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Tasting Australia: A gourmet train journey through the outback

Indian Pacific
Rail Australia, Sydney Adelaide Perth, New South Wales
+61 8 8213 4592
Cuisine: International
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Onboard the Indian Pacific, dishes feature ingredients found in the landscape outside the window
 
If you're aged below 65 you might find yourself feeling more than a little out of place on board Australia's Indian Pacific train.
 
That's because around 90% of its Gold and Platinum passengers (first and second class) taking the three-day journey from Perth to Sydney are retired Australians and British expats, many of whom are on their fourth or fifth long-haul railway 'experience'.
 
So why had we, a couple of 20-something tourists, climbed on board for a gruelling 70-hour journey when flying would have taken a quarter of the time and cost?
 
The Indian Pacific is Australia's longest stretch of railway, running 4,352 km from, as the name suggests, the Indian Ocean to the Pacific, stopping just a handful of times in remote outback towns (Cook has a population of just five plus one dog) to refuel and collect or set down passengers.
 
It passes through some of the most spectacular and untouched landscapes in the world, through the vast, unchanging desert of the Nullabor Plain to the stunning peaks and blue-grey hues of the eucalyptus-populated Blue Mountains on the outskirts of Sydney.
 
There are reasons why so many of the Indian Pacific's passengers have taken the train more than once. Firstly it's said that to cross the Nullabor is a dream for many Australians; secondly the retired community has an enormous amount of time on their hands; and thirdly, this is truly a one of a kind food and travel experience not only to sample a taste of Australia through the eyes but through the palate as well.
 
Regardless of our age we decided this was a journey we couldn't miss out on.
 
The train is divided into three classes: Red, Gold and Platinum. For passengers in the two latter classes, all meals are served in the onboard restaurant, the Queen Adelaide. Victorian in decor with white linen tablecloths, tables are arranged in seats of four, meaning that most passengers are invariably sat with a new set of silver-haired dining buddys at each meal.
 
Matching the splendour of the Queen Adelaide carriage, every menu is lavishly divided into three courses - even breakfast where a choice of cereal, toast and spread was available for starters, with either a Great Australian Breakfast or Pancakes on offer for main course.
 
While most of the produce is sourced from gourmet suppliers in Adelaide and its surrounding area, chefs onboard the Indian Pacific aim to serve dishes featuring ingredients that could be found in the landscape outside the window.
 
As we boarded the train we were served lunch with starters inspired by food found on the 1200km Heysen Trail, South Australia's longest walking trail that runs from the Flinders Ranges through to Cape Jervis: creamy and highly addictive Hindmarsh Valley Goat's Cheese with sweet and tangy Beerenberg Green Tomato Pickle with Adelaide Hills Crisp Bread.
 
Native ingredients such as macadamias which can also be found along the route were incorporated into dishes like Roasted Breast of Chicken with Roasted Sweet Potato and Garlic with a Thyme and Macadamia Nut Butter Dressing to allow diners to 'taste Australia'.
 
Other dishes included Grain-fed Fillet of Beef with Truffled White Polenta, Braised Red Capsicum and French Beans; and High Country Pork Cutlet with Crispy Potato Cake, Apple Chutney and a Red Wine and Rosemary Jus.
 
Considering the two chefs on board have a kitchen the size of a bathtub to prep, cook and serve meals for around 2000 covers per week, the food onboard the Indian Pacific is nothing short of extraordinary.
 
As for living space our Gold-class, two-berth cabin was not as small as we imagined. A long couch lined one wall perpendicular to the room's only window which stretched the width of the cabin. Also contained within what came to be known as our Tardis were two wardrobes; two single beds complete with duvets, pillows and blankets; and a wet room with fold down toilet and sink plus shower and vanity kit.
 
Playing over an in-cabin sound system was the IP radio, which inbetween relaxing interludes of rolling country music, gave a useful commentary on what we were seeing outside the window.
 
Taking the Indian Pacific from Perth to Sydney is not only a means of travelling, it is an experience in itself, provided you are in Gold or Platinum class. To that end it's a wonder there aren't more young foodies and travellers  copying their elders to not only see Australia's unique and stunning landscapes in such luxury, but to taste it too.
 
For more information about Indian Pacific
Phone:
Within Australia: 13 21 47
International: +61 8 8213 4592
Email:
reservations@railaustralia.com.au
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11 January 2012
By: Becky Paskin
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