The Napa Valley Wine Train is an oenophile’s dream. Photo by Chad Scott / CC BY 2.0
More than a mere mode of transport, a ride on a train can be one of the best journeys of exploration you will ever have. But while the trip itself may be fully enjoyable (breathtaking sights swooping past as you gaze dreamily out the window, anyone?), train rides can also be daunting for gourmands who face the idea of consuming the typically airplane-standard food for sustenance.
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The good news is, there are increasingly more locomotives that also get passengers pumped up on the culinary front. Quotient shortlists five indulgent trains that seek to enhance your voyages with the gourmet spread available on board. From delicate desserts to full-course fine dining, you’ll be hard-pressed to find such rich offerings even on land. As you nibble on the delectable cuisine served and luxuriate on comfy chairs while the train chugs along to a steady rhythm; you’ll arrive at your destination fully satiated before you know it.
Belmond Andean Explorer, Peru
Launching May 2017, the Belmond Andean Explorer will be South America’s very first luxury sleeper train. Please your palate with decadent bites of dishes prepared by the chefs of the Belmond Hotel Monasterio in Cusco as live music serenades you. With Peru having been awarded the World’s Leading Culinary Destination for the past five years, your taste buds will surely be in for a wild ride.
The opulent train is set to traverse one of the highest rail routes in the world, journeying from Cusco to Lake Titicaca and Arequipa. Besides taking in the awe-inspiring views of a land still relatively under the radar, guests have the option of disembarking at select sites such as Colca Canyon for further exploration along the way.
Sweet Train, Japan
Otherwise known as the “train of dreams”, the JR Kyushu Sweet Train is one of the most lavish passenger trains in the country. With a frequently reinvented seasonal menu conceptualised by Chef Yoshihiro Narisawa, whose Tokyo restaurant has earned two Michelin stars amongst other accolades, you know your meal is in good hands. First, savour a bento-style lunch that showcases the region’s fresh produce before moving on to the highlight of your trip, sweet endings. Each passenger enjoys four French-inspired desserts — one served in a cocktail glass, two plated and bite-size teacakes.
Gilded in intricate gold and black detail on the exterior, the Sweet Train’s interior carriages are equally elegant; fitted with plush chairs, elegant furniture and intricate panelling, the compartments are thoughtfully spaced out such that each group of two or four can comfortably enjoy its own private space. While dining, remember to peer outside and take in the scenic views as the train chugs along the Oita to Hita or Sasabo to Nagasaki routes; the beauty of your surroundings are sure to enhance the exquisite dining experience.
Belmond British Pullman, Britain
Sister to the famed Venice Simplon-Orient-Express, the Belmond British Pullman brims with its own charm. The vintage train has a solid history to tell; its carriages have been used by the British royal family and world Presidents, and two of them were even part of Winston Churchill’s funeral train. The train also occasionally hosts special events; one past iteration included a dinner prepared by Tom Kerridge, the executive chef of two-star Michelin pub The Hand & Flowers.
The British countryside is often overlooked in favour of its more popular European counterparts — a great pity, given the verdant greenery and rolling hills of the beauteous landscape. So don your spiffiest clothes and hop on for a stately experience complete with a five-course meal and champagne; soak in the sights aboard and as you stop by iconic sites such as the Blenheim Palace and the Roman Baths. You’ll be sure to look at the United Kingdom with more appreciative eyes in the future.
Cheese Train, Switzerland
Gooey, rich and smooth, the finest cheeses of the world can be what dreams are made of. In Switzerland, get a closer insight into the popular dairy product with a jaunt on the Cheese Train. To kickstart your journey, begin with a cheese selection accompanied by a glass of regional wine during your ride. As the train pulls to a stop, you will find yourself marvelling as a cheesemaker turns milk into cheese over an open wood fire before your very eyes. After having a taste of this freshly-made cheese, the feast continues with a delectable organic cheese fondue, one of the country’s signature dishes.
Travel in first-class comfort as your train treks the distance between Montreux and Chateau d’Oex, passing by the expansive Lake Geneva along the way. With the remarkable scenery of the Swiss region serving as a welcome accompaniment during the trip, there will hardly be a dull moment.
Napa Valley Wine Train, USA
Board the restored antique Pullman rail cars for a nostalgic glimpse of the past. En route, sit facing the window to fully appreciate the grandeur of the vineyards outside as you sip on a glass of Private Label wine or opt for the complete fine dining experience with a meal from the mobile restaurant. As you make your selections from a changing seasonal menu, three onboard kitchens prepare your food from scratch. As befits a wine train, each menu item also comes with a suggested wine pairing and wine flights with professional tasting notes are also available.
Widely regarded as one of the more popular experiences to embark on in Napa Valley, one of the world’s top wine growing regions, the wine train also offers stops at two famous wineries, Charles Krug Winery and Raymond Vineyards. If romance on the rails sounds like an appealing idea to you, take the train at an opportune time and you can even ride into the sunset with your beloved.