It’s not something I admit publicly very often but I have a bit of a thing for trains. I’m no train spotter but there is a romance about old fashioned train travel that I love. I’ve travelled across India by train, made Eurostar trips to Paris and have great memories of a brilliant overnight journey in Russia from St Petersburg to Moscow on the Red Arrow train complete with a vodka bar. So I was keen to take up an invitation to try out the dining car on Melbourne’s very own Puffing Billy.
Admittedly on Puffing Billy you arrive right back where you started from rather than Moscow or Paris but even the most jaded traveller must admit the shiny polished steam train is pretty cool. Chugging along with the whistle blowing and the Dandenongs rolling past is a rather pleasant way to spend an afternoon.
Unfortunately the food on the dining car is not the first class standard you would expect from the label on the carriage or the $92 per head price tag for the “steam and cuisine” trip. Things started off well enough with a pretty unadventurous trio of dips (hommus, beetroot and carrot) and a bowl of home style vegetable soup.
But the mains (a choice of chicken or fish) were overcooked and drowned in creamy sauces that haven’t been seen in most restaurants since the 1980’s. The accompanying greens were worse still, mainly grey and flaccid.
Desserts were served cold rather than warm which was disappointing in puddings. The lemon curd shortcake was stale and dry with the best pick the gluten free dessert which my friend Magda had, a dense “jaffa cake” of chocolate and orange.
My tip would be to travel on the Puffing Billy railway in the cheap seats with your legs dangling over the edge. Enjoy the trip and then pack a picnic to enjoy at the one hour stop at the lake or have an ice-cream at the kiosk.
Gourmet Chick was invited to review Puffing Billy’s Steam and Cuisine package.
Details: Puffing Billy Steam and Cuisine, Puffing Billy station, 1 Old Monbulk Rd Belgrave 3160 (Ph 03 9757 0700). The trip departs at 12.30. We nearly missed the train so try to be on time. It takes about three hours all up with a one hour train ride there, a one hour stop at the Emerald lake, then one hour back.
Damage: Budget breaking. $92 a head not including wine. On this occasion I did not pay.