It wasn’t hard to convince my friend Katharine to join me for dinner. After all, who’s going to turn down the chance to dine on a double decker bus?
Meals on wheels might not be a new idea but a unique dining experience on board a custom-built, black and gold double-decker bus certainly is. Especially when that bus has a panoramic glass roof.
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We met on a Thursday evening near on Victoria Embankment, near the Embankment underground stop, to find the Bustronome bus ready and waiting at its riverfront coach bay.
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On the ground floor of the bus is a modern kitchen and a fancy toilet and the 38-person dining room sits on the top deck.
We were shown to our table by our charming French waiter, Victor, who proceeded to pour us a glass of champagne each. No sooner had the glasses been placed in their custom-made holder then we were off (no need to worry about spilled drinks!), ready to experience the 2hr 45min dinner tour to discover London and some of its most famous sights.
Bustronome started in France seven years ago and now has three tours of the French capital.
It arrived in London in 2018 and offers fine dining tours of the city for lunch, dinner and afternoon tea. Much like the tours in Paris, the Bustronome London tours focus on fresh, seasonal produce and the menu changes every two months.
After pouring our drinks, Victor introduced us to the Bustronome map embedded with sensors and an audio pen.
Rather than being forced to listen to commentary throughout your dinner by someone on a tannoy system, you can choose what sights you want to learn more about and which ones you don’t.
All you have to do is point the audio pen at St Paul’s Cathedral or the London Eye for example, and then hold the pen to your ear to hear the audio guide.
There are nine languages to choose from and once we had worked out how to change the pen from Portuguese to English we were set.
By this time, however, Victor had filled our wine glasses and the dinner service was well underway. We became more focused on the gastronomic experience rather than brushing up on our knowledge of London’s history.
That said, what I did like about the commentary was that it shared unusual stories and tidbits about famous sites rather than textbook facts and figures. I now know, for example, that Piccadilly Circus, one of the most famous streets in London, got its name from the piccadill collar that was fashionable in the late 16th century and early 17th century.
Our first dish was an amuse-bouche of crushed olives on bread followed by a crab and artichoke gateau, which was delicate and delicious. By the time we reached the Tower of London we were enjoying a crispy roll with goat cheese and beetroots served three ways and Victor had topped up our glasses of white wine.
The six-course dinner menu is paced so that you seem to constantly have a plate in front of you but you never feel rushed. All meals are prepared off-site and then finished and plated in the bus’ kitchen.
For mains we tucked into seared tuna served with carrot puree, girolle mushrooms and tarragon sauce, which was very tasty but I would have preferred the fish more on the rare side. Roasted guinea fowl came next with a delicious warm peach and avocado salad, and fondant potatoes.
By this time Victor had switched to red wine, which he poured with equal enthusiasm.
By now the summer light was fading and we saw London’s lights snap to life. I imagine taking a Bustronome London tour during Christmas would be quite magical and undoubtedly offer the best panoramic view of the city Christmas lights.
An afternoon tea bus tour with the kids around December would be a great way to experience Bustronome for the family.
Despite having seen all the sights on the tour previously, it’s a unique concept to see them from the panoramic glass roof while enjoying dinner with wine pairing. Plus, our elevated position on the Bustronome bus, meant we could peek into walled gardens and office windows that are off limits when you’re at street level.
The final two dishes were a plate of Young Saint-Jude cheese and jam followed by a stunning ginger sorbet served on a strawberry and ginger pavlova, which I had only just finished when I realised we were not far from our starting point at Embankment.
When I first learned that the Bustronome tour lasted nearly three hours I did think that it sounded like an awfully long time to be on a bus. But in reality, the tour went incredibly quickly: too quickly in fact!
It was a lovely evening of good food and wine, enjoyed while exploring one of my favourite cities in the world.
As we waved goodbye to Victor and the chef Thomas, they told us that there are plans to start Bustronome tours in New York and Las Vegas soon. I’ll make sure to try those tours just as soon as I’ve tried the ones in Paris.
Where to find Bustronome London
The Bustronome bus is parked in coach bay 40B along the Victoria Embankment. Embankment is the closest underground stop.
Bustronome London runs Lunch and Dinner tours.
Lunch tours meet at 12pm for a 12:15pm departure, returning at 2pm.
Dinner tours meet at 7pm for a 7.15pm departure, returning at 10pm.
The four-course lunch menu costs £70 or £90 with wine pairing. The lunch menu for children (up to 12 years old) costs £40.
The six-course dinner menu costs £120 or £150 with wine pairing. The dinner menu for children (up to 12 years old) costs £50.
You can see the menus online but they do change regularly.