When someone visit me in London, I always plan an Afternoon tea, generally in a 5* hotel. But since I read about the Afternoon Tea Bus Tour, it was on top of my list and I decided to book it to surprise my mother.
Indeed, I think that it’s such a brilliant idea to combine a bus tour of London in a vintage double decker and an afternoon tea! And we owe this idea to BB Bakery, which offers the first and only Afternoon Tea Bus Tour since April 2014 and it’s a big hit. This is why it’s more than advised to book in advance to avoid disappointment.
I booked roughly one month prior to my mom’s visit by sending a request by e-mail. I was then asked to call a number to give my credit card details for the payment. The calling hours were not convenient at all for me (from 9:00 to 16:00 Monday to Friday) but I managed.
I requested one of the two best tables, which are on the second floor in the front. Every time I’m in a double decker, I can’t help but seat there when available. After all, I’m in London, one of the only cities where it’s possible (another one being Hong Kong). At this stage, I was informed that there was a supplement of £10 per person for those particular tables, which came to a total of £55 per person. At first, I was a bit hesitant because it’s approximately the price for an Afternoon Tea in London’s best hotels. But if you think again it’s not that expensive as you enjoy 2 activities at the same time. And it was also the opportunity for me to finally take a tour of London by bus. So I booked it.
Good news, I just checked the website again and it’s now possible to book directly online, which will definitely improve the guest satisfaction. Well done!
I was informed by e-mail that the departure location has changed. It was supposed to be from Northcumberland Avenue near Trafalgar Square but finally was from Belvedere Road, just behind the London Eye.
I prefer the second location, which is less busy and therefore allows to take better pictures.
It’s also a more pleasant area if you have to wait as there is a nice view over Big Ben and the Parliament and there always are plenty of activities going on.
We booked for the 14:30 session and were required to be there 10 minutes before but arrived 30 minutes in advance. Better to be early than late, as the bus will not wait for the latecomers. You’re warned!
It was funny to notice that attendants were only women on that day. Not a single man… except one of the hosts/waiters: Jean-Philippe. He must love his job!
There was even a group of 8 for a hen party. I’m not a big fan of hen party but I thought that for once it was a good idea. And if you’re planning an event for a bigger group or want more privacy, you have the possibility to privatise the bus for an even more unique experience.
So Jean-Philippe welcomed us on board very warmly and directed us to our table. He mentioned that our table was one of the best and my mother couldn’t wait to see it!
And the wow effect was there! The tables were already dressed and the cake stands were already filled with savouries and cakes that looked delicious!
There was also a bottle of freshly squeezed orange juice and a small bottle of milk. Basically, only the cup of tea was missing.
The crockery was unmatched like directly coming from an antic shop, giving another retro touch to the experience.
When everybody has arrived, Jean-Philippe gave us some explanations about the tour. The most important information that you need to know at that point is that there is no toilet on board, so empty your bladder before. Just in case…Otherwise, you might not enjoy the experience as you should. Make sure to have some 50p coins to use the toilet on the Southbank.
Finally, the bus started to move and we were asked to choose between a quite extensive selection of tea from Betjeman & Barton. The tea came in a lovely ceramic travel mug. But don’t expect loose tea, it would be way too difficult and dangerous to handle while the bus in on motion.
I was waiting for my tea to start eating and I must say that it was difficult to resist! I finally started by the savouries, which were refined and excellent: a cucumber sandwich, a ham&cheese sandwich, a veggie quiche, a kind of mini burger with chicken and a smoked salmon blinis.
The cakes were very good too: a cupcake, a chocolate macaron, a lemon tart and a palet breton with berries on top.
But I had a preference for the savouries on that day.
After a small break (well appreciated), we were served a scone with strawberry jam and clotted cream. It was not what we can call a true British scone, but more a “British-French” scone because there was a strong buttery taste. I really had the impression to eat something between a scone and a palet breton. It was very surprising but tasty.
If you can’t finish all the food, you can take the rest back home for later in a doggy bag. We didn’t have to ask for one as I made sure that we had a consistent breakfast but no lunch. Therefore, we ate everything offered.
I must admit that there was something thrilling, eating and sipping our tea while the landmarks were passing by: Big Ben, Buckingham Palace, South Kensington, Notting Hill, Marble Arch, Piccadilly, Trafalgar Square…
As it’s not a guided tour, the Afternoon Tea was accompanied by a subtle music. For those interested in having more information about the places we passed, there was a nice leaflet with great illustrations on each table.
From the reviews I read, some people regretted that there was no audio guide tour and some other were grateful not to be interrupted during their conversation. I agree that a complete audio tour would have been annoying but just a mention of the landmarks might be an option to consider for people not acquainted with London to help them to know where to refer in the leaflet.
We had an amazing time and couldn’t believe that 1.5 hours has already passed when we arrived back at Belverdere Road. But time always flies when you’re enjoying.
Jean-Philippe was a “lovely”, charming and funny host. He might have a French accent but don’t take it wrong, is from Belgium! Laura, the other host/waiter was very nice too but a bit more reserved.
I read in the leaflet that it was possible to buy some souvenirs and among other the travel mug. I’m not a big fan of travel mugs usually because I don’t like their material but this one is in ceramic. And so cute… I’m pretty sure that it will become my favourite mug!
I really recommend this experience to anyone looking for something original or wanting to make the most of his/her time in the city. You won’t regret it!
For those who prefer to stay on the ground or would like to buy some more delicious treats,you can always visit the BB Bakery in Covent Garden.