The Royal Scotsman, the UK’s only luxury sleeper train, offers unique and explorative rail voyages right through the heart of the Scottish Highlands, bringing to life its magical and rugged landscape; a reminder that there is no need to travel across the world to find spectacular scenery, cultural inspiration and moments of tranquillity.
Accommodating just 36 guests, the atmosphere, service and cuisine onboard The Royal Scotsman is akin to a country-house, with the added luxury of dramatic landscapes passing by. Creating the food to accompany the glorious ever-changing views, and operating in what has to be one of the most unique and compact kitchens, Scottish born Executive Chef Mark Tamburrini is at the helm with two Scottish Sous Chefs creating a delectable taste of Scotland’s flavoursome cuisine.
Working in a professional kitchen is tough enough, but one which is constantly on the move has its added challenges; it’s small, just six by two metres, and comparable to a walk-in fridge in most commercial kitchens, meaning that Tamburrini is not just limited to the amount of equipment he can have, but that at times he is restricted on his power usage so as not to overload the train’s generators.
However, one clear advantage that The Royal Scotsman has over any other restaurant is the constantly changing fresh larder on its doorstep offering a varied selection of local ingredients as it wends its way through the wild Scottish countryside.
Tamburrini’s dishes, all cooked from scratch onboard, are served as the train passes by the dramatic landscapes that supply them: game-rich glens, lush pastures cropped by Aberdeen Angus cattle, fresh air and open seas, streams tumbling down from misty mountains into rivers home to wild salmon.
Tamburrini scours the areas close to the train’s routes on the hunt for fresh, organic and seasonable produce. Smoked fish from Inverawe Smokehouse; scallops and langoustines from the Kyle of Lochalsh; local Aberdeen Angus beef and micro salad, baby vegetables and potatoes from the Isle of Arran produced using a seaweed fertilizer, avoiding the use of harsh pesticides.
A local forager visits the train at Kyle of Lochalsh to bring a wide selection of uncultivated mushrooms picked by hand and brought directly to the train, providing a fresh selection which is often hard to get from suppliers. Edible flowers, baby spinach, raspberries and a selection of local jams and marmalade are brought onboard in Mallaig by Shona Cameron. Her husband, Steven, is the railway station manager and Shona often comes aboard to give a talk about the local area and the kind of produce which can be grown there.
A selection of herbs including Nasturtiums, rock chives, coriander, parsley, thyme, mint and lemon balm are sourced just five minutes from Mallaig station offering exceptionally tasty fresh-from-the-fields produce. Even the chocolates are local – they are from Iain Burnett who has become known as the Highland Chocolatier. Based in Perth and an award-winning specialist in gourmet truffles and spiced pralines, his delectable treats are picked up enroute at Dunkild as guests visit Glamis Castle.
Tamburrini really lets the produce do the talking with his creations, which include pan-seared Mallaig scallops, green bean and fennel salad with sauce vierge; roast fillet of Aberdeen Angus beef served with chateaux potato, sautéed forest mushrooms, glazed pearl onions and thyme jus and cloutie dumpling with Drambuie cream.
The food is a talking point of the journey starting with a typical Scottish breakfast of kippers, potato scones and a steaming bowl of porridge topped with whisky and cream. Lunch is typically a two course affair after an interesting morning off-train excursion. Dinner is usually a four-course affair and a mix of formal and informal nights over the course of the itinerary.
The variety of rail voyages ranging from two to seven nights, sleeping in a cosy cabin whilst the train is stabled in a remote station overnight, exciting off-train excursions, many with unique access, and the hearty Scottish cuisine are all highlights of a journey onboard The Royal Scotsman.