For most travelers, the idea of a dinner train sounds about as fun as a root canal. It’s true the trains of yore were often “all sizzle and no steak”. Much pomp and circumstance surrounded their decor and presentation, but the lackluster food never lived up to the pretense or exorbitantly high ticket prices.
Not so with these three culinary-centric rail journeys. Dinner trains are destinations in their own right, providing top-tier dining and wine in some truly memorable places.
The Royal Scotsman (Scotland)
These days, Scottish cuisine is a force to be reckoned with. Chefs aboard Belmond’s Royal Scotsman lean heavily on the country’s freshest local ingredients. The traditional breakfast features one-of-a-kind Highland specialties like black pudding, tattie scones, and whisky porridge. Lunch and dinner make use of regional bird and seafood to constitute unique dishes like warm pigeon salad, spiced roast halibut, and steamed mussels. There’s also plenty of Aberdeen Angus beef filet and shortbread to boot. Every meal is served amid a sprawling backdrop of impossibly green glens and intimate harbors. Formal and informal dining is offered on alternating weeknights. If you fancy the former, Belmond recommends a tuxedo or kilt (this is Scotland, after all).
The Indian Pacific (Australia)
Great Southern Rail’s The Indian Pacific deserves a spot among the world’s truly epic train journeys. The four-day, 4,300-kilometer (2,700-mile) trek crisscrosses the whole of the Australian continent, from Sydney to Perth (or vice-versa, if you prefer). For record-conscious travelers, it’s the longest stretch of straight railway track in the world. The view outside includes an ever-changing landscape, from the rugged terrain of the Nullabor to vineyards and ghost towns to the pastoral scenery of Western Australia. The over-the-top onboard cuisine takes the best local ingredients — mud crab, fresh barramundi, chevre, and honey (Australia is home to some of the world’s best) — and backs each dish with world-renowned wines from Adelaide and the Margaret River.
Hiram Bingham (Peru)
Exclude the dining car on the Hiram Bingham, and this Peruvian journey from Cusco to Machu Picchu is still bucket-list-worthy in its own right. The multi-day ride ambles pass some of the country’s most breathtaking features, including the wild Urubamba River, remote valleys dotted with colorful villages and llama herders, and, of course, the Sacred Valley itself. Add to this an open-air observation car and a beautifully appointed dining car, where every meal is a presentation of the best traditional and modern Andean cuisine. Brunch includes authentic dishes like aji de gallina, a hearty chicken stew with mashed potatoes, cheese, and boiled eggs wrapped in a crepe and served chilled. The four-course dinner is an equally traditional blend with dishes such as Vichyssoise soup, seafood canapes, and local grilled beef. What’s more, it’s all backed with traditional pisco sours and world-class Peruvian wines.
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