A shimmering tiger prawn sits atop a green mango salad accompanied by chilled, gently-spiced tomato soup; sumptuous curries are complemented by pumpkin and rice noodles or jasmine rice; hot chocolate sauce is poured over the chocolate ball in my bowl to dissolve it and reveal lush coconut ice cream; and moulded mousse cakes and ice-creams, drizzled and dressed, are presented as culinary works of art on my linen-clad table.
You get the picture? The food is impressive. But can you guess where I am? No, this isn’t a five-star hotel or a Michelin-star restaurant; it’s not a First Class lounge or even a luxury cruise ship. All this is being served to me over three days, on a train.
Not your average British commuter train, obviously, but the Eastern & Oriental Express travelling from Bangkok to Singapore and offering a true foodie heaven. Sure, the lush landscapes I’m travelling through are fascinating and the occasional stops for excursions to the River Kwai and the Malaysian royal town of Kuala Kangsar break up the days, but it is the regular call back to the dining car that really get passengers talking.
‘Wow’ they say, or ‘gee’ and at times: ‘blimey not more!’ but more there always is and really it would be churlish to decline. So I eat my way through masala chicken with watercress veloute, or aromatic steamed cod fish with fresh leek salad served with egg tofu and shitake mushroom, and the Tom Yum cappuccino – actually a crab foam-topped soup - and nibble valiantly on homemade mignardises and petit fours.
Chef Yannis, I discover, is French and was trained in the traditional French way. In a previous life he cooked for President Mitterand but for the past nine years, in a tiny, moving kitchen with six supporting chefs alongside him, he has developed an absolute passion for interpretating Asian cuisine in his own special way; designing and delivering fine dining which reflects the rail route, for up to 80 rail passengers each trip.
“Coming to Asia was a revelation. I’m a curious chef, I’m interested and adventurous in exploring local and regional cooking and I am still discovering new things. Asia is where culinary development is really happening. On this train we are moving through three countries, taking in the influences of their varied cuisines and feeding on the trends from across the region. We are reinterpreting them and using them with western dishes to ensure passengers recognise what they are eating and find something familiar too.”
Most clients will be inspired to take the train by its itinerary and its associations with a glamorous and elegant past. They will be encouraged to dress for dinner in formal evening wear and will be entertained by a little light piano or some local musicans and dancers from Thailand or Malaysia. This is soft adventure at its best. Even the most nervous of traveller is looked after from start to finish, cosseted and chaperoned by a loyal cabin steward – there’s no risk, no danger and absolutely no pre-trip training required, except perhaps to stretch their stomachs a little to make room for the abundant menus sure to come their way.
If you missed Destination New South Wales' webinars, here are six of the suppliers you could have met and some key points about their products, ranging from photography tours to one of the world's most iconic buildings.
From educational 'Dinosaur Bone Hunts' in Greater Fort Lauderdale to cooking classes in Puerto Rico, these digital experiences around the globe will prove a great way to keep all the family entertained this Easter.
Selling Travel joined agents at the Destination New South Wales Roadshow this May in Liverpool and London, hearing what Destination NSW, national carrier Qantas and 11 top suppliers had to say about the state.
Look out for a spike in bookings to Thailand because the cast of The Only Way is Essex has just finished filming two episodes in Koh Samui for series 24 of TOWIE, hitting TV screens on March 17 (9pm, ITVBe).
Julie Baxter finds herself stranded in the rocky Channel Isles, closer to France than England, partly stuck in the past and captivated by the sea with its beautiful bays and history of savage shipwrecks.
UK passport holders don’t have to pay a penny to enter Vietnam until June 2018, but that’s not the only reason to visit this fascinating country, says Nina Farrimond.In the first of two blogs, she explores Hanoi, Halong Bay and Hue.
The fair city of Dublin is known for its musical pubs, heavy-drinking locals and literary legends. The Irish capital can be a tourist trap and the Pound to Euro exchange rate isn’t great at the moment but here’s how to enjoy yourself, even if your bucket list has a budget.
Abu Dhabi's profile had risen steadily over the last few years and 2016 saw some notable achievments. We quiz Nabeel Al Zarouni from the Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority on what agents can expect in 2017.
Julie Baxter walks the medieval ramparts of this beautiful hilltop city in Languedoc, southern France, searching for the romantic knights and tortured witches of her imagination and finding much more than she bargained for.
Missed our Selling Travel Dialogue on Oman? Never fear because we summed it up here. Read on to find out what the sultanate can offer your clients and how you can harness new flight routes from Oman Air.
Travel trend spotters constantly talk about authenic experiences but when it comes to Canada, how many travellers have First Nation culture on their itinerary? Find out why they should and how to find it.