A HAMPSHIRE heritage railway has launched a fine dining service for foodies and wine lovers to enjoy on board a 70-year-old train.

TV broadcaster and gardening expert Alan Titchmarsh, special guest and patron of the Watercress Line, cut the red ribbon to launch The Watercress Belle at Alresford Station, before boarding the train to sample the exclusive menu.

Alan said: “The Watercress Line’s wonderful new dining service on The Watercress Belle is a fantastic way to enjoy all the fine flavours of the produce that Hampshire is so famous for. All this on board the inviting ambience of a steam train that has been transformed into a first-class restaurant travelling through glorious countryside.

“The Watercress Line has always been a jewel in north Hampshire’s crown – and it has now become even better.”

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Visitors at the sold-out launch event, on Saturday, February 18, were served a contemporary three course meal cooked by the Lemon Stone Events chef and fine wines in the first-class carriages of the 70-year-old train.

Diners toasted the inaugural journey with sparkling English wine from Alresford’s Hattingley Valley vineyard who sponsored the event alongside Hellards estate agency.

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The Watercress Line’s CEO Amanda Squires said: “We are delighted to launch the new Watercress Belle fine dining service combining superb food and wine with the style and nostalgia of the golden age of steam. It will offer a memorable and highly enjoyable experience to food lovers, steam enthusiasts and anyone wishing to dine in style.”

Speaking to the Chronicle, Watercress Line president Richard Lacey said: “We haven’t been able to run the Belle for about four years for a variety of reasons, not least Covid, so it’s great to have it back. It’s a flagship for us and we have a newly refurbished set of carriages so it’s all hugely positive, and we can’t wait to see how it goes tonight. I’m sure it will go well, and we will continue to run, we have another 12 or so planned for this year.”

The Watercress Belle will be running throughout the year. For more information or to book go to watercressline.co.uk/the-watercress-belle-dining-train/.