The Venice-Simplon Orient Express is the ultimate in luxury and exquisite dining, a timeless journey through the Alps on a golden-era train. And now Michelin star chef Jean Imbert is at the helm, bringing a new level of culinary excellence on board. Keeping the legend and mystery of the world’s most famous train alive, Imbert has reimagined the full dining experience, from the menus and canapes to the opulent restaurant cars themselves.
Read on and picture yourself traveling through some of Europe’s most beautiful landscapes, on a journey between the two iconic cities of Venice and Paris. Along with exceptional service and sumptuous interiors, an unforgettable dining experience awaits.
Meet Jean Imbert
Known for his signature theatrical flair on classical French cuisine, Jean Imbert gained a Michelin star at Hotel Plaza Athenee in Paris, just nine weeks after his restaurant launched there in January 2022. No stranger to the luxury realm, he also oversees Monsieur Dior, a restaurant at Christian Dior’s newly renovated flagship store on Avenue Montaigne in Paris, and La Case, a restaurant at Cheval Blanc in St Barths.
On his recent appointment to the Venice-Simplon Orient Express, Imbert told the media, “For me to want to take on a project, it must possess character, a legacy. It must have a story to tell.” With its rich, glamorous history dating back to 1883, the Orient-Express naturally stoked his passion. His mantra is “The star is the train,” with his fresh and simple approach to food serving to bolster an already heady experience.
An inspiring menu
Renowned for its gourmet cuisine, guests onboard the Venice-Simplon Orient Express have the choice of three elegant restaurant carriages from which to dine. Culinary experiences are plenty, spearheaded by the famous lobster brunch.
Chef Imbert’s new concept spans both menus and dining experiences, ranging from in-cabin breakfasts to dinners, and the canapés served in the train’s social heart. Cabin Service delicacies, designed by him will be served around the clock.
The menu is exquisite, as to be expected from a Michelin star chef, with dishes including gourmet Beef Wellington, roasted turbot with Hollandaise sauce, avocado and burrata lobster salad and chicken breast in Albufera sauce. For dessert, mouthwatering options such as strawberry and vanilla vacherin and tiramisu soufflé await. Inspired by vintage Venice-Simplon Orient Express menus, Jean Imbert’s dishes are all closely linked to quality purveyors who can provide ingredients like morels, peaches and figs to reflect the shifting seasons.
Culinary excellence on the move
Finding consistent partners is one of the logistical hurdles of cooking on a train. Imbert needs to consider where the raw products are coming from, and which producers can guarantee delivery to the train in just a 20-minute window before departure. Food is cooked fresh on site and is managed by loading a fresh food supply in Venice, then reloading in Paris. Guests can even see the culinary delights they’ll enjoy being packed on to the train (as is the case with the classic Lobster Brunch).
The physical limitations of the kitchen can also be complex to navigate, providing challenges, even for a Michelin star chef. “When there is complexity, you have to challenge yourself creatively”, Imbert has said. The train has two kitchens of 118-square-foot, which fit three cooks and one chef or sous-chef at a time. Though well-appointed with a salamander, plancha, gas stove, bain-marie and three ovens, the menu has to take any limitations into consideration.
Certain territory is also off limits in these moving kitchens. Some off-menu items are just not possible, such as French fries. This is because boiling oil and water in large batches is too dangerous if the train happens to stop short.
A unique restaurant location
Imbert has re-designed the visual identity and ambiance of the three 1920s restaurant cars on the Venice-Simplon Orient Express – L’Oriental, Etoile Du Nord, and Côte d’Azur – to fuse his vision with the train’s heritage. Every detail has been considered, from new mood lighting to crisp white tablecloths and French porcelain dinnerware.
The train’s magnificent carriages were originally built between 1926 and 1931 and are fully restored to offer pure indulgence; everything you do, feel, touch and smell is real. Whether it’s the silverware, a door handle or a glass of champagne, each detail is authentic. Drawing inspiration from the aristocrats of the early 1900s, the Venice-Simplon Orient Express offers customized luxury, created with the standards of today’s technology and comfort. Elegant interiors reflect both the DNA of the train, and the ambience of its iconic destinations. This gives each carriage a unique feel and design, connecting guests to their destination.
To take an unforgettable voyage and savor the exquisite creations from Michelin star chef Jean Imbert for yourself, book on our Ultimate Italy with Venice-Simplon Orient Express Extension luxury guided tour.