Combining the magic of steam travel with beautiful countryside and exceptional onboard service, we embark on the Garden of England Tour with Steam Dreams.
On a Tuesday like no other, it felt like we had stepped back in time when luxury was going on a journey by steam train with fine dining, excellent attentive service and charming views of the English countryside with Steam Dreams. Feeling like we had stepped into the pages of an Agatha Christie novel our adventure started at London Victoria where we were greeted by the Steam Dreams team including Emma, Laura and Harriet and shown to our sumptuous carriage. The carriage had wood panelling with floral patterned seats like a cosy armchair, this was definitely not like the railway journey of the present day, this train journey was going to be in pure style.
The locomotive for our escapade into the Kent countryside was the 1951 Britannia which was built at Crewe in 1951. It was the first British Railways standard locomotive to be built and the first of 55 locomotives of the Britannia class. The then Minister for Transport Alfred Barnes named the locomotive at a Marylebone Station ceremony on 30 January 1951. Another interesting fact about the Britannia is that the locomotive pulled King George VI’s funeral train from King’s Lynn, Norfolk to London following his death in February 1952.
We took our seats after a delightful welcome by all the Steam Dreams staff, who lined up along the platform making sure the boarding experience was smooth. Already feeling calm and relaxed we were excited to begin the route which would see us visit areas like Faversham, Rochester and Sevenoaks. After pulling away from Victoria we passed the iconic chimneys of the old Battersea Power Station and were served champagne and canapes: Mackerel with Crème Fraiche tart and Toasted Sourdough with Pickle mayonnaise and Chicken Pate, these were a most welcome start to the excursion. The train moved along while we dined, with a clickety clack soothing rhythm and the famous toot toot of the whistle as we went on our way.
After seeing various sites out the window with London passing us by and the countryside of Canterbury coming into view with the majestic Cathedral we were served our first course of Caramelised Onion and Cheese Tartlet with Heritage tomatoes and an olive dressing, this was a light summery dish full of flavour and delicate on the palate. After a 20-minute stop at Canterbury East where the locomotive took on water, we had a little wander and enjoyed seeing the engine up close.
All on board again we continued on our afternoon’s adventure with the main course of Ballantine of herb fed Chicken stuffed with wild mushroom and truffle served on a bed of summer pod vegetable fricassee, griddled baby leek, asparagus and a light poultry cream. The meat was succulent, satisfying to eat and delicious with the accompanying Francesco Cresci-Scritti Pinot Grigio this wine has a citrus flavour with delicate floral notes which was smooth to drink as the scenery changed sip by sip.
As the striking appearance of the White Cliffs of Dover appeared in the windows and the view over to France could be seen on the horizon we were served dessert. A Summer berry and Vanilla cheesecake, lime and mint macerated strawberries and almond crisp which was beautifully presented and elegant to eat. Tea and coffee followed and we could relax even further into the plush seats after being wined and dined in style.
The locomotive picked up steam, and every now and then you could see the smoke billowing by, we saw many great sites out the window like hop fields, apple orchards and the famous Kent Oast Houses. It was interesting to see old and new as we passed the depot for the Eurostar with our 1951 locomotive showing it still had the pulling power and class to ride the rails in style.
The trip with Steam Dreams transported us back to another era away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life in the 21st century with excellent service and stunning scenery passing us by, the Garden of England tour is one not to be missed and satisfies every sense with pure joy and wonder. The tour was a delight with the staff available at every opportunity and Laura who looked after us was a sheer delight making sure our wine glasses were topped up and answering any questions we had, including what was the top speed the locomotive did, but we will leave that answer for you to find out! All of the staff are the highlight of this experience with the added bonus of sublime and tasty food. We would highly recommend this most enjoyable tour with Steam Dreams.