With the Scenic Plus dining experience returning to the Coastal Pacific journey, my husband and I were excited to join the train in Picton for a sneak peek of this new and improved service before its official relaunch on December 14th, 2023.
In my view, among the three NZ rail trips, the Coastal Pacific stands out for its incredible and varied landscapes, all within just five and a half hours of travel. Just when the train starts lulling you into a snooze, the train turns a corner, revealing yet another breathtaking view.
What is Scenic Plus?
We first heard about Scenic Plus from a friend, and then read about it in a magazine. The words 'sourced locally' and 'regionally inspired' jumped off the page. As foodies, we just knew we had to head south aboard the Coastal Pacific train to try it!
Great Journeys New Zealand describes the Scenic Plus dining experience as "a feast of scenery and seasonal dishes served to your seat'. All we needed to do, they said, was to sit back, relax, and savour the journey.
This is our experience of this new dining service.
The dining experience
Originally, we contemplated booking a shorter journey on the train and disembarking at one of the regions. However, when the next Scenic Plus course arrived at our table, we certainly knew we made the right decision to enjoy the full dining experience and stay aboard all the way to Christchurch.
It honestly felt like we were dining in a restaurant by having silver cutlery, appropriate glassware, and fabric napkins. The way the food was executed on the plate and how the crew described the elements of what we were being served was incredible.
One conundrum was selecting what main course to choose from. Various regionally inspired food and wine options were available like the Canterbury lamb option with wine jus, matched with Waipara Pinot Noir. This was definitely a 'melt in your mouth' moment!
The final verdict
Overall, this Scenic Plus Dining Experience was undoubtedly all I'd hoped it would be and more!
We wined, we dined, we laughed. We made new friends, saw new places, and ticked a bucket-list item off. The food was exceptional, and we met such lovely people along the way between the crew, and other passengers in the carriage. I think the only thing we would have changed is that we would have worn stretchier clothes. We just about rolled from the train when leaving the Addington Railway Station in Christchurch.
Next on the agenda...the TranzAlpine Scenic Plus experience!
*As the menu is seasonal and Great Journeys New Zealand works with local farmers, the menu may vary from what was mentioned in this blog.
Tip for next time...
During our journey on the Coastal Pacific one thing we learnt was that we can pre-book and take our bikes, including e-bikes on the train.
In 2020 since the borders were closed we discovered more bike trails around Aotearoa and, similar to the train journey, has varying landscapes to discover. One area that is on the bucket list is the Queen Charlotte Track with glistening views of the Marlborough Sounds. Accessible from Picton where a water transport operator can take you and your bike on the boat to the track. That would save us from hiring a bike when doing the Queen Charlotte Track.
Explore Scenic Plus
Authentic flavours of rural New Zealand, inspired by the lands you see through your window