Writer Amanda David takes a trip around London with a surprising foodie twist
Wow, that was fun! I’ve just had afternoon tea and champagne in a fine-dining French restaurant, which happened to be driving around London at the time. Either that or I’ve just been on a very swish sightseeing bus tour of London, which also happened to have proper waiters serving a particularly elegant afternoon tea.
Bustronome (pronounced ‘bus-TRON-a mee’ to rhyme with ‘gastronomy’) is, as the name neatly suggests, both at once. I would brag about my peak multi-tasking skills, but the truth is they do all the work and you just sit back and enjoy the view – literally.
The bus is almost certainly nothing like you’re picturing. It’s not a traditional London bus – Bustronome started in Paris, only adding a London route last year – but instead a sleek, stylish black and gold bus with huge windows and a glass roof on the upper deck, giving an unrivalled panoramic view of the city around you. This really is the sightseeing equivalent of turning left when you board; get used to being pointed and waved at by excited passers-by, and also to the stony-faced expressions of those swaddled in scarves and fleeces on the exposed top deck of the open-top tour buses as you pull up next to them at the lights.
Bustronome follows one of several routes taking in several of London’s most famous landmarks, providing a concise but compelling commentary on each one. Here’s where it gets really clever; rather than have a hearty tour guide shouting from the front of the bus, or an audio guide with headphones that isolates you from anyone else in your party, you are given an interactive map and audio pen.
Simply tap the pen on the map icons, first to choose the language you want and then the attraction you’re interested in, and hold to your ear.
The savoury selection of our tea arrived somewhere around St Paul’s. We had small finger sandwiches of: cheese, mushroom & truffle oil; Cecina beef, mustard butter with grape must, mustard seeds & rocket, and smoked salmon, avocado and chia seeds. These are served with an egg Florentine (poached egg, spinach and mousseline sauce) served at pretty much room (upper deck?) temperature – i.e. not actually hot.
Once you have adjusted to this, the flavour is good, and ours both had a satisfyingly runny, golden yolk. I think my favourite was the cured beef sandwich; grape must, an intensely-flavoured syrupy reduction of grape juice used to make a balsamic vinegar is a natural match for the sharp heat of mustard and provided a well-judged balance.
More landmarks, more leisurely Instagram snaps, and the sweet selection arrived.
This included a chocolate fondue with fresh fruit and mini madeleine; a macaron with praline, mirroring the black and gold of the bus and just as chic; a lemon tart with meringue and a mini Merveilleux de Fred – more meringue, this time covered in whipped cream and caramelised hazelnuts. It may have finished with the traditional scones, jam and clotted cream but this is afternoon tea with an unmistakable French accent.
The whole experience has clearly been carefully thought-out. Glasses slot into transparent acrylic holders to prevent spills while keeping the visuals clear. Cutlery is held firmly in its place by the magic of magnetism and the wait staff – well, they’re just very steady on their feet. You never feel rushed.
The service is polished and attentive without being intrusive. There’s a toilet downstairs, for those who were wondering. It’s not the cheapest afternoon tea (or tour) out there, but it feels like a treat from the moment you’re on board and would make a lovely gift or date.
Chatting Food Contributor: Amanda David
Freelance food writer, copywriter and blogger, dedicated to sharing news about London’s restaurants, bars, exhibitions and general wonderfulness. It’s a tough job but somebody’s got to do it.
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