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DSC09982 The Belmond Royal Scotsman formal dinner

‘Taste of the Highlands’ Train Journey

The Belmond Royal Scotsman Bagpiper
The Belmond Royal Scotsman Bagpiper

Words by Sindy Chan:  chansindy.cd@gmail.com

Images: Troy Nam with Hasselblad

Boarding The Belmond Royal Scotsman

Home of Aberdeen Angus

Ballindalloch Castle, the much-loved family home of the Macpherson-Grants, was the last sightseeing itinerary of our 3-day-2-night The Belmond Royal Scotsman “Taste of the Highlands” train journey.

On day 3, before departure for sightseeing, Headwaiter Marx shared the daily menu, informing us that Aberdeen Angus beef was to be the main course of our formal dinner that night.

I realised later that we had encountered the Aberdeen Angus cattle in their homeland – the Ballindalloch Estate in Speyside of the Scotland Highlands, in a riotous profusion of season’s colours.

The black, hornless castle, a breed noticeable for its meat quality and easy rearing, are descended from the herd first started by the 3rd Baronet of Ballindalloch, Sir George Macpherson-Grant, in 1860, and are now the oldest surviving bloodlines of Aberdeen Angus in the world.

Guy Macpherson-Grant of Ballindalloch Castle received us at the coach park. Ian Gardiner, our Host on The Royal Scotsman Train said that Guy and wife Victoria always received Belmond guests upon arrival, personally taking each group around the castle.

Guy Macpherson-Grant personally receiving guests of The Belmond
Guy Macpherson-Grant of Ballindalloch Castle
Seasonal splendour - Ballindalloch Castle
Seasonal splendour –
Ballindalloch Castle

Wining Before Dining 

DSC09773 Welcome back drink

DSC09961 Cocktails & canapes before dinner

Belmond Royal Scotsman Formal Dinner

I was so delighted to have Paupiette of Scottish oak-smoked salmon, my favourite poached langoustine, tomato & chive dressing as starter; and fully enjoyed the main course Roast fillet of Aberdeen Angus beef in the Highlands of Scotland.

From what I learnt from steak gourmands, Aberdeen Angus breed is rich in flavour, juicy with a hint of sweetness from the grass. The smaller conformation allows for a thicker steak with the resulting contrast in textures – caramelised outside and buttery, melt-in-the-mouth inside. The short fibres, exquisite marble-textured Aberdeen Angus produces tender meat with excellent nutritional balance.

Paupiette of Scottish oak smoked salmon, poached langoustine, with tomato, chive dressing
Paupiette of Scottish oak smoked salmon, poached langoustine with tomato, chive dressing
Pairing wine - Bacchus, Offida, Le Merlettaie - Ciu Ciu, Italy 2015
Pairing wine – Bacchus, Offida, Le Merlettaie
Ciu Ciu, Italy 2015
Roast fillet of Aberdeen Angus beef
Roast fillet of Aberdeen Angus beef
Chocolate Cremeux, lime caramel sauce & hazelnut ice cream
Chocolate Cremeux, lime caramel sauce & hazelnut ice cream
Cheese and coffee in the Observation Car after dinner
Cheese and coffee in the Observation Car after dinner

First dinner on board

Isn’t that amazing

The Royal Scotsman’s very fine culinary “Taste of the Highlands” are delivered from a two-chef’s kitchen?

Starter – Honey Roasted Duck Breast, Beetroot Chutney, Toasted Hazelnuts & Orange Reduction reminded of a little of Oriental flavour; pairing wine Wachauer, Rainer Wess, Gruner Veltliner Austria 2014.

Honey Roasted Duck Breast
Honey Roasted Duck Breast

Main Course – Oven-Roasted Halibut, Fondant Potato, Wilted Spinach, Crayfish & Chervil Veloute and pairing wine Montagny 1er cru, Les Grappes d’Or, Feuillat Juillot, Burgundy, France 2014 was a perfect match.

Oven-roasted Halibut
Oven-roasted Halibut

Who doesn’t like Champagne Jelly?

Dessert – Timbale of Seasonal Berries in Champagne Jelly, Raspberry Sorbet & Marshmallow 

Timbale of seasonal berries in Champagne jelly
Timbale of seasonal berries in Champagne jelly
Pairing wine Montagny 1er cru, Les Grappes d'Or, Feillaut Juillot - Burgundy, France 2014
Pairing wine Montagny 1er cru, Les Grappes d’Or, Feillaut Juillot – Burgundy, France 2014

Risotto perfectly cooked

I always have problem with chewy, half-cooked Risotto. On the Royal Scotsman train, I discovered the perfectly cooked Roasted butternut squash Risotto.

Roasted Butternut squash risotto
Roasted Butternut squash risotto
Pairing wine - Chablis, Domaine Fevre - Burgundy, France 2015
Pairing wine – Chablis, Domaine Fevre – Burgundy, France 2015
Honey & Sultana bread & butter pudding with heather honey cream
Honey & Sultana bread & butter pudding with heather honey cream

MORE INFO & PICS…

Where the red stag roars …

Red deer is the largest land-mammal in the UK with a male (stags) standing 107-137cm at the shoulder and weighing 90-190kg.

“Come on …… Come on!” Our tour guide spread ‘deer food’ on pastures of a deer farm as he beckoned his shy deer friends somewhere hiding in the bushes.

Then came a red stag roaring on top of the slope and caused a commotion among its peers.

Red deer are a native species having migrated to Britain from Europe 11,000 years ago. Development of agriculture by Neolithic man led to loss of forest and as a result to the decline of red deer populations.

Victorian re-introductions of ‘improved’ stock (often inter-bred with larger related species such as wapiti), together with other reasons, the red deer population are now widely distributed and expanding in range and number.

Where the red stag roars...
Where the red stag roars…

DSC09753 Scotland Highland cows

ScotRail passage of time

Returning from the Scottish Highlands to Edinburgh, we entered ScotRail passage of time as we passed the Tay Road Bridge near Dundee. On Sunday 28 December 1879, the first Tay Bridge, opened only nineteen months and passed as safe by the Board of Trade, collapsed during a violent storm. A train was passing over it from Wormit to Dundee, killing all 75 passengers and crew aboard. The ensuing enquiry revealed that “The Tay Bridge Disaster” was due to high winds blowing down the Tay estuary at right angles to the bridge.

As a result, future British bridge designs had to elevate wind loadings of up to 56 pounds per square foot (2.7 kPa). A second bridge was built in 1963-1966.

Stump remains of first Tay Bridge
Stump remains of first Tay Bridge

Travel wise on balanced budget

A balanced budget is the eternal wisdom of traveling.  I chose National Express coach as my pre-and-post travel option of this luxury journey – a coach amazingly takes me around any destination of UK.

National Express in Bodmin
National Express in Bodmin

About Belmond Royal Scotsman

Riding Belmond Royal Scotsman is one of those pinch-me moments. Ranking among the world’s most luxurious trains, the mahogany-clad cars marry Edwardian elegance with the comforts of a country house. Ten intricately designed carriages, including the sublime Bamford Spa, form a palace on wheels.

Blmond Royal Scotsman train
Belmond Royal Scotsman train