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Review of the surprisingly good James Martin food on Virgin East Coast – plus the new seat

This is my review of the brand new menu and relatively new seat in Virgin Trains East Coast First Class.

I had to dash up to York and back yesterday which gave me my first exposure to Virgin East Coast trains since the seating and catering was overhauled.

I went up on an InterCity 225 and came back on an InterCity 125 which was nearly as old as I am.  The 125 has the new Virgin East Coast First Class seating:

Virgin Trains East Coast new seat review

It was, well, new.  I’ve sat in different variants of this seat for 30 years now and there wasn’t anything revolutionary that Virgin could do with it.  I had no complaints though – it was big and comfortable.  None of your Eurostar-style thin seats here …..

Let’s talk about the food.  Note that the discussion below only applies to the Monday to Friday menu.  You will find the weekend offering less ambitious.

The new James Martin-designed menu launched around six weeks ago in First Class.  I found it very impressive indeed.

For a start, ‘proper’ food is always available.  British Airways – if we use that as a comparator – serves fairly lightweight mid-morning snacks and afternoon tea outside of main meal periods.  I am actually quite fond of the BA afternoon tea but I think I am in a minority.

Virgin East Coast serves a full menu all day.

Until 11am, you get breakfast.  This comprises:

Selection of bakery items (bread, croissant, cinnamon swirl, muffin) with bespoke preserves


Fresh fruit

plus either

A ‘full English’ of sausage, bacon, black pudding, mushroom, tomato and free-range egg


mushroom rarebit


a bacon roll


Greek yoghurt, toasted muesli and rhubarb and ginger compote


porridge with banana and maple syrup

That is a pretty good selection in my book.  However, I missed it as I was on the 11.08 outbound!

For the rest of the day, the options are:

Chicken and bacon caesar wrap 

Cheese Ploughman’s sandwich

Gourmet sausage roll

Vegetable tagine

Chicken curry with rice and a miniature naan bread 


Seville orange drizzle cake


fresh fruit

Some cold items are served from a trolley whilst others are brought to your table.  All hot food is brought to you.

On the outbound I had the curry.  The portion size wasn’t huge but it was hot and tasty.  The naan bread was also good.  See here:

Virgin Trains East Coast new menu food

Curry never photographs well!  However, I liked it so much that I had another portion on the return journey!  I also had half a wrap as they had some spare on the trolley – this was also very good.

There is also a long drinks menu.  Everything is free except for prosecco which is charged at £6, presumably for a mini-bottle.

All in all, I was impressed by the new menu.  If the price difference between Standard Class and First Class is under, say, £25 to York or Leeds then I would recommend it without hesitation.  For a journey to or from Scotland from London I would happily pay a larger premium.

Virgin has also changed the lounge access rules at Kings Cross.  ALL First Advance ticket holders can now go in for free as long as their ticket costs over £10.  In the GNER days First Advance ticket holders had to pay £5.  I didn’t have time to go but Anika is there later in the week and will hopefully be able to take a look for me.

You can find out more about the new menu on the East Coast website here.

Remember that you earn Virgin Flying Club miles or Nectar points if you book East Coast tickets via the official website.  Booking direct with Virgin is now the only way to get free wi-fi if travelling in Standard Class.

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  1. I’m not sure I understand the comparison Raffles is making to BA food – surely the only routes that VEC competes with BA on are the flights to Leeds-Bradford, Newcastle, Edinburgh and Aberdeen and on those all BA offers (after breakfast time) is a drink and a biscuit, bag of crisps or nuts. The comparison to afternoon tea seems irrelevant to me.

    On the other hand I got a VEC train yesterday in first and had a really nice cooked breakfast. Agree with the comments up the thread on the sausage roll though….

    • The comparison is because readers of this site know what BA food is like, and if I say something is better or worse than BA food it provides a benchmark. It has nothing to do with a route by route comparator.