Carriages – Fen Drayton, Cambridgeshire (UK)

I’ve always wanted to dine on a train. No, not a sarnie and a bag of crisps on the 1.45 to King’s Cross – I’m talking about eating in style with white tablecloths, fine china and weighty cutlery. I had that opportunity last month aboard Carriages, a series of refurbished vintage trains in a purpose-built railway station in Fen Drayton, less than 15 miles from Cambridge city centre.

Access to the railway-themed restaurant is through Bannold, a supplier of landscaping materials, where a staff member will lead you past the display gardens to the impressive station house and carriages.

There’s a railway station in Fen Drayton? Well, not quite. The trains are stationary so you’re not actually going anywhere, but a visit to Carriages does take you back to the 1920’s and 1930’s, the golden age of luxury rail travel. There are even moving train sound effects to complement the experience. Carriages is the brainchild of Bannold owner Michael Attle who was inspired to build the concept when he purchased a disused part of an old railway platform. The recreation is remarkable, complete with signal box and original Pullman style carriages.

The station house has been meticulously recreated with a booking hall, station master’s office, traditional waiting room, real fireplace, antique seats, cigarette dispenser, luggage trolley and old-fashioned suitcases.

The menu features cream tea (two scones, homemade jam or lemon curd and tea or coffee) or afternoon tea, which needs to be booked in advance for 1pm or 3pm. I made a reservation for afternoon tea to spend time with friends and celebrate Alison’s birthday along with Paola and Meggy. We loved every minute of it!

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The Crown Hotel – Wells-next-the-Sea, Norfolk (UK)

The Crown Hotel in Wells-next-the-Sea is one of the luxury hotels in coastal Norfolk owned by The Flying Kiwi Inns. They are known for serving some excellent food as the restaurants have New Zealand Master Chef Chris Coubrough at the helm. My husband Paulo and I had these places in our sights and we finally decided on an overnight stay and dinner at The Crown Hotel.

HotelThis charming former coaching inn overlooks The Buttlands, with its spacious village green and majestic trees. Picture perfect.

CrownThe magnificent golden crown at the entrance assured us of a regal experience as we eagerly explored the rest of the hotel.

We were impressed by the pleasant bar with its cosy little nooks in which to unwind, the bright and cheerful orangery and the more formal dining room. After checking in, we were shown to a spacious deluxe room with a comfy sofa and bed, including an abundance of pillows to help us settle in and relax.

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