You won’t be struggling to find ways to experience London’s exciting food scene when you’re in town for a visit. But there’s no better way to combine two great London experiences in one than by enjoying a gourmet meal aboard a double-decker sightseeing bus.
The company that offers this fun and tasty experience is called Bustronome. The innovative double-decker restaurant on wheels began in Paris and extended its tours to London in summer 2018.
You may be wondering how they make this work and I have to admit I spent a fair amount of time wondering how they kept the wine glasses from falling over. I’ll tell you, it’s definitely unique. Read on to learn the secrets.
The waiters are all very well training in the art of staying on their feet, despite the bumps in the road. Though it never really felt like we were driving along the typically bumpy roads of London. The bus ride is very smooth and enjoyable. Check the Bustronome website for more details on dining times and schedule. Ticket prices vary as well.
The Bustronome Concept
Bustronome serves lunch, afternoon tea, and dinner aboard the bus. A team of very experienced (and well-balanced) chefs and servers make the experience charming and pleasant from start to finish.
When we arrived at the bus, there was already a crowd forming – both dinner guests and curious onlookers. The bus is very sleek in all black with gold trim. The kitchen can be found in the back of the bottom floor. You can watch the chefs preparing the meal as you wait to get on.
You board the bus and are taken to your table about 15 minutes before departure, just as you would at any gourmet restaurant. The table is already set and the excitement begins to build among the tables.
The bus fits up to 38 people in 2-4 person tables. Of course, each table has a fantastic view out of the tall windows. Being on the second floor gives you the height advantage to see over cars and buildings for the best view as you drive along.
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The Gourmet Experience
The dining experience varies depending on which meal you’re on board for. Lunch is a 4-course meal (with or without wine pairings). Dinner includes 6 courses. Afternoon tea can be with or without Champagne. We took the dinner service, but I imagine lunch would be very similar.
Upon boarding, we started with a glass of sparkling wine and some appetizers. It felt just like we were being served at a restaurant – it just happened to have scenery passing by as we ate. This was when I learned the secret to how they keep the wine glasses from falling over.
The table is expertly prepared with the means to keep everything in place. Water and wine glasses slide into slots in the centerpiece. There were absolutely no slips or spills, despite the occasional bump in the ride. You wouldn’t know it by looking, but the silverware are all magnetized to the table, so they won’t slip around at all.
We didn’t really know what could be expected of a dinner served aboard a bus. I can honestly say I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of the meal. This isn’t your typical tourist attraction dinner. It lives up to its billing as a gourmet meal. The food surpassed my expectations.
It was more than enough food, and was nicely paired with both a white and red wine along the route. The timing of the courses deliberately matched the lulls in the tour guide, so you could listen to the program without interrupting your meal. Music is played all throughout the journey.
The Bus Tour
Yes, there is a tour guide, but it’s very unobtrusive. When you board the bus, there is no mass welcome, instruction or introduction to the tour. The aim is for this to be an elegant and relaxing experience. The tour element to the experience takes a back seat to the dining experience.
The menu doubles as a tour guide. They use an innovative pen system to deliver information. As you near a stop of interest, you just hover the little pen device over the dot on the map and then listen to the audio track through the handheld device.
The bus tours lasts for 1:45 for lunch and 2:45 for dinner. It passes by many of London’s top sights, monuments and museums. Although the nighttime tour makes it difficult to take great photos, it is a stunning way to see the city, all lit up at night.
All you have to do while you’re on board is enjoy yourself. There’s no tour guide talking at you or anything. If you don’t want to listen to the tour information, you don’t have to. If you want to spend the whole time taking pictures, you can. It really does feel like a nice dining experience, and you just happen to be aboard a bus.
The bus parks at Coach Bay 40B at Victoria Embankment, making it an easy spot to get to for everyone, whether you’re coming from East or West London. You’re asked to arrive 15 minutes before the departure time to get seated. As I already mentioned, the tour lasts 1:45 for lunch, 2:45 for dinner and 1:45 for afternoon tea.
The upper level of the bus is surrounded by windows, all around and above. The windows are not open like a tour bus usually is. It’s entirely enclosed so the tour happens regardless of the weather. We went on a typical rainy, cloudy evening in London and it was not a problem at all; we still had a wonderful view.
There is a bathroom on board, just in case.
If you’re looking for a fun and unique foodie activity to do in London, this is one of the best. It’s classy and even a little romantic. It’s not your typical tourist bus — it’s way better than that. We wouldn’t hesitate to recommend this tour. Even for locals, it’s a treat.
(Disclaimer: We were invited aboard Bustronome, but that in no way affects our opinions or views.)
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Laura Lynch, creator and writer of Savored Journeys, is an avid world traveler, certified wine expert, and international food specialist. She has written about travel and food for over 20 years and has visited 70+ countries.