“Cakes are healthy too, you just eat a small slice” - Mary Berry
After our gastronomic adventure with Raymond Blanc last November, mum and I were eager to book another magical train journey.
On a quick search of the Belmond site, we discovered that Mary Berry was hosting an afternoon tea on board the Belmond British Pullman.
In case I have any extraterrestrial readers, let me explain. Mary Berry CBE is one of the UK’s best-known and respected cookery writers and broadcasters. She has appeared in countless television series and has written more than 70 cookery books to date. After winning the hearts of millions with ‘The Great British Bake Off’, Mary now has two new TV shows in the pipeline for the BBC.
To celebrate the launch of her latest book, Belmond asked Mary to host a special afternoon tea on board the sister train to the Orient-Express.
We were overjoyed to see that there were two tickets left… only to find that they were at opposite ends of the carriage. Not quite what we had in mind. This was a once in a lifetime opportunity to meet a national treasure and so, regardless of the fact that we wouldn’t be seated together, we booked the last two remaining tickets.
We travelled down to London ready to leave from London Victoria Station at 3.10pm. We were directed to the Belmond Pullman lounge where The Spitfire Sisters were greeting guests as they arrived.
Having checked in, we scanned the room to find our host sitting in a corner signing books for passengers. We joined the queue and it wasn’t long before we met Mary, dressed in fuchsia pink with lipstick and nails to match. Hello Mary, Berry nice to meet you!
Once we had had our books signed, we walked over to Platform 7 ready for departure.
We hopped on board our vintage carriage and found our respective seats.
I was quite self conscious sitting alone so busied myself reading the menu while sipping a glass of vintage Balfour Brut Rose.
The menu included some of Mary’s favourite cakes.
Served alongside traditional afternoon tea finger sandwiches and ginormous baked scones (Mary’s own recipe.)
It wasn’t long before a lovely couple sat opposite me. They kindly offered to have mum sit with them so that we could be together.
Mum joined me and we finally began to relax into our elegant surroundings of the Art Deco 1920s carriage.
Each of the Pullman carriages is named with a unique story to tell. Some have been used extensively by the British royal family and Heads of State. Two were part of Winston Churchill’s funeral train. The oldest carriage, Ibis, dates back to 1925. Audrey and Vera survived bomb damage during air-raids over London's Victoria Station in 1940.
Our carriage, Zena, was built in 1928 as a First Class parlour car and was subsequently used in the 1979 film ‘Agatha’.
Being on board is a very special experience. It is a fantastic way to travel and reminds you how special train travel can be when you have the luxury of time… and delicious food. It takes you back to a more glamorous era, when travel was much more than to simply arrive at a destination.
“Focus on the journey, not the destination.” - Greg Anderson
During the journey The Spitfire Sisters serenaded us with classing 1940’s music, including one song that they’re written especially for Mary (containing lyrics about soggy bottoms).
The song is available on their website:
Rather fittingly, they sang us a song about cocktails…
The train took us on a three hour round trip through the Kent countryside. Before arriving back into London Victoria, Mary appeared briefly in our carriage to ask us if we’d enjoyed the experience.
After a quick photograph, she was whisked away before we’d had the chance to ask her all the questions we had been planning. The most important of which was whether she will do another bakery program with Mel and Sue?!
And just like that, our adventure was over… until the next one!