If the term “dining carriage” elicits Proustian memories of lurching down a British Rail aisle clutching a soggy tuna sarnie while trying not to scald your wrist with slops of blistering coffee, you need to timetable a visit to West Bay, suggests Jo Rees
Talk about the romance of train travel … if all rail experiences were like this the motorways would be tumbleweed territory.
Of course The Station Kitchen is stationary, although its previous working life – including a stint as a WWI hospital ward – is celebrated in black and white photos in the carriage, among an eclectic miscellany of artifacts and idiosyncratic decor.
Step aboard and be transported by rustic-luxe surrounds, hearty good cooking and jolly service that combine to create an entertaining dining destination.
VISIT if dinner à deux means an evening of stilted conversation to the clink of stainless steel on china. Whether a first date or a date night with the other half who already knows all your stories, this stimulating scenario is delightfully diverting.
Get the party started with something from the cocktail list: West Country Bumble made with Dorset Conker Gin, homemade raspberry syrup, citrus and soda is a good call this season. Passenger alert: at this stage, do not dig too eagerly into the bread basket. Yes it’s tempting, but the menu is quite carby and you won’t want to peak too early.
DON’T VISIT if you’re a light eater. ‘Generous’ is the M.O. here – from the fillet steak’s Jenga tower of hand-cut chips to the roast garlic mash that is, quite possibly, 50 per cent butter (swoon).
WE LIKED the luscious local whole sea bream which had been treated to a mini tour of south-east Asia via its garnish of spring onion, chilli and ginger samphire (and served with that mash).
Also the picturesque foliage that envelops the platform dining area, which is rather like taking a journey to a tropical paradise – without even departing the station. All aboard for good times.
INSIDER’S TIP Travelling with a gang? Try and book the mustard velvet banquette section of the carriage for first class comfort and conviviality.
What we ate (dinner)
Starter Chorizo scotch egg, homegrown rocket, bloody mary ketchup
Main Whole sea bream, spring onions, chilli and ginger samphire, roast garlic mash
Pud Crêpes suzette, brandy, caramelised oranges, vanilla ice cream
3 courses from £31
A vibrant waterside dining room and just-hauled- from-the-ocean fish cooked on the plancha set the scene for a smart lunch in Christchurch Harbour Hotel's Upper Deck Bar and Restaurant, discovers Jo Rees