Want to see the sights while scoffing crust-free cucumber sandwiches and chocolate cake? Erm, who wouldn’t? Becky Lucas road-tests the city’s classiest meal on wheels.
Ding ding! Someone’s had a bright idea: Covent Garden’s BB Bakery, to narrow it down. In April the purveyors of pastries, sweet treats, tea and coffee decided to take the sugary show on the road, launching a self-proclaimed ‘fabulous’ Afternoon Tea Bus Tour around central London.
Now, like us, you probably experienced a flush of excitement upon reading of such a thing – a brand new concept! – followed by a few key doubts, such as: will the bus bear any resemblance to the top deck of the 24 at around 2am and smell vaguely of public toilets and KFC? Will I get bus-sick? Will we get stuck in traffic for so long the tea stews and the sandwiches go stale?
Thankfully, ‘no’ is the answer to all the above, you London cynic you. ‘Rodney’ the bus is in fact a shiny red vintage 1960s Routemaster, who smells every bit as good as he looks. We forced a friend prone to car-sickness onto our tea tour (it was a risk for everyone on board) who thankfully was able to feast like the rest of us without any waves of nausea, even while facing backwards. As for gridlock – the route is supposed to take roughly 90 minutes; we pulled up with 10 minutes to spare, allowing plenty of time to box up all the goodies we couldn’t quite manage to gobble up to take away.
And what are these goodies we speak of? The tea itself includes dainty little sandwiches, mini quiches, cupcakes, scones, sweet pastries and macarons (with veggie and gluten-free options available), as well as pink ‘boobells’ – that’s ‘bubbles’ in Belgian waiter Jean Philippe’s adorable accent – and, bien sûr, your choice of tea. The latter arrives in tall branded mugs complete with handy plastic lid to avoid spillage. Indeed,
Jean Philippe’s ability to painstakingly pour milk and sugar on request while simultaneously surfing the bumpy bus aisle is an impressive and essential skill for an afternoon tea bus tour waiter.
Our only quibble? We would have liked a little audio about the landmarks whooshing past outside – mainly to save us from ourselves and interrupt our non-stop chatting, eating, drinking and cackling for the full hour and 30 minutes. And we’d recommend you go in groups divisible by four, or two, as otherwise you may not end up all sitting together (it’s not so easy to mingle between tables on a moving vehicle, we can confirm).
But aside from these minor points, the feeling of sailing past the hordes of tourists outside in Trafalgar Square and Piccadilly Circus while getting high on sugar-filled baked goods, caffeine and champers is really rather special, and self-satisfying to the point of smugness. Ideal for hen parties and birthdays, men should expect to be outnumbered, and potentially hit by flying cake.
£45 per person. Tours 12.30pm and 3pm everyday. Find out more at bbbakery.co.uk.
By Becky Lucas