I tried secret three course meal you can get on Welsh trains and had the most succulent dish I've ever eaten

My main meal - lamb shank with mash potato and green beans - was absolutely delicious
-Credit: (Image: Reem Ahmed/WalesOnline)

The other day, I had possibly the tastiest, most succulent lamb shank I've ever had in my life. Surprisingly, I didn't get it in a fancy restaurant. And, no, it wasn't homemade either. Nor was it from one of those handy meal delivery kits you can get these days.

I actually got it on public transport. On a train. In fact, it was a Transport for Wales service. And I got it delivered directly to my seat as we whizzed through the Welsh countryside. It was even served up on a fancy, warmed plate, by an attentive waiter wearing uniform. Yes, really.

I know, I know. I'm as shocked as you are, reader. And now you're probably wondering how I found myself indulging in the best lamb shank of my life on a two-hour journey from Shrewsbury to Cardiff on a Thursday afternoon.

READ MORE: I tried the secret fry-up breakfast you can get when travelling first class on trains in Wales

READ MORE: Popular pink cafe bar forced to close just over a year after opening in 'heartbreaking' decision

I'll get you up to speed. On its first class service, TfW offers a luxury dining service, called Blas ('taste' in Welsh), where you can get a fancy breakfast, or a three-course lunch or dinner, to eat during your journey. Get the best user experience with WalesOnline’s Premium app on Apple or Android

I'm not surprised if you don't know about. It seems not many people do - myself included until recently. I suppose you wouldn't, unless you took first class trains regularly. Plus, it's only available on TfW's Premier Service between Cardiff and Holyhead and Cardiff the Manchester.

It's so unknown it's almost like a secret experience - though TfW doesn't hide its existence, I should add. They say the food is prepared by onboard chefs - presumably squirreled away in a small kitchen on the train - who use "the best local ingredients" to whip up "classic dishes served with warmth and charm".

Inside the first class carriage
Inside the first class carriage -Credit:Reem Ahmed/WalesOnline

Like all jobs, journalism has its downsides - but it also some amazing upsides. Like being asked by your editor to try out a so-called secret menu and spend the day on a train stuffing your face with delicious food for an article. It was a tough decision, of course, but in the end I obliged. Which is exactly how I ended up having the aforementioned lamb when I had the three-course lunch from Blas.

I've already detailed my experience of trying a fry-up brekkie from Blas (which you can ready about here). And that was very good. So I strolled into the first class carriage for the afternoon meal feeling pretty optimistic I'd be getting some good grub.

It turns out I was a bit wrong. Not because I wasn't about to get good food. But because I was going to get a lot of bloody excellent food.

The lunch and dinner menu
The lunch and dinner menu -Credit:Reem Ahmed/WalesOnline

Like my breakfast experience, there were hosts stationed in the first class carriage who were there to take your order, serve you your food and drink, and generally make you feel a bit special (it was my first time travelling in first class - and probably the last time I'll do it for a while - so, yes, I unashamedly basked in this feeling). I hasten to add my return ticket - from Cardiff to Shrewsbury and back again - cost an eye-watering £109.20, so you're getting what you've paid for.

For the unacquainted, first class passengers automatically get unlimited complimentary soft drinks and snacks with their ticket. So I started off while a glass of apple juice, while I perused the Blas lunch menu, which was given to me by one of the hosts shortly after I had settled into my seat. It's the same as it's dinner menu and you can either get two courses for £21.95 or three courses £24.95.

In the name of journalism, I of course went for the latter. I started off with what was described as a "handmade tomato and basil soup", served with "warm crusty bread and Welsh butter." The waiter laid down a placemat in front of me with a soup spoon and napkin, and soon the dish arrived.

My starter - tomato and basil soup with bread and butter - was lovely
My starter - tomato and basil soup with bread and butter - was lovely -Credit:Reem Ahmed/WalesOnline

It was piping hot, so I let it cool before I dived in. When I looked at the pictures I took of the soup afterwards, I noticed the cream drizzle was in the shape of a smiley face. I'm not sure if that was deliberate, or perhaps a Freudian slip from the chefs, to curry favour with their customers.

But no extra favour need have been curried. The soup was presented nicely and, more importantly, it was delicious. It was a fairly large portion but was quite light, with a slight richness from the cream. It was well-seasoned, both from the basil mixed in it, as well as from the smattering of chives on top of it. I could tell it was "handmade", as the menu promised. It made me feel nostalgic about eating tomato soup as a child at my grandma's house. For the latest restaurant reviews, sign up to our food and drink newsletter here

I'm unsure if the white bread roll along with it was also handmade. But, honestly, it didn't matter. It was lovely either way - fluffy, pillowy and warm, with a nice dusting of flour. I tore pieces off it to soak up the soup, or to have on its own smeared with the butter. Even that (Shirgar salted) was high quality, and was nice and soft for spreading, apparently having also been warmed slightly.

The host asked me how the soup was, before whipping away my empty bowl and laying down a knife and fork and another napkin on my placemat. Not long after, he brought over my main on a hot plate (as with the breakfast, the speed at which they cook and serve the meals is impressive.) On the menu it was described as "slow-cooked Welsh lamb shank, served with a mint jus, chive pom purée mash and green beans infused with garlic."

The hosts laid my table with a placemat and cutlery
The hosts laid my table with a placemat and cutlery -Credit:Reem Ahmed/WalesOnline
This lamb shank was possibly the best I've ever had
This lamb shank was possibly the best I've ever had -Credit:Reem Ahmed/WalesOnline

I've already insinuated this but I'll just reiterate it here: This. Was. Beautiful. 10/10. Criminally moreish. Probably the best lamb shank dish I've ever had (and my dad can make a damn good lamb shank).

Like the soup, it was presented very well, the shank itself resting atop the bed of mash and the beans leaning against its bone. There was scattering of micro-greens and a criss-cross of three chive sprigs to finish off the whole thing.

I tried the lamb first. It was all the clichés and more: melt-in-your-mouth tender, falling off the bone, cooked to perfection. The mint jus was a bit thicker and richer than I expected - seemingly made from the delicious juices from the bottom of the slow cooker - and I actually preferred this to a thin sauce. It also had a discernible mint flavour - though not overpowering - that went wonderfully with the meat.

The pom purée - a smoother, more luxurious version of mash potato - was also perfect. It was silky and buttery, with absolutely no lumps in sight. Out of all the carbs to choose from, potatoes are probably my least favourite, so I do like when mash is jazzed up a bit. In this case, the taste of the chives mixed into it were a perfect accompaniment to all the minty, meaty, buttery loveliness.

Even the green beans were simply delectable. Crucially, they weren't overcooked and soggy but still had a satisfying crunch to them. However, I couldn't taste the garlic they were infused with as much as I expected to, but that's a small point - they still tasted great and this didn't detract anything from my enjoyment of the dish overall.

Even though I was pretty full at this point, I just couldn't resist finishing off the entire dish. It was just too tasty and I knew my future self would berate me for not doing so. If you're a foodie like me, delicious meals probably make an indelible impression on you. It's been over a week since I had this dish and I'll admit I still think about it. And any lamb shank meal I try from now on will be ranked against Blas' benchmark.

I did decline a complimentary piece of lemon cake, which one of the hostesses was handing out to passengers (if you love food, first class is definitely for you). That's because I'd already ordered dessert: a "zesty lemon tart", with a "silky lemon filling encased in crisp pastry, served with a fresh raspberry coulis."

The lemon tart and raspberry coulis was a delightful end to the meal
The lemon tart with raspberry coulis was a delightful end to the meal -Credit:Reem Ahmed/WalesOnline

You know the drill by now: this too was also near-perfect. It was a good portion - not too big - so I managed to finish it. I was pleasantly surprised that the raspberry coulis was accompanied with a handful of summer fruits (including strawberries, blueberries, blackberries and redcurrants). The fruits weren't hot but appeared to have been cooked a little beforehand, so were a nice and soft to eat with the tart.

The tart itself was lovely. It satisfied my sweet-tooth and you could taste the kick of the lemon. The shortcrust pastry was just the right thickness and had the crispness promised by the menu. My one gripe is while the lemon filling tasted lovely and was smooth, it was a little bit firm and stodgy, like a thick lemon curd. My spoon didn't quite slide right through it and I'm not sure if 'silky' is quite how I would describe it. I don't know whether that was because of the recipe or because it had been stored in a fridge before I was served it.

The raspberry coulis was zingy, balancing the sweetness of the tart. I was worried the summer fruits would be too sour, but thankfully they weren't. They weren't too sweet either, but tasted quite mellow and fresh.

It's safe to say, I left the train feeling pretty stuffed. I probably could've been rolled out onto the platform by the hosts (and they'd probably have done it if I asked them - that's how impeccable their service was). But the indulgence was absolutely worth it. I'm still puzzled as to how I dined so finely on a TfW train service. I'm not a fine dining connoisseur by any means, but I've got dressed up for many a fancy dinner and this rivals even some of the best I've been to, which have cost double the price. Indeed, it occurred to me as I was finishing up the remnants of the lemon tart what great value for money the whole thing is. Of course, you have to get a first class ticket in the first place, which isn't cheap. But three courses of top-restaurant-quality nosh for just £25? Yes, please!