I often travel between the UK and Belgium on the Eurostar if dates and pricing permit me to. I’ve always found it a much more enjoyable experience than flying direct in to Manchester for a number of reasons, but the main one is that it is (by far) a rather pleasurable journey to take.
Of course, as with any international travel, there’s security to go through, passport control and ticket inspection. Yes, you have to get to the Eurostar in good time before your train departure, but not as early as you would for a flight! There’s something almost therapeutic about my Eurostar journeys. Maybe it’s the fact I keep my two feet on the ground (would you believe I’m still not a massive fan of flying?!), perhaps it’s the chance to see the British, French and Belgian landscapes ‘first hand’ as I travel through. Whatever the exact reasons, I was thrilled to find out that Eurostar offer vegan meal options in their Business Standard and Business Premier carriages. So naturally, I had to take a further look!
I was very kindly invited by Eurostar to travel to London and back to Brussels last month, but this time I was to enjoy all the trappings of Business Premier.
Typically whenever I travel (and Mr Green V will attest to this) I am always early. ALWAYS. I hate rushing, and get rather agitated if we fall behind schedule… perhaps it’s the German in me!
When you travel Business Premier, you don’t have to arrive at the terminal at least 40 minutes prior to departure. Instead, you can breeze through check-in just 10 minutes before departure. So, pretty great for those who prefer a later arrival!
I would suggest, however, that you take the opportunity to get checked in and sorted early, so you can relax and enjoy the Eurostar Premier Lounges, located at the Brussels Midi, St Pancras (London) and Gare du Nord (Paris) terminals. Here you can freshen up, have a coffee and snack if you have an early trip, or a glass of something stronger later in the day. There is also a wide selection of newspapers and magazines that you can either read in the lounge, or take away and digest on the train.
Brussels to London
The Brussels Lounge is really stylish, and it’s the perfect place to unwind before the next stage of your journey. There were busy queues at Brussels on the day I travelled, and unfortunately (assumedly it was because it was early morning) the Business Premier security section wasn’t open, so once checked in I joined the standard queue.
Because of this unexpected delay, as soon as I reached the door of the lounge my train was announced, but I had enough time to go in, explore, nip to the loo, have a quick orange juice and pick up a couple of magazines.
As you can see, it is quite a large space, and unlikely that it would ever be too full. Yes, the seats do look like leather, and I know this can be difficult for travelling vegans – most (if not all) airplane seats are made from leather too. I do find it upsetting, and I do try and avoid sitting on leather if possible, but for obvious reasons it’s impossible to completely do this! Regardless of what some ‘level 10’ vegans might say, sitting on a leather airplane or waiting room seat will not result in you losing your vegan badge.
The new Eurostar trains are not only just kept for the London-Paris route, but now the Bruxelloises can enjoy them too, but I seem to keep missing them!
I made my way to the carriage and was welcomed by one of the friendly crew who checked off my name and led me to me seat. I don’t really like sitting next to people (unless I know them of course!) when travelling, so it was much appreciated to have a single seat opposite another empty seat, naturally adjacent to the window.
Let’s talk about the food
A travelling vegan breakfast can be… a challenge, especially when you’re not in a specifically vegan-centric location! I also find that out of all the meals, breakfast is typically the one that restaurants/cafés/hotels struggle with the most.
One of the Eurostar ladies let me know that they were aware I was to have a vegan meal, and this straight away put me at ease, and impressed me. There’s nothing worse than not being 100% sure whether the vegan memo has been delivered, or if you’ll end up with egg on your face. Literally.
Coffee, water and orange juice were served along with a couple of mini soya milks – an excellent start. The meal was brought to me quickly, and as you can see I had a fresh fruit salad, bread, jam and vegan butter! It really was nice, and I was again impressed at the availability of soya milk and vegan spread, however I was a little disappointed that breakfast was just the standard bread and fruit.
That was until the next course! This took my completely by surprise and I was so happy to be served a hot vegan breakfast! I looked to my neighbour and noticed that our main courses were pretty similar, except mine didn’t include the animal products and had more herbs on the top. I quite liked that it was a variation of the ‘standard’ option.
I very much enjoyed the breakfast, and the flavours in the main course were delicious, and very French-inspired.
The French-twist obviously won’t come as too much of a surprise, but did you know that famous Michelin-starred chef Raymond Blanc OBE has been Eurostar’s Business Premier Culinary Director for over four years? Business Premier passengers experience the very finest in on-board dining from a menu created by Raymond Blanc himself.
He also works with all of Eurostar’s three kitchens to create seasonal menus that bring together the very best of British and French cuisine and featuring sustainable ingredients of local areas.
Eurostar is the first transport provider to receive Sustainable Restaurant Association (SRA) accreditation as a Two-Star Sustainability Champion* for its commitment to sourcing local and sustainably produced ingredients and for pursuing a socially and environmentally responsible approach.
London to Brussels
I had plenty more time on the returning trip to check in early and spend time in London’s Premier Lounge. Check in was nice and simple, and I was through security and border control in no time.
The lounge is once again stylish, more elongated than its Brussels counterparts, and again with plenty of seating, so you don’t feel on top of everyone. There’s a good selection of snacks, nuts, nibbles (enough vegan things to keep you going until the train), and lots of bottled water, so no need to get dehydrated.
For those wanting an alcoholic drink, there’s plenty of wine to choose from (red, white, rosé), sparkling wine, Champagne, spirits and mixers. If you’re not sure about which wine to pick, then Barnivore.com has a great breakdown of vegan-friendly wines and beers.
There’s a calming vibe in this lounge, and although it was fuller than the Brussels one in the morning, it wasn’t annoyingly busy, and people were just quietly reading, drinking and catching up with the news.
It was quite dark, but perhaps it was down to the drawn curtains to stop the sun (yes, it was really sunny!) shining in, or maybe it was mood lighting. Either way, it worked, and created a certain ambiance that encouraged guests to relax, unwind and indulge in a glass of something fizzy.
There was free wifi in the lounge and a charging station with every mobile phone charger you could think of available – which is great if you forget your battery pack or don’t have one.
Boarding was simple and easy, and again I was shown to my seat by a welcoming Eurostar crew. I’d actually like to thank her personally in this article, as she really was so helpful and considerate and made sure I enjoyed my trip. Thank you Delphine for looking after me!
I was very excited to see what I’d be having for dinner, especially after the success of breakfast.
Time for dinner
Before your meal is served on the Eurostar Premier carriage, you are given a hot towel to freshen up with. They really are very hot, so please leave it to cool down a little, otherwise you may find it painful! I liked this touch, as especially after a day’s walking around London, you can tend to feel a little grimy when travelling!
Delphine ran through the vegan menu with me, which I really appreciated, and she was keen to make sure that the courses were ok for me. She also said I could move to a better seat with more room, which was fantastic.
My favourite cuisine is Middle Eastern (probably not much of a surprise there!) so I was pleased to see that the meal was inspired by North African and Middle Eastern delights.
After a quick freshen up, I enjoyed some water and a glass of vegan wine, naturellement. The starter was a really flavoursome couscous and roasted vegetables dish. I know that couscous (and falafel) is often an easy go-to for vegan food in restaurants, and some of it is decidedly bland, but I’m happy to report that this was delicious, and although a good size, I wished I could have had a double portion! I also appreciated the fresh rocket garnish, which was an interesting addition to the couscous, and one which I’m going to try out myself.
The main course was a rice dish, with three large falafel and a vegetable and bean accompaniment in a rich, Provençal-style sauce. Again, perhaps not ground-breakingly original for vegan fayre, but nevertheless it was wholesome, hearty and downright tasty. I particularly liked the falafel, as they didn’t taste too oily or over fried at all, and I think I tasted coriander which heightened the flavours, and complimented the tomato sauce.
For dessert (yes!) I was served a berry cheesecake, which was exactly what I needed – something sweet and sugary to end the day! You’ll not be surprised to read that I’ve eaten a fair few vegan cakes in my time, and I have to admit, the ones made by non-specialist (and by that I mean standard-diet focused chefs) tend to be somewhat lacking compared to their vegan café counterparts. But! I was pleasantly surprised by this offering. It was succulent and moist, sweet, but not too sugary, and it also had a lovely tang from the berries. This washed down well with a tea and slice of lemon, as I can’t drink coffee after 5pm!
My Eurostar Business Premier experience was wholeheartedly a success. From the beginning of my travels from Brussels, to being returned back to Belgium after a day in London, I felt that I could relax and travel in a stress-free way, with refreshments aplenty, great service and delicious meals.
Meal options are also available in Standard Premier Class and if you travel in Standard Class, Café Metropole has some light refreshments available, however I have to add that there aren’t too many vegan options available so be sure to pack a sandwich or salad just in case.
I’d really like to see some more wholesome vegan options in Café Metropole, and I think that has to be my only criticism of the Eurostar experience. It’s wonderful that vegan diets are catered for in the Premier coaches, and it would be fantastic if Standard travellers could enjoy a variety of food as well.
For Standard Premier and Business Premier travellers, you’ll need to state your meal requirements in advance (best to do this when booking your travel), which you can do in the ‘Manage Your Booking’ section of the Eurostar website.
It’s great to see that Eurostar take their Premier customers’ needs seriously when it comes to providing meals that can suit a variety of dietary requirements, with six menus for each meal type ensuring an array of different options.
And of course, you don’t have to be vegan or vegetarian to enjoy the meat-free options on board. Raymond Blanc wanted to create vegetarian dishes to allow non-veggies to enjoy a vegetable-based meal if they fancied something different, which is another way of promoting plant-based eating to more people.
Merci Chef Blanc!
Book your next Eurostar trip here, and perhaps I’ll see you in Paris?