I’m quite open that running this site affords me plenty of opportunities to eat out, which I regard as a huge privilege, but that doesn’t mean I’m not always on the look out for opportunities to enjoy meals out that don’t just fortuitously drop into my lap. I’m certainly not averse to spending my own money in restaurants but recently I noticed an unusual detail in a news article in the local media. LNER were to take over The Cookery School at The Grand to celebrate their centenary and it was free for the public to sign up to. All that they asked was that attendees would bring a donation for The Trussell Trust in return for their spot. I expected this to be hugely popular so nipped straight online to book my place.
We arrived for our booking eager and laden with several bags for the food bank. Even with a decent donation, we were still up on the deal thanks to this enormously generous offer from LNER. With our names checked off, we took our seat in the Cookery School which had been subject to a remarkable period transformation, complete with a “conductor” who introduced the occasion and the dishes. Dinner would be three courses which had been chosen to represent the past, present and future of food on LNER trains, complete with matched drinks for each course. First up was a dish taken from a 1920’s on-board menu: chilled pea soup with watercress and slow cooked sole served with honey and lemon-infused dry gin cocktail. The contrast between the buttery, rich morsel of fish and the cool refreshing soup hit the spot with a generous spiking of black pepper through it for contrast, and the drink was refreshing and sweet – very enjoyable if not something I would usually think to order.
The main followed quickly with chicken at its centre on a bed of creamed potato with plenty of chanterelle mushrooms and a disc of beetroot for colour as well as obligatory pea-shoots for presentation. A few years ago I was lucky enough to spend a day heading to London and back with Virgin Trains to try their food and I was pleasantly surprised, but if I was served this on a train, I’d be even happier! Tender chicken and creamy, rich potatoes with mushroom notes all came together nicely and formed into a comforting dish that would accompany a homeward commute nicely.
For dessert we pushed forward to the future, with the LNER chefs playing around to ponder what the future of on-board catering might be… such as a mushroom panna cotta made using 3D printing! OK, so this wasn’t actually 3D-printed, but as a proof of concept it worked just fine with pear and ginger jelly tempering the creamy mushroom notes.
To some extent everything you’ve just read is irrelevant on the basis that this isn’t an ongoing concept, but I think it worth sharing on the basis that it’s a large company trying to do something different to celebrate its heritage while supporting a worthy cause in The Trussel Trust. Thanks to all at LNER for putting their money where my mouth is and hosting the event!