THE kitchen is almost 60 years old and barely bigger than a cupboard.

But Carnforth-based Northern Belle, rated one of the most luxurious trains in the world, has still been given a five star rating by hygiene inspectors. They described it as “excellent”.

This is despite head chef Matthew Green having to prepare gourmet meals for up to 300 passengers while rocketing along the tracks at speeds of up to 90mph.

But despite that, inspectors praised the “full food safety management” programme on board and, following recent tragic allergy deaths, remarked on the good system of identifying possible food hazards.

Matthew, who took over as head chef earlier this year, said: “We are delighted with this report from Lancaster City Council’s environmental health team.

“But of course it is only what our passengers expect. On a train like the Northern Belle, nothing but the best is good enough.

“Cooking on the train does have its challenges though. The onboard kitchens were fitted in 1961 and still have many of the original fittings.

“The space is tiny with barely enough room for two people while the ovens aren’t regulated like normal ovens. They’re either on or they’re off – which means dishes requiring precision cooking like soufflés cannot be achieved.

“Other things you take for granted in a normal kitchen – like putting the rubbish out or popping to the shops for something you’ve run out of – obviously cannot be done.

“But with a bit of careful thought and preparation, we can work everything out.”

Northern Belle managing director Jeanette Snape said: “Matthew always has the right recipe for success.”