Afternoon tea seems such a quintessentially English thing. And when people think of London, due to prominent placement in any film that has ever been set in the city, they think of the iconic red Routemaster bus. So, what better way to create a truly original experience than to combine the two in the B Bakery Afternoon Tea London Bus Tour?

In January, Bart and I went to SoMeetUp’s second London Foodies event. One of the sponsors was B Bakery and they were keeping us well supplied with very yummy cakes. They had also brought their bus along for us to see. We’d seen the bus parked before in Central London and had thought it looked like a fun thing to do. Seeing the bus all set up made us want to try it even more.

At the event they were running a few competitions and Bart was lucky enough to win us two tickets for the B Bakery Afternoon Tea London Bus Tour. Sooo lucky, not only were we going to do the tour and eat fabulous cake, but we weren’t going to be paying for it. Yay!!!

Celebrating Valentine’s Day with afternoon tea

Some people are surprised that after 18 years together, Bart and I still make a big deal about Valentine’s day. I suppose that if life has taught us anything, it’s to take as much joy in life as we can because you never know what’s just around the corner. In the words of The Specials (and possibly Doris Day) “Enjoy yourself, it’s later than you think”.

Anyhow, we do make a big effort to celebrate Valentine’s and try to do something we haven’t done before. We decided that the afternoon tea bus tour fitted the bill. Bart phoned the lovely reservations lady at B Bakery and we were soon booked on the 3:00pm tour. Unfortunately, the upper deck was already booked out, however, we figured we’d still enjoy ourselves.

So, the 14th of February came around and Bart and I made our way into London’s West End to hop on board our bus.

Afternoon tea on a London icon

The Routemaster is a British cultural icon; many films set in London feature the classic red buses prominently on screen. They first appeared on London’s streets in 1956 and for nearly 50 years they were the workhorse of London’s bus network. It was a sad day for many of us when the last Routemasters were retired from service in 2005. So you can see why most Londoners have a bit of a soft spot for them.

The buses still operate on two “heritage routes” and are popular hire vehicles for parties. B Bakery decided that a Routemaster would be the perfect venue for afternoon tea, combining gorgeous food with a tour of some of London’s best sights. The tour operates from two starting points; one starting at Trafalgar Square and the other from Victoria Station. The route we took started at Trafalgar Square.

Car trouble and a pleasant surprise

We arrived at the bus stop about 15 minutes before the tour start time. There were already a few people waiting and we could see the guys on board setting up for the tour. A few minutes before 3, they said they were going to move the bus a few meters up the road so we could get on easily.

The driver climbed into his cabin as we all stood around expectantly. The expectation turned to mild anxiety as the driver flicked the starter and the bus gave a small cough and fell into silence. Two more attempts at starting the engine followed. It crossed my mind that maybe the tour might be a bit more static than we’d expected. There was a flurry of activity inside the bus and the driver disappeared. The rest of the team also disappeared.

Presently the driver reappeared in the cab and after a quick flick of the starter switch, the engine roared into life. The rest of the team then appeared, with one carrying a substantial jump starter pack. It’s good to the B Bakery team are well prepared for these sort of eventualities.

Boarding began and we were welcomed aboard with a smile and for us some good news; we’d got an upgrade and we were now on the top deck.

All aboard for afternoon tea treats

Upstairs, the bus looked fabulously festive, decked out with fairy lights and big red heart-shaped balloons. Definitely the right décor to put us in the Valentine’s Day mood. We settled down at our table and admired the display of goodies that was on the table. With a generous helping of savoury delights and ample choice of sweet indulgences. There was also a bottle of orange juice each.

The seats on the bus have been re-upholstered and are a little better padded than the original ones. Even so, they are the same size and while that gave us plenty of room with just the two of us, if you were a table of four people with fuller figures, it would probably be a bit of a squeeze.

The two guys who were looking after us introduced themselves and one of them did a little health and safety briefing. One of things he pointed out was that the hot drinks would be served in plastic cups with a screw on lid and that we should keep the lid on the cup.

I have read a review of the tour were someone was whining about the plastic cups. Apparently, they couldn’t see why the drinks weren’t served on china cups. Now I like my tea in a china cup too. However, common sense tells me that a bus that’s stopping and starting whilst swinging around corners in London traffic and cups pf scalding hot liquid are not a good combination. Give me a plastic cup with a secure lid any day. Also, the cups are very stylish with a snazzy (if slightly girly) design.

And they’re off…

A minute or two after 3 o’clock, we pulled off from the bus stop. One of the waiters came around for our hot drink orders and we started to tuck in to our savoury selection. We decided to kick off with a traditional afternoon tea staple, the cucumber sandwich. Still, this was no ordinary afternoon tea and appropriately these were no ordinary cucumber sandwiches. These were cucumber and mint finger sandwiches, made with a delicious and vibrant green bread.

The other delights in the savoury lower deck of our tea stand included the gorgeously moist Veggie Cake and a tasty Chicken and Sundried Tomato Focaccia. There were also individual Quiche Lorraines with a gorgeously buttery pastry and Smoked Salmon Blini’s. Last, but by no means least, there were Ham and Cheese Croissants, which were a perfect marriage of the creamy filling with a rich and crumbly puff pastry.

As we munched our way through our tea, the bus worked its way through London’s traffic. From Trafalgar Square we headed toward Parliament Square. According to the bakery website there is no commentary on board. However, on our tour there was some recorded commentary, as well as a few pieces from one of the team. It was actually quite informative; I had no idea that the Clock Tower at the Houses of Parliament was now called the Queen Elizabeth Tower. The commentary was sandwiched between music tracks which added to the atmosphere.

Cupcakes in Kensington

As the tunes and the commentary continued, the bus headed from Parliament Square towards Buckingham Palace. From there it was on to the affluent surroundings of Knightsbridge, one of London’s most expensive areas and home to iconic department store Harrods. By this point we had chomped our way through our savoury selection and it was time to move on to the sweet treats.

Just as we headed into South Kensington we began to munch on the Mini Pistachio Cupcakes. At around this time the waiter brought out the scones, clotted cream and strawberry jam. These joined the sweet & spicy, pineapple-topped Exotic Tart, decadently chocolatey Trop Chou Choc, creamy Cheesecake Sable and gorgeously tangy and sweet Caramel and Speculoos Verrine to complete our top tier of delicious delicacies.

After passing the museums in South Kensington, we turned into a road that we were unfamiliar with, which seemed to spiral up until we arrived at the Albert Hall. From there the route took us through parts of Kensington that neither of us had been to before and so was very interesting. The bus wound its way to Notting Hill before turning east to head back towards the West End, heading along the side of Kensington Gardens and Hyde Park.

All good things…

As we drove along Piccadilly Bart and I realised that there wasn’t that much of the tour left. We were both surprised that we were at this point already. However in checking the time I found that we had been on the tour nearly an hour and a quarter. We both felt that the time had just flown by. Moreover, we also were both feeling a bit stuffed and we still had a few things left on our tea stand.

As we drew closer to the tour’s finish line, the waiters come around with “doggie bags”. These little cardboard boxes folded neatly into a fabulous pink handbag. Lovely idea, though not the butchest item I’ve carried. The whole branding for the bakery and the tour is very “girly”. It’s clearly aimed at a female market and something that guys may find off-putting.

We arrived back at Trafalgar Square feeling well fed and happy that we’d had a great time on the tour. The journey had been just short of 1½ hours, though the time had just flown by. For the table we were sat on, the ticket price was £51 per person. Given the amount of food, the atmosphere and the fantastic sights as you went around London, it is well worth the money.

We had a fantastic time on the B Bakery’s Afternoon Tea Bus Tour. It was great treat for Valentine’s Day, though I think it would be fabulous any day. If you’re in London and looking for an afternoon tea with a difference, B Bakery Afternoon Tea Bus Tour comes highly recommend.