My life as a restaurant reviewer

As President of Wakefield Civic Society, I have responsibility for organising the Society’s Annual Design Awards. These have been running since 1966 and are designed to promote good design in architecture, town planning and conservation. There were originally just two categories – New Build and Refurbishment although each could apply to environmental as well as building schemes. The awards were presented every two years, although in some years, there were no schemes judged sufficiently merit worthy to receive an award.

In an attempt to keep the awards fresh and topical, in 2004, I recommended that the number of categories be increased from two to four to include the best new or refurbished shop front and the best new or refurbished public house, café or restaurant frontage. In 2006, I recommended a fifth category be added for best residential development. These recommendations were accepted by the Society’s executive committee as was a further recommendation I made to turn the awards into an annual event from 2008 onwards.

So, what does this have to do with my role as a restaurant reviewer? Well, it was while talking about the design awards in the public house/café/restaurant frontage category that I realised a number of people assumed that the Society was reviewing the food and drink being offered, rather than the architectural changes. This set me thinking so in 2009, I suggested that the Society start to do just that and we created a monthly Dining Club for Society members. This was scheduled to have its first meeting in January 2010, however, bad weather scuppered that and so it was February of that year when the club met for the first time. The idea is that the Dining Club should meet at a different venue each month to enjoy convivial conversation while sampling some good food (and drink). At the end of each evening, members score their evening – from the quality of the food and service to the value for money and overall experience. At the end of the year, the Society then awards its ‘Restaurant of the Year Award’ to whichever establishment (and occasionally, establishments, as there has been a tie on more than one occasion) scores the highest number of marks. This is a bit of fun but the restaurant owners enter into the spirit and the awards generate some publicity for the restaurants as well as for the Society.

Somewhere along the line, my involvement in all this gained me a reputation as a bon vivant and that reputation must have travelled. When Gill Laidler was setting up TopicUK magazine, a business to business magazine for Wakefield, and was looking for someone to write restaurant reviews, my name was put forward and I was offered the role, submitting my first review in May 2013. (I did point out that as a vegetarian, my reviews would have to be selective – but that wasn’t a problem; sometimes I take meat-eating friends along with me to widen the research!)

I’ve been writing reviews ever since, usually of restaurants in and around Wakefield but occasionally combined with travel articles as well. The articles are intended to promote Wakefield so they are reviews – I don’t see my role to be a critic as such. If I were to encounter an establishment that I couldn’t recommend, it would not feature in one of my reviews.

Many of the restaurant reviews on this website are adapted from articles I first submitted for TopicUK. Of course, they can only ever be snapshots based on my own experiences but I’d like to think that the articles do encourage readers to go out and try the establishments that I have reviewed over the years.

Dining with Distinction aboard the East Lancashire Railway

They say that nostalgia’s not what it used to be – and they might be right. I think we all tend to view the past through rose-tinted (or perhaps that should be ‘sepia-tinted’?) glasses but just occasionally it’s nice to go back in time to sample a bit of history first hand and this is exactly what I did when I paid a visit to the East Lancashire Railway one evening in August to experience one of their special ‘Dining With Distinction’ evenings.

This was a chance to re-live something of that golden age of rail travel that occurred between the wars when railway companies competed for your custom by offering ever faster services with ever more comfortable and stylish facilities, not least of which was the restaurant car.

While I had to cross the Pennines (eek!) for my latest ‘meals on wheels’ encounter, I can tell you that it was well worth the trip…..

It was a warm and sunny Saturday afternoon in September 2016 as I donned the tuxedo and black tie before driving over to Bury railway station, the starting point for my train journey. The refurbished ‘chocolate and cream’ liveried Pullman-style dining carriages were already lined up on the platform when I arrived and quite a throng of passengers and on-lookers were gathered alongside to admire the gleaming paintwork and peer in through the windows as the train was made ready. Before long, our 1920s steam locomotive, looking splendid in the maroon colours of the former London Midland and Scottish Railway, made its appearance. It was hooked up to the carriages and then shunted them over to a different platform and guests were invited to cross the footbridge to the other side of the station where our train now awaited us for our private reception. We were served strawberry-infused champagne and canapés to the accompanying renditions of a singer and guitarist playing a mix of songs from the 1920s and 30s, along with more contemporary numbers, while guests mingled and chatted to members of the staff beneath canopies bedecked with bunting. Fellow passengers had made quite the effort to get into the spirit of the evening – the men looking very smart in their black tie outfits while the ladies sported elegant evening gowns and cocktail dresses with more than the occasional feathery fascinator and tiara in evidence.

At 7.30 pm, we were ushered on board and shown to our comfortable armchair-style seats. Starters had already been laid out for us: Baked Lobster Pots, with baby asparagus and bruschetta-infused with garlic butter, or three-layer Vegetable Terrine for us vegetarians. Drinks orders were taken and the train slowly moved away from the platform as we tucked into the first course.

While we are eating, let me tell you a little about the railway on which we were travelling. It is now a preserved heritage line run by volunteers of the East Lancashire Railway Trust. The line runs between Bury and the terminus of Rawtenstall in one direction and between Bury and Heywood if you go the other way. The line was closed to passenger services by British Railways in 1972 and to freight (in this case, coal trains) in 1980. The Trust partially re-opened the line in 1987, and has gradually extended the route ever since.

Back to the meal: shortly after leaving the urban area of Bury, we entered open countryside. Yes, lambs did indeed gambol in the verdant fields and the train paused for a while to allow us to take advantage of the views in the setting sun while our plates were cleared and the next course – a Crème Ninon (pea soup if you prefer) with a Champagne cream drizzle – was served. And very nice it was too. The train continued its journey and we waved to bystanders along the way (as people always do in films), and most of them waved back.

The main course consisted of either a Roast Haunch of Venison with Port Figs, served with creamed potatoes and a red wine and rosemary jus, or a Vegetable Roulade of roasted red pepper, Feta cheese, and spinach, accompanied by a creamy roasted tomato sauce for those wanting a vegetarian option.

By this time, the train was approaching the end of the line and we slowly glided into Rawtenstall station. Here, while the locomotive was decoupled, we had the chance to get down from the train to stretch our legs on the platform although some passengers threw caution to the wind to mount the locomotive footplate as the engine crew took people on short rides back and forth in the cab. The potential for large cleaning bills notwithstanding, everyone seemed to be having a wonderful time. Eventually, the locomotive was re-attached at the opposite end of the train, we retook our seats and the train reversed along the line back to Bury. Dessert (Profiteroles and pouring cream) followed by coffee and chocolates were served. We arrived back at our starting point of Bury at 10.30 pm.

So, there you are. For a few hours, we revisited the past and indulged in a little bit of nostalgia for old times’ sake. Overall, we had a thoroughly enjoyable evening and many photographs were taken using some very 21st century technology. We travelled in style and we looked the part; the food was good and the service both efficient and friendly. If you like the idea of dining aboard a steam-hauled train, I can wholeheartedly recommend this excursion to you – but be warned that once might not be enough! Nonetheless, at around £55 per person, this is an affordable evening that represents excellent value. Give it a try – I think you’ll be chuffed.

You can find out more about the range of special dining experiences, afternoon teas and lunches offered throughout the year by the East Lancashire Railway on their website,, or by telephone on 0161 764 7790.

Le Train Bleu Foncé

According to the website, there are some 173 heritage railways and tramways in operation in the UK and Ireland, usually run by teams of committed and hard-working volunteers.

One such heritage railway is the Nene Valley Railway (NVR) which runs over more than seven miles of track in a westerly direction from Peterborough. If you travel down to London on the East Coast main line, you will see the NVR just as your train pulls out of Peterborough Station: it’s on your right as you face London.

Back in 2016, while scrolling through my Twitter feed, I discovered that it was actually possible, thanks to the volunteers at the Nene Valley Railway, to experience something of the famous Orient Express magic at a fraction of the cost and right here in the UK! Yes, the NVR has a number of those handsome blue and gold railway carriages originally commissioned in the 1920s and 30s for the European Wagons-Lits company that gave rise to the legend that is the ‘Orient Express’ (actually, a number of luxury express trains that criss-crossed Europe).

The particular offer that caught my eye was to have a three-course dinner with coffee aboard Le Train Bleu Foncé (The Dark Blue Train) one Saturday evening in May. The original Blue Train is one of those classic named trains that used to run from Paris to the French Riviera, gaining a reputation for carrying the rich and famous, particularly during the inter-war years.

Tickets were booked at what looked like a quite reasonable £49.95 each (remember, this includes the train ticket as well as the meal) and we drove down to the hotel that we had booked for the night just outside Peterborough. The main station on the NVR is Wansford and we had been asked to arrive there no sooner than 7 pm when there would be time to admire and appreciate the steam locomotive before boarding the train at 7.30 pm. As things turned out, it was raining when we arrived at the station so, like many other of the 40 diners, we opted to wait in the station building until being invited to board the train and take our reserved seats.

Some people had opted to sit in private compartments, reserved for two people at a cost of £120 for two, but we had the cheaper option which meant that we could have been allocated seats at either a table for two or a table for four. As luck would have it, we ended up at a table for two at the front of the train, immediately behind the locomotive. Orders for drinks were taken (at an extra charge) and the train moved away from the station on its way to Peterborough. Starters were served as we reached Peterborough where the engine was de-coupled and repositioned at the other end of the train for the return journey to Wansford. We were enjoying the food and the views so hadn’t really appreciated that a problem was developing. By the time we reached Wansford again, it became clear that something was amiss and there was a longer wait than might have been expected for the main courses to arrive. However, we pulled away from the station once again on our way to the other end of the line … but then we stopped again.

Eventually, all became clear. It transpired that the steam locomotive, Swiftsure, had failed to live up to its name. In fact, it had failed, period! Fortunately, there was a back-up plan and a powerful diesel locomotive rapidly caught us up to take over hauling the train and once more we were underway as we reversed along the track again for the ride back to Peterborough.

By now, we were tucking into our main courses and our attention was fully focused on the food – we were hungry and also there was now less to see outside as it had grown quite dark. We had been asked to order our menu choices in advance at the time of booking. The selection was limited but we enjoyed our (vegetarian) options – a starter of Asparagus, Pea and Feta Salad, followed by Spring Vegetable Pasta with a Lemon and Chive Sauce, and finished off with Poached Nectarine with Zabaglione. Coffee and chocolates brought the meal to a close. The food was nicely presented and tasted good.

Having reached Peterborough, the diesel locomotive was uncoupled and re-attached at the other end and we set off for our final approach to Wansford Station. We alighted from the train at 10.40 pm. The rain, which had eased off earlier, made itself felt again as we returned to our cars and waiting taxis.

So, was it like the Orient Express? Well, yes – and no. We sat in original coaches built in the 1930s that had once formed part of the Blue Train and had plied their way countless times between Paris and the French Riviera. They were smart and comfortable and much lacquered and polished wood was in evidence but these are restored everyday heritage vehicles rather than luxury first class transports. Yes, it was possible to savour something of what travel on these trains in the 1920s and 30s might have been like but of course, there were compromises. The biggest difference, and one that worked to our considerable favour, was the price! (See how far 50 quid will get you on the Orient Express today!) And this price difference explains the other contrasts – with a team of volunteers running what is an occasional dining service, rather than a team of highly trained and paid staff who do this sort of thing more or less every day, the level of service was friendly rather than indulgent.

No, you don’t get the Swiss Alps out of the window but there was plenty to please the eye and there were certainly no complaints. In fact, from the laughter and chatter that surrounded us, it seemed that, like us, everyone aboard had enjoyed their experience enormously.

You can find out more about the Nene Valley Railway, including special events such as Le Train Bleu Foncé, on their website

Three Cunard Queens Salute the City of Liverpool

It’s not often I need an excuse for a party but when I read that Cunard would be celebrating their 175th anniversary with a special ‘Three Queens Salute’ in Liverpool this year, I decided that it was one party I didn’t want to miss. Hence, I found myself aboard Queen Mary 2 back in May 2015, centre stage on the River Mersey, for what was to be a unique part of maritime history – for the first time ever, all three Cunard Queens, Queen Mary 2, Queen Elizabeth and Queen Victoria would be in Liverpool together and we had been promised a truly spectacular event.

As a dedicated cruiser, it wasn’t a difficult decision to book my holiday to coincide with the birthday celebrations. I’ve been on Queen Mary 2 a number of times before and always enjoyed the experience but I did receive some odd looks when telling friends that I was on a cruise from Southampton to Liverpool, albeit with a number of ports in between!

Now, when I say ‘cruise’, I really should say ‘voyage’. Cunard, with its long tradition and maritime heritage don’t really do cruises; they do voyages and the company emulates the golden age of liner travel when Hollywood film stars and world leaders could regularly be seen aboard its ships. Their ships are a cut above your average cruise ship in style, luxury and engineering. Indeed, Queen Mary 2, a proper ocean liner and a ‘greyhound of the seas’ is the largest and fastest true liner in service today. With her sheer scale and specially designed and strengthened hull, she is ideally suited to racing across the North Atlantic – a journey I have done myself in good weather and bad, and when it’s been the latter, you really do appreciate being on board a ship specifically designed to handle the worst that the Atlantic can throw at her.

Fortunately, on my ‘voyage’ from Southampton to Liverpool, we encountered no rough seas, even though we did enter the North Atlantic as we pulled out of the English Channel before heading north to our first stop, the port of Cobh in Ireland. From Cobh, we sailed to Dublin and then onto Oban and Greenock in Scotland and then, the highlight of the trip, our entry into the port of Liverpool.

Crowds turned out to welcome us – lining the shore line as this vast leviathan docked at the city’s cruise terminal, almost right in front of the famous Royal Liver Building. Liverpool is the ancestral home of Cunard – it was there ‘home port’ from the company’s inception until 1967 when they changed to Southampton – and it was from Liverpool that, in 1840, the line’s first ship, RMS Britannia, a wooden panel steamer with a cruising ship of 9 knots, set off for Canada and the United States on her maiden voyage to Halifax and Boston. More contracts were awarded and more ships ordered. The rest, as they say is history but as passenger traffic increased, ships became more and more luxurious as developments in engineering and ship manufacture allowed. Liners with names such as Aquitania, Mauretania and Lusitania followed; names that would earn their place in history.

Samuel Cunard, who founded what was originally called The British and North American Royal Mail Steam Packet Company with four others but by whose surname the company quickly became known, had won a contract from the British Admiralty in 1838 to carry the North Atlantic mail and so he set about commissioning the building of his first ship. He wanted “a plain and comfortable boat” with “not the least unnecessary expense for show”. Britannia could carry up to 115 first class passengers, 89 crew, 600 tons of coal and, of course, the Atlantic mail. Also on board were live chickens, a cow to provide fresh milk!

How times have changed! Today’s ships are veritable floating palaces offering five star hotel luxury, but with a view that changes constantly. Queen Mary 2 can accommodate over 2,600 passengers supported and looked after by a crew of around 1,250. With nearly 4,000 people on board, you might think that things get rather crowded – well, not a bit of it! At 1,132 feet long (that’s almost a quarter of a mile), there is plenty of space. As well as comfortably appointed cabins (staterooms on Cunard, please!), there are beautiful and spacious public rooms, from bars and lounges, to two theatres, one which features the only Planetarium at sea, and a huge ballroom. And, of course, there are acres of open deck space, swimming pools, a gym, a spa, a shopping arcade and even an English pub. With a full programme of lectures, shows, demonstrations, wine tastings and the like, there is plenty to keep people occupied on sea days, provided you can find the energy to keep up with it all…..

What I haven’t mentioned yet, and what might have a bearing on your ability to engage fully with the programme, is the dining experience. Now, if you were so minded and have the constitution for it, you could eat continuously for 24 hours a day. There is a self-service café, Kings Court, where it is possible to pick up anything from a light snack to a multi-course meal at any time of day and most of the night. It’s particularly busy at main meal times, as you would expect, but also keeps fairly busy at other times as well and it even draws people in after midnight when most of the live entertainment ends. You’ll often find me in there having a nibble and a cup of tea before retiring for the night. It’s a good place to have a chat with fellow passengers to discuss the highlights of the day. You can also order light snacks in some of the bars and lounges at different times of the day and, if you get really stuck, 24-hour room service is also available.

The main restaurant on board is the rather spectacular Britannia Restaurant and this is where most passengers will have dinner. Furnished and decorated in the Art Deco style, it is over two decks high with a glass atrium roof and can seat around 800 passengers at one sitting. You are allocated to a table, usually based on your personal choice at the time of booking, be it a table for two or for a larger group, early or late sitting, and your waiters for the voyage will introduce themselves to you. They very quickly get to know your likes and dislikes and can help you with special diets although these should be drawn to the company’s attention at the time you make your booking. As a vegetarian, I find myself very well catered for – there’s even a separate menu from which you can choose special dishes although you do have to order these the night before – but at least that means I get a sneak preview of the lunch and dinner menus for the following day to help inform my choice of whether to order a special or stick with the chef’s menus for the day.

Food quality is very good and there’s plenty of choice. You can work your way through three or four courses, and even more if you are really peckish. There are low-calorie options for the health conscious and the full-fat creams and sauces for those who want to ‘push the boat’ out, so to speak. Portions are not overly large but with so much food available during the day, this is not a problem. You are more likely to add weight than lose it while on board: some passengers end up having to shop for clothes in a larger size before the end of the cruise although it’s apparently nothing to do with weight gain: it’s the on-board air conditioning that makes your clothes shrink!
For those willing (and able) to upgrade to the ‘grills experience’, you will find yourself with a larger and better equipped stateroom – anything up to a full suite – and with a butler to look after your every need on board. You will also dine in one of the Grills dining rooms; more intimate than the Britannia Restaurant and with extra menu options. There are also speciality restaurants to choose from with themed nights, although these are at a supplement.

After 6 pm, the ship’s dress code is (more or less) strictly enforced in the restaurants and elsewhere throughout the ship. On ‘formal nights’, that means black tie for the gents and cocktail dresses and ball gowns for the ladies. On ‘informal nights’, gents are still expected to wear jackets but ties have recently become optional, no doubt catering for the more relaxed dress standards of the modern age (I’m pleased to report, however, that many men do still don ties on these informal nights!). Anyone not wanting to dress for dinner can dine in Kings Court but I have to say that to spend an evening on board a ship where over 2,000 passengers have made an effort to dress the part is a rather magical experience. With the décor, the clothes (not to mention some of the jewellery!), and the orchestras and pianists playing around the ship, it’s easy to imagine that you are in scene from a Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers musical.

But back to the 175th anniversary celebrations.

We sailed into Liverpool on the Sunday morning and, once we had docked at the cruise terminal, we had the day at our leisure to explore the city, go off on one of the organised excursions or just kick back and enjoy the facilities on board. At 10 pm that evening, we were treated to a special sound and light show when images were played against the architecture of Liverpool’s Three Graces on the waterfront, followed by a magnificent fireworks display. Thousands and thousands of people had gathered on the quayside to enjoy the show while we on deck had an unrestricted view of the festivities.

The following morning, Spring Bank Holiday Monday, Queen Mary 2 cast off from the quayside and sailed out to the estuary of the Mersey to meet the other two ships, Queen Elizabeth and Queen Victoria. All along the shore line stood people watching, waving and taking photographs. On the beaches of Wallasey and Crosby, hundreds of people had gathered to witness the spectacle. Then, emerging from the mist, we saw them, the two Cunard sisters waiting for their turn in the limelight.

Slowly, our captain turned Queen Mary 2 around through 180 degrees to face back inland. Never has a manoeuvre been so carefully and slowly executed. With sandbanks visible all around us, it was important that nothing went awry at this stage! But we made the turn and then waited for the Elizabeth and Victoria to sail past us in procession with much sounding of the ships’ whistles (horns) in salute. Once past, we followed the sisters back into Liverpool where all three ships lined up in front of the Three Graces, which fittingly, includes the Cunard building. Then it began. All three ships commenced their ballet, turning slowly around to face back out to sea. Again, although the Mersey is a wide river, these are long ships and the turn was completed very gently. Queen Elizabeth and Queen Victoria then sailed alongside Queen Mary 2, one ship on each side of us. Again, whistles of salute reverberated between the ships and with other vessels in the river. We then waited. At just after 2 pm, the Red Arrows flew overhead and that flypast signalled the time for Queen Mary 2 to set sail to her next port of call, St Peter Port in Guernsey, so slowly we sailed away leaving the slightly smaller sisters to continue their celebrations in Liverpool.

I’ve read various reports of how many people turned out to watch. Some say nearly a million people were there, others that the number topped a million. I’ve since spoken to people who were on the quayside and they tell me how marvellous it was. Others have watched clips on tv and on the internet and remark that it was a sight to see. Well reader, it was a great experience both to see and to be a part of. Look carefully at the photos of Queen Mary 2 and there, on the top deck as the Red Arrows fly over, just in front of that distinctive red funnel, you will see me: waving, and yes , smiling!

Travelling in Style – the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express

In 2014, my partner and I were standing on platform 2 at Venice’s Santa Lucia railway station, along with 178 other people, admiring the shiny blue and white carriages of the Orient Express (or, more correctly, the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express). The journey back to London on this iconic train was the culmination of a remarkable holiday to celebrate a rather special birthday.

Our allocated cabin was right at the end of the 17-coach train, in the very last cabin. It did mean that we were very well placed for the loo – there is a shared toilet at each end of each coach but no showers anywhere on the train. However, worry not! There’s a washbasin with hot and cold running water in each cabin and it’s amazing what you can do with a flannel (and where it will reach!).

The cabins are a bit on the small side, consisting of a couch, fold-down table, the aforementioned washbasin and some coat hangers, and it’s true that experience of caravanning would come in handy. Fortunately, most of our luggage was stored in the baggage car and on taking our seats we could really appreciate the beauty of our surroundings. Lovingly and painstaking restored, with highly lacquered woods and polished brass fittings, this art deco masterpiece is redolent of an entirely different age when great craftsmanship and service were synonymous with luxury.

A discreet knock on our cabin door signalled the arrival of our liveried cabin steward, Claudio, who offered us complimentary cocktails as the train pulled out of the station, bang on time at exactly 11.01 am.
Our next visitor was the maȋtre d’ who came to ask what time we would like lunch – with 180 passengers, they operate two-sittings for each meal. We chose the later sitting of 2.00 pm and were given a ticket with our restaurant car and table number. We then made ourselves comfortable to enjoy the passing scenery.

At around 1.50 pm, an announcement was made to summon us to lunch with the polite reminder to dress appropriately, which during that day meant smart casual (no jeans allowed). The restaurant cars and bar car are located in the centre of the train, so we only had half a train length to travel but even then, it’s around an eighth of a mile from the back of the train to the middle! The walk did, however, give us chance to inspect the other parts of the train. No two carriages are exactly the same having been built by different manufacturers in different countries (including England!) at different times. Similarly, each of the three restaurant cars is unique, with different colour schemes that extend to the matching china used in each car.

Lunch followed a set 3-course menu (including a set vegetarian menu), followed by coffee and petits fours. You can go à la carte if you wish but will need to be prepared to pay a supplement. Wine is not what you’d call cheap – we paid 50 euros for half a bottle and that was at the lower end of the price range. The food and presentation, I have to say, were exquisite and the service exemplary.

After lunch, it was back to our cabin where Claudio served us our afternoon tea. The maȋtre d’ whom we were getting to know quite well by now, made another appearance to see what time we would like dinner. We chose the later sitting at 9.30 pm, which gave us time to relax before changing into our tuxedos (there’s an art to this in a confined space, but we managed). By now, the train was moving through the spectacular snow-capped mountains of Austria.

Rigged out in our very best, we headed to the bar car. There is one bar car for all 180 passengers so it’s a bit of a crush, ameliorated to some extent by having two sittings for dinner. Fortunately, we were right next to the bar so I was able to order my Cosmopolitan.

By the time we made it back to our cabin after dinner, it had been transformed into our rather cosy bedroom with two bunk beds. The train was travelling at full tilt (the maximum speed is around 90 mph), so I was glad of the straps to grab hold of as I climbed the ladder into bed. Sleep is possible although it rather eluded me for a good while. Sometimes, it felt as if the train had taken wings, and the next thing we would be stopped somewhere while locomotives were changed. The blinds had been drawn shut and we left them that way, so it was pure guesswork as to where we were.

I awoke early, noticing that the train had stopped, washed (making good use of that flannel!), dressed and then stepped into the corridor to allow my partner to do likewise. Although it was only around 7am, Claudio was there to convert the cabin back to day use. Then he brought us our continental style breakfast. A tap on the door and it was our old friend the maȋtre d’ again, this time asking what time we’d like brunch, 10.30 am or 12 noon? We chose the later one again.

On arrival at Calais, we climbed aboard luxury motor coaches to be offered drinks. A large glass of red wine? Well, it would have been rude to refuse. We drove onto the Euroshuttle and, once through the Channel Tunnel, it was on to Folkestone station where we boarded the British Pullman for the last leg of the journey to London.

The British train is also made up of individually designed and decorated 1920s art deco coaches, this time in a livery of brown and cream. Each passenger has an allocated carriage and seat number. No sooner had we taken our seats than a waiter asked if we would like a glass of sparkling Rosé to accompany our afternoon tea of finger sandwiches, scones, cakes and lashings of tea. By the time that had been consumed, we were approaching London’s Victoria station. On arrival, we were reunited with our luggage and then it was into a taxi for an overnight stay in a London hotel. Reader, we slept well that night! The following morning, we checked out and caught a train back to Wakefield, the holiday truly over.

Was it worth it? Definitely! Having seen the train on TV and in films so many times, there was a slight sense of unreality about the whole expedition. I couldn’t help but expect to see David Suchet around every corner and even though he failed to make an appearance, the spirit of Poirot and Agatha Christie was almost tangible.

There was no murder on the Orient Express while we were aboard, but it was murder to leave it!