Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear – the dire state of Eurostar food in 2014

As I wrote yesterday, I was out in Paris a couple of weeks ago on Eurostar.  My photographs of the Eurostar lounge in St Pancras showed that it is not a place to go if you are hungry.  Lucky for me (I thought) that I have booked Standard Premier on the outbound and will get a decent breakfast.

Er, no.

Standard Premier has an odd history.  When the Eurostar trains were ordered, they massively overestimated the demand for First Class seats.  In order to fill the first class seating, a ‘middle class’, initially called ‘Leisure Select’ but now ‘Standard Premier’ was introduced.

You effectively get a first class seat but with a lower food and drink offering and no lounge access.  That is it.  American Express Platinum cardholders get lounge access thrown in anyway, so for them the only difference between Standard Premier and Business Premier is the food.

Here are a couple of pictures of the seating.  The seats are an excellent size, but there are few single seats and you are likely to have a seatmate.

Eurostar Standard Premier Business Premier seat

Eurostar Standard Premier Business Premier seat 2

Now, let’s get down to the food.  This is what passes for breakfast in Standard Premier:

Eurostar standard premier food

That is it.  I wasn’t entirely sure for a while if that was it or if it was just an appetiser, but unfortunately that was the lot.  One croissant (dry), one weird seed roll, one small pot of yoghurt, tiny cup of (non fresh) juice.

It makes the British Airways Club Europe breakfast look good – at least you can drown your sorrows in Club Europe with free champagne over breakfast!

OK.  Let’s be fair here.  Standard Premier is not ludicrously expensive (£150 in a Eurostar sale return).  However, take a look at what I served in Business Premier on the way back, where seats can run at close to £500 return:

Eurostar Business Premier food

It really was as bad as it looks.  You have a mushroom wrap topped with cheese on the left, a roll, one tiny scone and then some weird curry chickpea salad on the right!  There is no separate dessert – that is what the scone is for!  That wine glass at the very top of the picture was also very small.

There is also no food OF ANY SORT to be had in the Paris lounge, as you will see in a couple of days.

I was, genuinely, lost for words.  The service was also dreadful, with huge waits for drink refills (my wine in that tiny cup was never refilled), although I will be slightly lenient on them because it was the day of the French air traffic control strikes and the trains were busier than usual.

It is a real shame.  Leisure Select, back in the days before it was renamed Standard Premier, was well known for providing decent food presented as separate courses.  Now you get this truly pathetic ‘one tray’ offering.

I was mortified to see that the same approach had reached Business Premier.  I hadn’t been on Eurostar for about four years, but before that I used to take it a couple of times a year on business and had fond memories of the food and drink served.

There was absolutely nothing about the food or service I received this time to convince me that I wouldn’t have been better off heading to Heathrow instead, especially with lounge access.

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Comments

  1. “However, take a look at what I served in Business Premier on the way back, where seats can run at close to £500 return:”

    I never knew that worked as a hostie for Eurostar!

    Seriously though, those food/price combinations are truly shocking! Best pick up a Boots meal deal next time!

  2. Bialynia says:

    Sorry Raffles, but reading this made me choke with laughter. That really is pitiful when compared, as you say, to the old Leisure Select offerings. Is this really supplied by Waitrose? I thought that only the French were capable of serving such contemptuous food.

  3. Wow. Really glad we are going in standard and I didn’t go to the effort to sort lounge access (plat card). Sounds dreadful. Must take a packed lunch on board.

    What are the standard seats like? From memory we have a 2 together

    • Standard seats are fine. They are 2-2 rather than 1-2. Mixture of airline and table seats. Often busier. Only two standard coaches have power sockets so if that is important make sure you pick a seat in one of them (no extra cost). Check out the Man and seat 61′s blog for full info. He is the “Raffles of the Iron Road”

  4. Maximus says:

    Hmmmm. I have never traveled on Eurostar (when I go over to France I take the car or fly down to the South). But what I see from Raffles account above is what i would have expected tbh. Something on par with UK train service rather than a Pullman style. My expectations from train travel are never high!

    Though I have to say the breakfast offered from the lounge or at the seat in Standard Premier would be more than enough for me. Like most from continental Europe breakfast is usually a small pastry or bread, coffee +/- juice. It seems a very British expectation to have a big cooked breakfast.

    I have to say the “omelette” and chickpea salad did not look exciting. Personally i would prefer to pay less and just have a coffee/biscuit service on a short train ride. But appreciate business types may want to eat en route.

    I live in the deep South West of England but have never booked in to eat dinner on the London to Penzance evening Pullman traiins from London (I am an anti-social chap and the thought of eating at a table with strangers does not appeal!), so i prefer standard First Class seats in the quiet coach. But reports from those who have have been positive. maybe Eurostar should have words with First South West?

    http://www.firstgreatwestern.co.uk/your-journey/on-board/pullman

    • First Great Western restaurant service is about the only place you can get decent freshly prepared food on a UK train today. It is a shame that it is unpredictable as to whether they will actually offer the advertised service.

      • The Caledonian Sleeper train overnight to Scotland is the best train food I’ve ever had (not been on Pullman) and I’m a big fan. Highly recommend the journey and service up to the highlands. It’s somewhat costly but a great experience.

  5. Very glad I stuck with standard class and went for the £69 return sale seats when I went in December! At that time the Paris lounge did have crisps and biscuits though, not sure if that’s changed?

  6. Thanks for posting, had hath ought about a trip at May half term but I would rather fly that have that.

  7. I saw adverts up at the Eurostar ticket office at St Pancras where you could upgrade your ticket to standard premier for £39. Glad i didnt bother!

  8. Looks like Standard Premier has the same stained carpet as Standard class. Although I enjoyed the novelty of getting the train, and its convenience, i have been on nicer buses. I had thought Standard Premier the way to go for the future, but perhaps not.

  9. RIccati says:

    What you can have on the train is some Waitrose pre-packed meals which they heat in a microwave. But you have to know the full menu to ask for it! Hot meals not always on the short menu displayed at the bar.

    Paris lounge is so cold and dire that I had to resort to Red Label. Inconvenient layout and impossible to work or read in comfort.

  10. I remember when Eurostar first started. Leisure Selectt, back then, was really the only way to travel. For about £25 more than standard fare, you got Champagne, plenty of wine and a hot meal. I last travelled in that class in 2009 when I travelled all the way to Brussels without any hot food and no alcoholic drink offerings whatsoever. By then, the difference in fare had risen to about £50 or £55 each way. It was simply madness by then to pay the extra premium. Since then, I haven’t bothered and, currently, nothing will tempt me back to Standard Premier. Economy seats are perfectly acceptable on Eurostar. Simply stock up in M&S before your journey and you will be quids in.

  11. Roz Heathcote says:

    Ugh couldn’t agree more.

    I travel with Eurostar from London to Brussels 2-4 times a month.

    I was initially travelling Business Premiere and was simply aghast at the difference when I tried out Standard Premier. The £300 difference for me (as I get lounge and speedy boarding as a Carte Blanche traveller) meant simply one less drink offered and one less course of an already appalling food offering.

    The Eurostar Culinary director is Raymond Blanc of all people, one of my favourite chefs! I think he should travel incognito sometime to see the utter tosh they are serving under his name. It’s an embarrassment.

    Along with no onboard wi-fi and horrendous toilets they should be ashamed at what they charge for their highest class seats.

  12. Andrew (@andrewseftel) says:

    Nothing to stop you taking your own food and drink. Save the cost of the upgrade and pack a picnic.

  13. Farringdon says:

    Pathetic. I used to enjoy the food and drink on Eurostar. It has really gone downhill.

    I do still like the dining cars on German trains. Maybe DB need to get their Channel Tunnel service sorted out – which now looks unlikely to happen any time in the foreseeable future.

    • German ICE trains are great the first time I went on one I went to buy a bottle or can of beer to discover they had draft beer. I can recommend getting the train from Germany to Copenhagen the train boards a ferry at one point. 2 types of transport for the price of one!

  14. The speed and convenience and avoiding Heathrow would be enough.

  15. DarrenT says:

    And the food (amongst other things) is likely to get worse I’m sure, with the likes of easyJet chomping at their heels now on the LGW-CDG route.

  16. Wow – that food in Business Premier is really bad. The chickpeas look like they have been eaten already….

  17. Glad i live North and I don’t use Eurostar but fly down to France. On the other hand the East Coast first class food and service seems to be a lot better than this.

    • I thought the Eurostar offering would be much better than this. I wonder if Eurostar plans to do this to East Coast should they win the tender.

  18. flyforfun says:

    Disappointing, but inevitable.

    My first Eurostar trip was freebie from the Times – Collect 12 tokens for a seat. Then the Chunnel Fire happened and they had to extend the validity. They then offered upgrades for £50! Worth it for the meal there and back.

    My last trip to Paris was a day trip for fun with friends from abroad. We went out standard, but came back Leisure Select or what ever it was called then and having the meal on board was excellent as it rounded off a packed day where dining well wasn’t an option.

    I’d hate to be a business traveller, working all day, rushing to the train for the journey and finding the above was all that was on offer. Yuck.

  19. Perhaps this is where our college chef went on his holidays recently. It looks about his standard.

  20. This is truly dire. Is there no longer champagne even in Business Premier? On my last journey in Eurostar (in 2008 in what was then Leisure Select) the food was as good as it had ever been. I was booked to travel for Christmas 2009 but the weather and the queues out in the snow etc put paid to that. No regrets when I saw Eurostar’s pitiful response to the weather in 2010 either.

    All very sad when I think back to what a pleasant experience Eurostar used to be back in the 1990s even though the journey from Waterloo took 3 hours in those days. You can get a BA Club Europe return from about £260: the BA lounges and the food/drink on board knock spots off Eurostar’s offering at twice the price.

  21. You also get WiFi access with business premier.

    • No you don’t! Not in all carriages, certainly not in mine. It is coming on the refurbished trains.

      • correct. No onboard wifi at all.

        Not only are refurbished trains on their way but new trains also. They will be Siemens ICE trains and build to continental loading gauge so should be more spacious than the existing trains

  22. Bobw1951 says:

    Totally agree with your comments, as an retired railwayman I get a very good deal on the Standard Premier as long as I book well in advance, but would rather pay a bit more and fly these days to Brussels, as the offering in Standard Premier is awful, and if I do go by Eurostar I go Standard and pay for anything I want to eat, also the state of the seats are getting abysmal, the only +1 is the ability to use the power sockets to watch a movie on the tablet.

  23. James67 says:

    Sad indeed. I recall a few first trips from Ashford soon after service began and it was great. Service was timely as London passengers had already dined. Now it looks like best option would be a standard seat and a decent packed lunch or coffee and a sandwich from the station.

  24. andy stock says:

    Next time when we are moaning about BA Lounges and club Europe think of Eurostar! Even the afternoon tea on BA CE is better than that, at least BA keep you topped up with drinks and you can usually find some food in the LHR lounges, had a nice Thai red chicken curry last time at BA Galleries T3.

  25. I still don’t see why the poor food offering would encourage a person to take a tube/train/taxi to Heathrow, having to be there an hour before a flight, and then fly to CDG and have to take another train or taxi into the centre of Paris. The convenience of going from city centre to city centre in about 2.5 hours far outweighs the difference in food quality. Get a post-breakfast train and have lunch in Paris! Or a post-lunch one with dinner there! Or just buy something for the journey. I can’t see the problem.

  26. It’s true that the food is not that great, but to say that this would force anyone to take BA is just silly. You’d rather spend four hours in the Tube/HEX(which costs about as much as the Eurostar on its own)/shuffling through security/waiting on the runway/RER because your croissant was dry?

    • From where I live it is the same time to St P or Heathrow. The lack of wifi on Eurostar is also a killer for me, I lost 5 hours work time over 2 days.

      • Yeah but BA doesn’t have wifi on-board either. On Eurostar you have 3G/4G all the way, even under the sea– tether to your laptop (you can do it over wifi/bluetooth) et voilà! You can also make calls/join conference calls/take e-mails etc. on your phone, which obviously you can’t do on a plane.

        On a plane, you can’t work while going through security, waiting for boarding, waiting silly hours on the runway (can’t even have your laptop on!), flying in circles over London waiting for a slot (again, can’t even have your laptop on!). On the Eurostar, except for the 2 minutes it takes to get through sec/immigration, you can work non-stop, at all times.

        Again agree with Reno– I have Eurostar Carte Blanche and go to Paris/Brussels 1-2 times a month on average, sometimes same-day. I certainly couldn’t maintain this pace if I had to fly there!

        As for the class differences, I agree that BP is not a big upgrade over SP, EXCEPT for unlimited, free changes/refunds, which can be a life-saver if meetings run over/you have to stay an extra day etc. When my dates are fixed, I go for SP as it’s more quiet and relaxed than Standard, which helps with work.
        Would certainly take standard class over even a business class plane seat though.

        And finally: St Pancras has Foyle’s; LHR has W.H. Smith…

  27. Lady London says:

    I used to get a filled baguette and coffee at Paul in the departures area at Gare du Nord and look longingly at the doors to the lounge. Now I won’t.

  28. As a Eurostar Carte Blanche (frequent traveller) member who recently had to fly CDG to LHR, I have to second the opinions that this article sounds a bit insane.

    Air travel to Paris means : transit to LHR (1 hour from Central London on the tube, or a bit less but 20£+ on Heathrow Express, or 50£+ on a cab) + check in 1 hour early + hand luggage limitations due to airport security and/or waiting for luggage on arrival + horrendous transit from CDG to Paris (50€ cab or 1 hour on antiquated tube going through dodgy areas)

    A Eurostar trip to Paris is a maximum of 4 hours total door-to-door for most people (let’s say 30 mins average to/from train stations, 30 min check-in, 2h20 uninterrupted work/leisure time, no luggage hassles on arrival)
    Throughout, you can use electronic devices and through most of the trip you can get on 3G/4G to get online.

    If you think the infinitely worse experience of air travel for such a short distance is worth a slightly better breakfast, may I suggest you save the extra £50-100 you’ve put towards airport transfers and next time and use that at a really good Parisian restaurant instead ? I can give you a few addresses :)

    • Yes, if you’re already in Central London/Paris then Eurostar makes sense. Obviously if you’re starting your journey somewhere else then it’s quite different. My main take home message from this article was that it is in no way worth paying extra for anything more than standard class on Eurostar unless you really want a more spacious seat for a couple of hours. Whatever you do don’t think that you’ll get an amazing food or lounge experience for the money!

      PS one thing to be aware of – don’t turn up too early or they won’t let you through checkin/security! (presumably due to the limited size of the waiting area and lounge)