for her own flights and accommodation.

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