There aren’t many heritage railways in Belgium, but Stoomtrein Maldegem-Eeklo or Steam Train Maldegem-Eeklo is on of them. This club of volunteer rail enthusiasts run this 10 km stretch of heritage railway in East Flanders. One of their activities is offering lunches and dinners on board their Compagnie Internationale des Wagons-Lit (CIWL) Orient Express restaurant carriage and a former NMBS / SNCB M1 first class carriage.
Under the name Orient Dining Express the club offers these experiences on several dates. All staff is does is as a dedicated hobby. Only the catering is done by professionals under the leadership of chef Jürgen Rysselaere.
Danny, Sam, Oriol and I booked a dinner in October. As the CIWL coach was fully booked too quickly, we booked a table in the converted 1st class M1. The original Henry Van de Velde interior design was slightly enhanced, as tables were added. The outside livery was also adapted. Instead of NMBS / SNCB green, the Prussian blue of CIWL was used.
10 km doesn’t sound as being a long stretch, but it is a stretch when you run, manage and maintain it as a hobby. So the journey is slow with frequent stops. There are also quite a few level crossings. The crew is obviously master at prologuing the fun, as you would with a Chocotoff.
But the seats and suspension are comfortable. The steam heating system gives a very cosy, almost embracing warmth. It’s so nice. The compartment is a bit snug to fit four adults and a table, but it’s all fun.
The table was set with slim cutlery and champaign flutes for wine glasses. It provides more space. Drinking red wine from a champaign glass is a bit odd, though.
The autumn themed menu was elaborate and well prepared. It was well presented as well. Being more ‘catering’ (as in catering at a party, a wedding or a reception) than ‘restaurant’, it was and is a pretty good effort. Second servings are a nice gesture.
- Autumnal trio: pheasant mousse, pickled red cabbage, cranberry; rilette of smoked trout, celeriac and jonagold; foie gras, nut crunch and sweet brioche.
- Tasting King Crab: cannelloni of ‘white-blue’ beef, king crab, lime and green herbs; roasted aubergine.
- Combination starter v soup: pumpkin mousse, gray shrimp, turmeric and crunch of seeds; warm accompaniment: creamy pumpkin velouté.
- Main: veal fillet pure; forest mushroom tarte Tatin; mash of green cabbage and morels; truffle gravy. Second serving: veal ragout with truffle.
- Dessert: combination of white chocolate, caramel and speculoos.
- Tea or coffee.
Tea was served as we arrived back in Maldegem so timing was good.
As an experience, we will certainly do this again. But next time during the day so we can see something of the scenery.
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