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RAIL SERVICE

A touch of

sparkle The catering team onboard U.K. operator Virgin Trains West Coast is determined to deliver the wow factor in its First and Standard Class menus In addition to standard desserts, like the brownie, Virgin Trains offers restaurant style jar desserts

by MARY JANE PITTILLA

D

avid Winter believes his team has developed the perfect bacon roll for train travel – and it’s on the menu at Virgin Trains West Coast, where he’s the New Product Development Manager in the UK rail operator’s catering team. The roll is offered on First and Standard Class menus. “We’re all foodies here,” Winter tells PAX International. “Our bacon roll is the perfect size and shape and has just the right amount of bacon to bread.” He adds: “Breakfast is one of our favorite services and a real treat, from a full grill to eggs benedict or fresh fruit salad with yogurt and honey. The catering team works for a largescale operation, which sees some 15,000 passengers travel on the Virgin Trains West Coast rail network during the weekend alone. Three hundred trains run daily from

London Euston station and stop at major hubs such as Birmingham in the Midlands, the UK’s second-biggest city, Manchester, and Glasgow and Edinburgh in Scotland, with many smaller stops in between. The First Class menus undergo a complete change three times a year: mid-January, mid-May and Mid-September. However, through each cycle the operator runs a number of what Winter calls “sparkles evenings”, themed around asparagus, for example, when the vegetable is in season. Winter is keen to offer a “refined eat” in First Class, where diners are served at table, as in a restaurant. His team have to bear in mind the environment in which they are operating, as the train travels at more than 100 miles per hour. “It’s all about ease of eating. People sitting on a train want something convenient to eat and a treat – it’s part of the experience.”

Sparkle can be found on the Virgin Trains breakfast selections

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“We deliver sparkle,” he enthuses. “We want to provide interest within the menus. Because Virgin Trains passengers may be frequent travelers onboard, we offer five choices of evening meal, namely meat, fish, vegetarian, salad and a light meal. The menus are well constructed and balanced. If you travel every day, you don’t have to have the same thing, but we know that many people are creatures of habit or have their favorites.” Keeping the customer’s interest is key. The UK is a nation of meat-eaters, but the vegetarian dish sometimes supplants the fish as the second choice option. Winter cites the recent chickpea curry that became a very popular choice onboard. Another popular evening meal option is “Chips and dips,” composed of corn chips with a selection of dips, such as smokey chipotle, sour cream and green pickle. Future menus will see an Indianstyle selection of poppadoms with brinjal (aubergine) pickle and raita, a yogurtbased condiment. Virgin Trains constantly concerned with quality and also keen to support local communities, using seasonal and – where possible – locally sourced ingredients. Where they can, ingredients are sourced within 15 miles of the track or within 30 miles of stations. However, if a particular product is popular, it will continue to appear on the menu, wherever the train happens to be traveling. “We source our cheese from a supplier in Goosnargh, Lancashire. It’s all about the quality of product, good food and provenance.” Winter aims to run a “fresh kitchen”, working with food producers that have big kitchens. There’s a hands-on, food-led

PAX WTCE Hamburg March/April 2017  
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