Slow train to indulgence

Max Crus
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Sixteen hundred kilometres, five meals in five star luxury, white robes and chocolates on pillows, and nine wines in 30 hours.

It was a tough ask, but when the going gets tough, the tough go Queenslander Class. Well, someone’s got to.

Okay, Queenslander Class does sound like an oxymoron, or a school on stilts, but in fact it’s the premier class on the Sunlander train from Cairns to Brissy, or vice versa.

It’s a bit like turning left when boarding a jumbo, except Queenslander Class is even posher than First Class, which makes it more like flying Concorde, except that the Concorde was really fast, cramped and lasted only four hours with ‘was’ being the operative word. So actually QC is nothing like the Concorde.

To be honest, First Class on the train looked quite posh enough, but Queenslander Class is a world unto itself, literally.

Two carriages for about 20-30 people, plus separate lounge and dining cars, and everybody else was locked out. Locked in luxury, now I know how Alan Bond felt.

Funny thing is, here was a bunch of people who’d paid a fair whack for the privilege of being told when to get up, when to eat, and with whom to eat it, as the dining car only comprised tables of four.

Ms L. and I got lucky, although I don’t know that the lovely English birds, Hyacinth and Juliette, with whom we shared all meals, could say the same thing.

Thankfully they were as keen to tackle the wine list as I, which encouragingly, consisted largely of Queensland wines, all incredibly reasonably priced too. Curiously, only ‘Mexican’ wines were available by the glass.

So how were we going to try nine wines in such short time? Thankfully while the starting times of meals were quite strict, the finishing times were not.

“How come we’re always the last to leave?” Ms L. demanded.

“Blame those English girls. Wonder if our beds are turned down yet? Here’s the sort of fare you’re likely to encounter:

  • Granite Ridge Wines Crystals Sauvignon Blanc Semillon, 2004, $30QC or $20 elsewhere. Pretty serious for your average SBS, but we soldiered on with prawns, bugs, oysters and scallops. 7.5/10.

  • Symphony Hill Reserve Sauvignon Blanc 2005, $36QC/$20. Again a bit more savoury than savvy, so goes better with Bundaberg than, say, Noosa. 8.1/10.

  • Whiskey Gully Upper House Cabernet Sauvignon, 2005, $31/$26. I reckon you shouldn’t mix wine with politics - or religion or driving skills - but what the heck, Upper House seemed appropriate for an upper class train. 8.7/10.

  • Clovelly Estate Reserve Merlot 2003, $35/$24. “Order anything except merlot”, I insisted, doing my best ‘Sideways’ impersonation, but I weakened in the end, and Hyacinth had her way with me, for which I was glad. 8.5/10.

  • Robert Channon Verdelho 2005, $35/25. Funny how you can’t wait ‘til lunch sometimes, even when the last thing you did was breakfast. This and prawn tagliatelle rewarded the wait. 8.4/10.

  • Ravens Croft Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2002, $39/$49. Yep, cheaper on the train, and as much at home with the crusty Barra’ as the Stockman’s Eye, (fillet that is). Who would have thought? 8.8/10.  

For anyone contemplating such a trip, why not do it the weekend of May 25th to coincide with the Reef & Rainforest Carnivale Longest Lunch, in Port Douglas. Sure that’s a long walk once you get off the train, but just what you’ll need before getting into more food and wine.

Ravens Croft Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2002
Robert Channon Verdelho 2005
Clovelly Estate Reserve Merlot 2003
Whiskey Gully Upper House Cabernet Sauvignon, 2005
Symphony Hill Reserve Sauvignon Blanc 2005
Granite Ridge Wines Crystals Sauvignon Blanc Semillon, 2004

© Max Crus

First published 5 May, 2007


  • Granite Belt (QLD)
  • South Burnett (QLD)

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