“Our very own Orient Express……..in Bury”
We ventured as a foursome to the gritty, northern town of Bury. I say gritty, but an afternoon stroll revealed it to in fact be pretty heftily furnished with colourful blooms. Maybe it’s upping its game? We were loosely celebrating a special birthday. A quick tour of the market, a black pudding, a pint in the ‘The Two Tubs’ before an afternoon relax at ‘The Rostrevor’ hotel.
Suitably spruced, we set out once again to take our place on ‘The Red Rose Diner’, a steam hauled dining train which is birthed at the rather excellent ‘East Lancashire Railway’. We are promised a step into a world of vintage glamour and sophistication with an ultimate foodie experience.
Well first things first. This little jaunt has a rather fortuitous starting post. It resides right next to ‘The Trackside’ pub. The pub itself is set in former railway buildings on the platform at Bury Bolton Street station. It’s mission appears to be to offer more real ales than any other pub I’ve ever been. I think it is succeeding. The place was packed with locals and Red Rose customers alike. A pint of ‘Piston Broke’ was ordered to oil the cook twit pipes. The platform remained a thriving sea of well stocked eggs, ready to take their place on the chocolate and cream diner.
Once ensconced into our romantic four berth booth we quickly got on with sorting out the next round of booze. My hawk eyed celebrant and partner had picked up on the sensational note that your own grape juice could be brought on board. A couple of ‘bots’ of Tuscany’s finest was acquired from the local M&S. The less hawk eyed had failed to pick up on the £7.50 corkage fee (or screw top removal fee!), thus rendering any monetary gain as negligible. Still it was good plonk.
With the vino sorted we were then presented with a goblet of bubbly to quaff with our first course of Galia melon complete with a couple of spoonfuls of forest fruits. If I was being picky, the melon was a tad ripe for me and was for all practical purposes impenetrable using the prescribed, humble teaspoon. However I persevered and at least achieved a cleansing of the palate. It looked good though, as with everything here it was presented with elegance and elan. By this time the train had chuffed nonchalantly from its sidings and hit the Irwell straight at a heady 25mph.
Next up the soup course. This was a much better effort for me. Mushroom and stilton soup. The flame was perturbed, her least favourite soup, not sure where the stilton was but there was plenty of earthy mushrooms on offer. It tasted wonderful and had a proper mushroom colour too. The loco had rested by now on the spectacular Sommerseat Viaduct, offering stunning but ever darkening views of the river beneath.
The more experienced waiting operatives shimmered in and out from service like an expectant Jeeves whilst the young helpers fluttered around. The service was all rather pleasant. Young and old alike providing the food and unscrewing the wine top. The mains were up next. The hot plate presented first with a piping hot, herb crusted cod. A decent wedge too. The young flutterers lined up to add the basic veg of carrots and green beans along with Lyonnais potatoes and roast potatoes. I think we managed to acquire a fairly exclusive romesco sauce to add piquancy and moisture. Considering the obvious kitchen constraints the food was presented very well and arrived piping hot. It was tasty too. A further rest on Ramsbottom station afforded the neat idea that we were truly living in the vintage past. Some old cases were piled up on the platform.
The train wended its way further up the line towards Rawtenstall where the fine crimson steed was allowed to rest and slink back from the front to restart the non stop rumble back. A dessert of creme brûlée and a shortbread biscuit sweetened the occasion washed up with a decent coffee and mints.
Some three hours later we found ourselves back at The Trackside for a nightcap. The whole shebang had notched up a fee of £44 each. A bit pricey? Perhaps, but presumably we were adding some coinage to keep this wonderful locomotive and it’s rolling stock in the gleaming condition it was in. It’s all kept together by the honest toil of enthusiastic volunteers. If I’m honest the actual food bit was nothing too special. Very Good? yes, exceptional? Not really. Compared to a decent, contemporary restaurant it was left a bit wanting. It was a basic menu with no choice, but it was served beautifully, and was nice and hot. The Red Rose dining experience is all about the setting and the drama of travelling by steam and recreating the heady decadence of a time gone by. It does that in spades.
Red Rose Diners are the ultimate dining experience, perfect for romantic meals and friendly get-togethers. Red Rose Diners run on selected Fridays and Saturdays between February and November.
Bolton Street, Bury BL9 0EY
T: 0161 764 7790 (lines open daily 10am – 4pm)