On a steamy Saturday afternoon in August, I found myself dressed in a dinner jacket I can still just about squeeze into, on a crowded Victoria station platform sipping a glass of chilled Laurent Perrier Brut NV Champagne.
For this is the dress code for the British Pullman service run by Belmond, owner of the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express. I was there to sample of one of their "Celebrity Chef Dinners", on this occasion featuring the 2 Michelin starred British Chef Tom Kerridge.
I need not have worried, because once aboard the train, I found all the other diners (limited to a lucky 100) were dressed in their finery too and I soon became absorbed in the romance of this historic train and the tempting dinner we were about to enjoy.
Taking an 84 mile circular route that includes Egham, Shalford, Redhill, and Croydon before passing the stunning Battersea Power Station on its way back to Victoria, the journey includes a combination of urban landscapes and rural England, all in a journey lasting around 3.5 hours.
The carriages are each unique and original, dating back to the early 20th century, with sumptuous interiors - think veneered panels with exquisite art deco marquetry, art nouveau lamps, polished brass, bevelled glass, mahogany wood and velvet armchairs. Purchased in the 1970s by James Sherwood, whose idea was to revive the legendary Orient Express, the 35 historic carriages were restored in Carnforth, Lancashire, before the train was launched in England in 1981.
But back to our dinner. We were served a spectacular 5-course dinner cooked by no-one other than celebrity chef Tom Kerridge with coffee and petit-fours, all on starched white linen, bespoke china and sparkling cut glassware.
We kicked off with a refreshing chilled parsley soup with smoked salmon, confit lemon and borrage. This had a veloute-like texture I really enjoyed.
The ham hock and pistachio terrine with apple caramel was a richly flavoured version of an English classic, served with a glass of 2012 Balthasar Ress Hattenheimer Engelsberg Riesling Trocken, from Rheingau, Germany.
The main event was a slow roast brisket with ratatouille and black olive cracker - with rich, tender beef, I particularly enjoyed the concentrated Mediterranean flavours of the ratatouille. With it came a glass of excellent, intensely fruit-driven Pinot Noir 2013 from Joseph Phelps Freestone Vineyards, Sonoma Coast, California.
The British Isles cheese included the wonderfully named Stinking Bishop as well as Cornish Blue and Lord of the Hundreds, served with a fine glass of Ferreira Quinta de Oporto 10 year old Tawny Port.
The dessert was one of Tom Kerridge's signature dishes, the whisky and rye pudding. Described in full in his book "Tom's Table", this sophisticated pudding was a cross between a rum baba and a baked doughnut, served with creme Chantilly. We enjoyed it with a fabulous glass of Tokaji, a 2003 Sauska Aszu 5 Puttonyos, with the sweet and bitter qualities of a fine marmalade.
Before the dinner and at the end, Chef Tom Kerridge came through the carriages, stopping for a chat with every table on the train. This was a rare opportunity to quiz the 22-Michelin starred chef on the menu, and he was warm and friendly.
Arriving back in Victoria at the end of the evening, I left the luxury train with dozens of happy, excited fellow diners, and stepped from the glamour of a bygone era back to the reality of late-night revellers trying to catch the last trains to their Kent, Surrey or Sussex homes.
There is a range of Belmond British Pullman experiences on offer, including the Christmas Lunch option I have previously reviewed (read here). Fine Dining journeys, marketed as "The Dinner", are available throughout 2017.
As a glamorous way to celebrate a big birthday, anniversary or similar special occasion, I can think of few more memorable options than The Dinner on the British Pullman.
The Dinner is a series of special five-course pop-up dinners on the Belmond British Pullman heritage train, featuring modern British Cuisine.
Trains depart from Victoria at 18.50 and return at 23.15. Tickets are priced at £510 per person.
For more details, and to book, visit:
www.belmond.com or http://www.belmond.com/british-pullman-train/fine-dining-london