I must admit, the view from the top of a double-decker bus had never looked so good. It wasn’t the landscape of night-time London, although it is a spectacular city particularly after dark: oh no, it was the glass of chilled champagne and the plate of aubergine canapes that was sitting in front of me.
BustroNome is a fabulous concept; a six-course French fine-dining experience with wine aboard the top deck of a specially converted bus that tours the major sights of London as you eat. The glass roof provides a panoramic view of the passing landmarks while you can listen privately to an audio guide by pointing the audio pen at the landmark on your map.
There has been some serious thought behind the design; after all, getting 36 covers onto the top deck of a bus is no mean feat. The tables are a mix of two-seaters and four-seaters and though space is limited, they manage to somehow pull it off. I loved the placemat magnets to hold the plates steady, while a custom Perspex shelf over the table keeps the glasses and bottles from sliding around which is nothing short of genius. The kitchen area is on the lower deck where a chef in whites prepares the food, and a maître d’ meets and greets and delivers the table service. A person clearly practised in the art of balance.
Beginning in Paris in 2014 and surrounded by some seriously stiff culinary competition, the concept flourished enough to expand into London in 2016. The bus is open for lunch and dinner tours and although lunch was tempting, the thought of an illuminated London was much more appealing to me. And illuminated it was, as I arrived at the bus start and finish berth on Victoria Embankment; the river looking spectacular with Tower Bridge to the left and the London Eye to the right, all bathed in glorious colour.
Of course, everyone’s guaranteed a window seat, and after I was shown to my table, it was interesting to see that my other diners were not just visitors. At least two other couples were Londoners, taking the tour courtesy of birthday gifts.
The Champagne and canapes were quick to appear, just in time for our departure along a route that crisscrossed London from the South Bank to the City, down Piccadilly and on to Kensington before returning to Victoria Embankment three hours later. I’m pretty sure we crossed over the Thames at least four times on our way around, a view so glorious, you can never get tired of it.
The scallop carpaccio was next up with pistachio and grapefruit, washed down with a very tasty chilled French Sauvignon, just as we passed by St. Paul’s cathedral. My fellow diners were all seemingly enjoying themselves, particularly after the Sauvignon got a refill.
The soup course was a very tasty butternut squash with whipped cream cheese back up by a few crunchy slices of rye infused sourdough.
By now we had crossed the Thames, passed the Shard and were traversing Tower Bridge in all its glory when the codfish was delivered by our maître d’ elegantly maintaining his posture as we rounded a bend. The fish was joined on the plate by a mashed and breaded celery stick and the combination worked very well.
We’d moved on to a very fine red by the time the chicken arrived. Perhaps the French have no issue with serving red wine and poultry, but this was a chicken supreme in a blanquette sauce with a delicious comté risotto.
We had just rounded Trafalgar Square when the cheese was delivered triumphantly. A brie with a very tasty pear cooked in balsamic vinegar. I found myself gazing out at the crowds who were gazing in at us. Clearly, this bus has some attraction to passers-by.
Our dessert finale was a very acceptable chocolate ganache with a tonka bean and passionfruit jelly which we consumed as we passed the bright lights of Harrods on our way back to base.
BustroNome delivered me back to our starting point with a full stomach and a few extra snippets of information on some of London’s famous sights that I didn’t know.
I could be very picky and say the hot food could have been a little hotter, and the brie needed to have been left out of the fridge for a while before serving. But overall it was a very novel and highly enjoyable experience. Londoners tend to take the city for granted, but on a tour like this, you realise what a special city it is.
Tell me more about Butranome Voyage Gourmand
Bustranome runs tours seven days a week starting and finishing at Victoria embankment close to Embankment tube station WC2N 6PB.
Four-course lunch is £65 without drinks or £85 with wine pairings.
Six-course dinner is £105 without drinks or £135 with wine pairings.
There vegetarian and children’s menus available.