The Journal joins Masterchef runners-up and supper club specialists Billy & Jack (Billy Wright and Jack Layer) on the Belmond Grand Hibernian, for a jolly jaunt across the Emerald Isle.


Earlier this summer, the enthusiastic food influencers packed their Ettinger Cotswold Weekend Bags and headed off on one of Belmond’s most opulent railway experiences.

After a night at the Westbury Hotel in Dublin, the pair boarded the Belmond Grand Hibernian and enjoyed a champagne reception within the carriage’s sumptuous interiors. This unique Belmond blue train was refurbished inside and out, with the interiors overhauled to mirror the grand Georgian architecture of Dublin – a team of 40 skilled craftsmen undertook 35,000 hours of work on the project. Of course, the dining cars were of particular interest to our gastronomic travellers:

The style definitely didn’t stop in the two dining cars, the first was set out for tables of six, to encourage guests to mingle with the other passengers and the second with tables of four, for a more intimate setting. It was white table cloths, silver cutlery, fresh flowers and service with a smile.

Billy

Guests indulged in a gourmet lunch, as the greenery of the Irish countryside whistled past en route to Belfast. Queen Elizabeth II’s Northern Irish residence, Hillsborough Castle was the first port of call.

The first carriage-bound evening involved a spirited drinks reception, dinner and a good dose of local Irish folk music, before the passengers retired.

So, what of the cabins? “Beautifully compact but luxurious,” explains Billy, “with en suites, seriously comfortable beds and a powerful shower – and of course a great view of the outdoors passing by.”

The next morning, it was over to the dining car for a Full Irish Breakfast, taken while cruising along Ireland’s ancient and historical East Coast. The medieval town of Kilkenny was the destination on day two, where Belmond’s guests took time out for afternoon tea (and few freshly poured pints of Ireland’s most famous export – Guinness), before returning to the Grand Hibernian for dinner and live music until the early hours.

Billy and Jack made sure to check out the kitchens while they were on board: “We had a good chat to the chefs, talking through what was coming up on that day’s menu. The kitchen was definitely bigger than we had first imagined for a train kitchen, though working in it whilst moving must be a huge challenge! The food was great. The breakfast was a real highlight, and the three course dinners used great local ingredients, with a nod to the classics whilst using modern techniques and deft touches. Think Lobster with watermelon.”

Both men carried Ettinger Cotswold Weekend bags in Sand and Ivory on the trip, which perfectly offset the elegant cream and navy of the Grand Hibernian’s interior. “Our beautiful Cotswold bags were the perfect size for travelling to and from Ireland via plane, with ample room – enough for two nights worth of clothes,” explains Jack. “They come in splendid colours and the detail is incredible – we received many compliments.”

“And they were the perfect fit for our surroundings. Luxurious, classic, quality, heritage are all words that we would use for both the train and our gorgeous bags!” he adds. A match made in heaven, it seems.

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Ettinger Inspired Native Lobster Wellington

Inspired by Ettinger’s British craftsmanship and history only one dish would surely do, a British classic of the highest order. Introducing the one and only Wellington with a lighter and contemporary twist. By using perfect native lobsters instead of beef fillet the Wellington becomes lighter and more refined, perfect for summer entertaining.

Ingredients
2 lobster tails
Half a fennel bulb
1 small onion
100g baby leaf spinach
50g butter
Zest of half a lemon
1 clove of garlic
Parma ham
2 pancakes / spring-roll pastry
Ready-made all butter puff pastry
2 eggs
20ml milk
Sea salt

Instructions
Blanch the lobster tails for 5 minutes and then run under cold water to chill. Using a sharp pair of scissors cut away the shell so you can remove the whole tail.
In a food processor blitz the fennel, garlic and onion and add to a pan with the butter. Cook down slowly on a low heat until golden. Add the baby spinach and continue to cook until the majority of water has evaporated. Put the mixture back into the food processor and blitz until you get a paste. If the paste feels too wet add it back into the pan and continue to cook on a low heat until it feels thicker. Remove from the pan and chill.
To assemble spread out a large sheet of cling film and lay 4-5 slices of Parma ham on top (this creates a layer to protect the pastry from the moisture in the lobster). Spread the spinach mix on top, about 1/2 cm thick. Place the lobster tails in the middle, with the thick part at each end and the tails overlapping in the middle so you get a uniform thickness throughout.
Roll and wrap in the cling film, squeezing out any air, to ensure you get a tight roll. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
Roll out your puff pastry to around 0.5 cm thick. Cut out a rectangle that will fully wrap the lobster filling. Brush with a beaten egg all over and place a single layer of pancake or spring roll pastry on top (this further helps to ensure crisp and dry pastry). Unwrap and place the lobster filling in the middle, roll the pastry up, ensuring it's as tight to the filling as possible. Trim the edges and tuck underneath. Place onto an oiled baking tray with the seal on the bottom and brush liberally with the egg and milk wash. Sprinkle liberally with sea salt and put back into the fridge for at least 30 minutes.
To cook, pre-heat an oven to 200C. Place the wellington on the middle shelf and cook for 20 minutes, until golden brown and the internal temperature reads 70C degrees. Remove from the oven and rest for at least 10 minutes before slicing into four portions.

Serve with shoestring fries dusted with black truffle and homemade béarnaise sauce.