The master chef and team behind Wales’ only Michelin-starred restaurant joined staff on board Arriva Trains Wales’ Premier rail service* last night (03 November) to give first class passengers a unique and unforgettable fine dining experience.
James Sommerin, Executive Head Chef at the Michelin star Crown at Whitebrook near Monmouth and the three AA rosette Crown at the Celtic Manor in Newport, joined Arriva Trains Wales chefs for one evening only, to serve up a culinary feast on board the Premier North-South Wales service.
Launched in December 2008, the week-day return service between Anglesey and Cardiff offers Wales’ only fine dining rail service and ranks highly among a handful of operators offering the same service in the UK today. Arriva Trains Wales recently gained recognition for its premier class dining service when it was ranked top in a recent review of UK rail dining services.
The special evening service organised between Cardiff and Chester cements the recently established partnership between the Crown restaurants and Arriva Trains Wales, which aims to develop the fine dining experience on board the premier service.
Mike Bagshaw, Arriva Trains Wales’ Commercial Director commented: “We’re delighted to have James and the staff from the Crown restaurants on board sharing their expertise and helping us to raise the standard of our First Class service even further.
A recent finalist on the BBC2’s TV programme, ‘Great British Menu’, James used his eight years experience working with the Crown restaurants to prepare a five-course fine dining menu for 46 first class passengers.
James, who thrived under pressure on board the service, continued: “I’ve worked in several places in my career but I’ve really enjoyed the challenge of cooking on board the train, even if the space limitations and the motion of the train took some getting used to. The chefs and hostesses do a superb job and I’m looking forward to working with the team again.”
One of the Arriva chefs working on board the service, Mark Wilson, 46, from St. Mellons in Cardiff, took part in a special cooking master class with James Sommerin at the multi-award winning Crown at Whitebrook last month.
Mark and fellow Arriva chef, Aaron Lister, 27, from Risca, are hoping to combine over 35 years of experience with James’ tried and tested culinary techniques to build on the service’s reputation: “I’ve enjoyed every minute of this service,” said Mark, “It was a real challenge but so exciting.”
“We normally change our menus on a six-day cycle so that passengers never have the same dish if they travel with us on one particular day each week. We’re hoping to work with James to create menus which can be varied by season for example or themed around special events.”
The special service was hosted by The Crown at Whitebrook General Manager, David Hennigan, supported by a team from The Crown restaurants and two Arriva customer service hostesses.
One of the Arriva customer service hostesses, 23-year-old Emma Parry, from Holyhead, in Anglesey, working on board the service, was delighted to be involved in the service: “I’ve worked at more than one top hotel in my time working in the hospitality industry, but this is the best experience yet. Working alongside a celebrity chef like James is a real honour and we’ve learnt a lot from the Crown’s hosts too.”
Other passengers were delighted with the service, including John Hook from Abergavenny, a regular passenger on board the train, who was invited to take part in the special excursion. He said: “I travel on board the service frequently and really rate both the service from hostesses and the chef’s culinary talent. This has been a great pleasure, and I’ve really enjoyed the whole fine dining experience.”
The Arriva Trains Wales premier class service runs week days between Anglesey and Cardiff, with a full breakfast served each morning and an evening meal served on the return journey from the Welsh capital. For more information, visit www.arrivatrainswales.co.uk.