Following the recent post-holiday gluttony, I noticed many bloggers’ social media feeds trending with statements of detoxing, 5/2 diets, juices for dinner – the dreary list goes on. I’m more of a believer in sustainable healthy living – no drastic diets, no en-vogue nutritional fads, just regular balanced lifestyles throughout the year with eating out and naughty treats to be enjoyed in moderation.And so, on a rather happy “moderation” day, I joined Char and Ayla on board the BB Bakery Afternoon Tea Bus, without doubt one of the most novel experiences you’ll find in London. I’ve met both of these lovely ladies on a number of occasions and felt an instant affinity with them. For one, just like myself, they are totally travel-mad and their passion for travel trumps all others (sorry husbands!!) but also like myself, they juggle this with busy careers, mortgages, spouses and their global tales prove that you don’t have to give this all up to pursue your travel dreams.
The BB Bakery Afternoon Tea Bus
BB Bakery have had a tea salon in central London for a number of years now. If you walk past it, you will be hard pushed not to want to pause when you see their array of delicate, fanciful French pastries – just look at the cupcakes above! It’s always packed because frankly, they know how to do cakes so I came into this with high expectations. I once raved about the pizza restaurant on a London Routemaster bus but that was stationed so I was panicking slightly about how I would get through this without major spillage and clumsiness..The bus tour starts just by Trafalgar Square and lasts approximately an hour and a half. We were seated at the top deck, where tables were mostly arranged for up to four people and we were given a warm and friendly reception from a member of staff with a most attractive French accent.As you board the bus, you’ll note a selection of sandwiches, quiches and sweet pastries already laid out and if you’re an eager-beaver of a photographer, take advantage of those moments on the static bus or try to optimise on traffic/traffic light opportunities once you’re on the move (not usually a problem in central London.) We learned the hard way that zooming in on a mini-cupcake on a moving bus in no easy feat. The sweet treats were as scrumptious as I remembered from their Covent Garden bakery and any leftovers will be nicely boxed up for you in a dainty pink cardboard goody bag, which kept Pumpkin a happy man on my return. One of our group has a nut allergy and despite forewarning, they were unable to accommodate the request, stating that nearly every dessert contains nuts in some form so if you are affected with a similar allergy, do check in advance regarding specifically what to expect from your tea.
They have thought through all the logistics of ensuring that your edible treats end up mostly in your mouth and less on your lap. I enjoy a tea-flavoured dessert but I’d rather my clothes didn’t smell of it. You have to remember that it is served on an actual moving bus without a kitchen on board so the scones were not as warm as you may be used to in other establishments and the tea can’t be served in bone china cups fit for the queen; but they compensate for this well with these uber-feminine and funky thermos cups. I’m no shoplifter but was tempted to ask permission to snuggle this cup into my handbag! I was a little disappointed to find that the clotted cream came in self-contained, disposable plastic packs, as it didn’t have that indulgent richness normally affiliated with clotted cream but this, I assume, was probably down to logistics as well.During the tour, we passed the world-famous London tourist attractions including The Houses of Parliament and Westminster Abbey before venturing west to view the Royal Albert Hall, a beautiful performance venue, which conjures up nostalgic sentiments for me, as I was lucky enough to have had my university graduation ceremony there. What I will say about the tour is that you do have to be quite astute to keeping abreast of the sights. They do provide a map of the tour route but there’s no formal guide or voice-over to remind you when you’re passing significant attractions. On a bright sunny day, many of the major monuments will no doubt be obvious but if like us, your tour happens to fall on a horribly rainy day, when the windows fog up at your mere inter-cake breath, the sights can be easy to miss. Credit to the staff for diligently coming round as often as they could to wipe clean windows for us to allow us a clearer view. We went on a Monday afternoon in January so understandably, it was not filled to capacity and it is difficult to gauge an experience for its true ambience at such times but my personal feeling was that either a little bit of gentle background music or alternatively enhancing the tour by adding in a guided tour element to it would further its appeal. The £45 per adult cost is certainly on the steep side and comparable to many of the best 5 star hotel afternoon teas in London but I imagine the price premium is attributable to the uniqueness of having tea on board a moving Routemaster and the quirky niche they found with this experience. It is certainly a great pick for all those difficult Londoners who seem to have been there, done that and got the T-shirt for absolutely every activity going in town but it would also appeal to all those outside of London with a fondness for both the quintessential afternoon tea tradition as well as the city of London and its historical beauty. With a few adjustments to the menu and environment or perhaps tweaking the price a notch, I think this exciting new venture has huge potential and if you love the idea of this, you can even hire out the bus for private events or stay tuned for their upcoming afternoon tea boat tour…
We were guests of the BB Bakery Afternoon Tea Bus but I am opinionated little lady, particularly where cakes are concerned so all views, good or bad, are entirely my own.