Sunday, 26 February 2012

fast food at 200mph

The other day I made a lightning visit to London on Eurostar for an urgent errand and travelled first class (or Business Premier) to get on the next available train.
The return cost was 620€ and so I was expecting something ritzy onboard.
But a glance at the menu cover suggested we would get The Waterside Inn (3 Michelin stars) rather than the mere Ritz.
Whilst it's difficult on a plane to serve decent food, on a train there are fewer constraints.
The Black Forest Gâteau was more Gregg Wallace than Alain Roux.

And as for the fish choucroute there's a good reason that in landlocked Alsace fish is not the usual accompaniment to pickled cabbage and it's not necessarily a geographic one.  And even if there was good reason to serve fish in a choucroute, I doubt here that haddock should be turned into a mousse (or soufflé).
The gâteau came with the smoked salmon starter.  I enjoyed the raw red onion.  And the Morgon wine was quite good too though horrible with the food.

On the return journey Pannier Champagne was served with Snacks of the World (nuts).  Note the wine list offering three reds but only one white and a rosé.  And note that the wines are all French.  This was not a problem for me at all but why two clarets for example, 66% of the red offering?

As on the outward leg the pudding and starter came at the same time and this time we also had a cheese course (stilton).  The weird sweet and sour Autumn Salad of apples and squash was like the dregs of a mulled wine jug.  The Parkin cake was farkin chewy.

The crackling-free pork belly was lean but not dry and didn't fight with the wine unlike the marmalade that went with it.  Steamed broccoli was part green, part grey, as if cooked in batches with different timings.

The charm of the waiting staff was in inverse proportion to the quality of food they served.   I've flown First Class twice (on Gulf Air) and the food was no better than this though perhaps more ambitious in its intention and more pretentiously described.

It was good to drink out of real glass and to eat with real metal though I could have done without the congealed broccoli on my freshly unwrapped fork.  A problem here must be the rapid turnaround of trains (I had used chewing gum in my seat pocket and my neighbour had a white skid of something across his table when he unfurled it.  I won't describe the loo).

But I shouldn't carp; catching the train between London and Paris is so much better than driving or flying.  Just try and book ahead for cheaper tickets and feast at Bar Pepito in Kings Cross or at Terminus Nord in Paris beforehand.