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Kitted out in the titular 'plum and split milk' livery of old first-class dining cars pulled by The Flying Scotsman, chef Mark Sargeant's "beautiful" restaurant takes pole position within the reborn Great Northern Hotel. High ceilings, plush cream banquettes and dramatic chandeliers exude "calm glamour", but take time to sip an aperitif in the snug bar before considering the menu. Prime British steaks take centre stage, although patriotic reinventions abound: devilled lamb's kidneys garner regular praise, likewise dressed Dorset crab, but the repertoire runs all the way from fresh asparagus with hollandaise to haggis with fried duck egg or pan-fried hake with brown shrimps and seashore vegetables. Try the namesake dessert or old-fashioned rice pudding. Service is "always professional", and the wine list champions classics (although prices are "heavy").
As a teenager, well before the Eurostar existed, I much preferred travelling by train. The French family who used to host me every year were kind enough to help me travel from Norfolk to Chambery in Savoie that way. My own parents would put me on the boat train in London and Monsieur met me as I arrived in Paris. We then travelled to the French Alps by couchette – strange bunk beds with sliding wood partitions to provide privacy. In Paris, before our overnight trek, we used to stop at Le Train Bleu, a stunning brasserie in Gare de Lyon. I was more than a little impressionable – the decor, the food and the service...
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