Haute Cuisine on the Rails
“One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well.” So wrote Virginia Woolf in A Room of One’s Own. We couldn’t agree more. That’s why aboard Belmond Royal Scotsman we overcome the challenges of an on-board kitchen to bring you only the finest seasonal cuisine. That’s what we call fast food.
AS WAVERLY STATION retreats from view and Edinburgh’s grey stones give way to rolling hills, it’s clear you’re embarking on an unforgettable journey. Our liveried stewards are on hand to top up champagne. Crystalware clinks as the train meanders. Life aboard Belmond Royal Scotsman is free from worry. Yet a question may linger in your mind: aboard this moving hotel, what can we expect for lunch?
We’re happy you asked. There’s much to love about Belmond Royal Scotsman, but it’s the cuisine that truly takes centre stage. Food here is among the best in the world. In our two specialist dining cars, Raven and Swift, you’ll enjoy seasonal dishes showcasing the freshest Scottish ingredients: whether it’s North Atlantic halibut with a crayfish cream or a traditional breakfast of kippers, tattie scones and porridge.
With a seasoned chef ensconced in the kitchen, it’s little surprise our gastronomy shines. Mark Tamburrini’s culinary career began aged 15, when he took a job as commis chef at Glasgow’s famed Rogano Restaurant. Stints at One Devonshire Gardens and Soho’s L’Escargot followed, leading him to head chef roles at Loch Lomond Golf Course and later Rococo restaurant. Now in his eighth season with Belmond Royal Scotsman, Mark hasn’t looked back since stepping on board.
That’s not to suggest that cooking from scratch in a train car is without its challenges. Compared to a professional kitchen, the six-by-two-metre carriage is tiny. This limits the amount of equipment at Mark’s disposal. Once burners, stoves, worktops, fridges and a sink are installed, he’s left with just a half-metre walkway. As such, Mark cannot rely on a large support team: there’s only room on board for him and two sous chefs. Plus, limited larder space demands precision when ordering: there’s simply not room for excessive ingredients.
Things are complicated further by the fact the train’s power is supplied by a generator, which Mark must avoid overloading at all costs. There’s the rattling to contest with—the most intricate processes must be performed only at standstill—while some presentation simply doesn’t work on board. Towers are prone to collapse; soups are dicing with danger. Creating haute cuisine on the move requires a great degree of skill. The elegant dishes Mark produces are truly a revelation.
Of course, a rolling kitchen has its benefits too. While our larder may be small, Mark can call on the freshest ingredients the length and breadth of Scotland over. At Mallaig, raspberries, jams and fresh herbs are brought on board. At Kyle of Lochalsh, it’s wild mushrooms, scallops and langoustines. While you’re enjoying off-train excursions, Mark’s out and about sourcing the best local produce. When we pull into Taynuilt, he shoots off to Inverawe Smokehouse for the finest smoked fish. While you’re visiting Glamis—Scotland’s most beautiful castle—he’ll be meeting with the Highland Chocolatier, bringing delectable after dinner treats back on board.
The ever-changing landscape also allows Mark to introduce theatre into the menu. Dishes are presented in their natural setting. In the Highlands you’ll be served roast fillet of Aberdeen Angus beef with horseradish mash. When we’re hugging the craggy coast you’ll get monkfish and cod casserole. The chefs are able to enjoy magnificent views while they work. It’s often that customers stop by the kitchen for a chat too—something that rarely happens in restaurants.
Journeys aboard Belmond Royal Scotsman are unforgettable gourmet adventures. Indeed, over the past thirty years, the train has become a rite of passage for Scotland’s best chefs. Just take a look at our alumni: Andrew Radford now owns Timberyard, Edinburgh’s most stylish rendezvous. Andrew Fairlie’s eponymous Gleneagles restaurant has received two Michelin Stars. Craig Wood’s Wee Restaurant in North Queensferry has been praised as one of Scotland’s best, and is set to open a second outlet in Edinburgh.
Of course, some of the most unmissable Lowcountry cooking is produced by chef Weaver herself. Her menu at the Charleston Grill is broken up into four mini menus. She explains: “We have a menu that’s Southern, where we rely on our Lowcountry roots—my roots—to inspire.” Dishes such as shrimp and grits are given “modernistic and even edgy interpretations”. Weaver continues: “We look for inspiration in the cultural history.” Even when she strays away from Lowcountry traditions, the same ethos runs through Weaver’s work: “Use what is in season. Make sure it’s fresh. Don’t over complicate it. Sprinkle it with love”.
With Mark Tamburrini at the helm, Belmond Royal Scotsman remains in the safest of hands. But don’t take our word for it, let your tastebuds do the talking.