All Aboard the Afternoon Tea Bus

Forget a ride on the magic school bus (for those who feel a bit generationally challenged, have a look here), the only bus to catch this August is the one featuring the glorious combination of tea connoisseurs from Afternoontea.co.uk and the pastry masters from BB Bakery.

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Because, for one week only during Afternoon Tea Week (11-17th August), this red bus will carry you around the prettiest parts of London and serve you a full high tea while its doing it, including as many glasses of Laurent Perrier that your travel tummy can stomach.

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I hopped aboard last week with a fleet of fellow food writers and bloggers to test our mettle on a portable afternoon tea with a difference. There’s something quite special about this tour, and it isn’t just the array of slightly warm (it was one of the hottest days of the year so far) tea treats that was spread out on tables between the vintage leather seats. It was this very odd sense of delightful privilege you get when ensconced high above the bustling streets, watching London’s seething crowds and phalanx of traffic snake past from the lofty viewpoint of the top deck of a London bus, chilled champagne in hand.

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In fact, it was all I could do not to start waving like a regal berk at the minions below – a sensation that lasted about as long as it took me drop some exquisitely-made coco-rich, black truffle chocolate tart down my skirt. Anyone worrying, as we all were, about the saftey and practicality of trying to pour hot tea on a moving bus will be pleased to know that the teas are all served in sealable china mugs and the waiters seem to have been hired for their ability to say perfectly upright in jolting traffic while expertly pouring champagne – I’d like to know what the interview process involved for that job!

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The route weaves itself around some of London’s best-loved landmarks and iconic sights, from Westminster’s Big Ben to The Royal Albert Hall and Marble Arch – places that are infinitely easier to take in when you’re looking through a bus window than trying to navigate the tourist tornado.

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There’s plenty of time in the one-and-a-half-hour slots to scoff your way through the full range of sweet and savory treats on offer, from cream cheese sandwiches, salmon blinis and light as a feather quiches to cupcakes, macaroons, burnished scones with strawberry jam and Roddas clotted cream and some of the best little lemon meringue pie-lets I have ever eaten. What’s more, you can even hire the whole bus for parties or hen dos, and specify if you need a gluten free or vegetarian tea.

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At £45 per person it falls into the middle ground of high-end afternoon tea prices in London, but what other place can offer you quite the same experience? Exactly! For more information and to book, see the Afternoon.co.ukwebsite.

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As well as the Afternoon Tea Bus, Afternoon Tea Week will be featuring a vast array of traditional and unusual teas. See my pick of the best below.

  • Celebrate the Great British Summer with the Intercontinental London Westminster’s Summer Holiday Afternoon Tea, which features The Beach – a true work of art by their talented pastry team – Chocolate Fudge Beach Huts, Cherry Cheesecake Bucket and Spades, Peach Mousse Sandcastles, Toffee and Chocolate Wheels and Jivara Chocolate Cones all of which sit on an almond sand.

  • Afternoon tea gets the rockstar treatment at Sanctum with the Gentleman’s Afternoon Tea. Forget dainty china and pretty pastries – this is all about attitude and big flavours with Poached Oyster, Lamb Hotpot, Seared Steak, Smoked Salmon served up alongside Jack Daniels ice cream and a cigar.

  • The Mad Hatters Afternoon Tea at The Sanderson includes British food, English ceramics and a large dash of our renowned eccentricity including a tick tock Victoria sponge clock and strawberry and cream homemade marshmallow mushrooms.

  • Park Tower Knightsbridge has put together a special Take Away Strawberry Afternoon Tea for you to pick up and enjoy al fresco in one of London’s parks or back in the comfort of your own home.

  • Top London chocolatier paul.a.young is launching his Cream Tea at his Heal’s store during the week. Pop in for scones topped with clotted cream and his famous Sea salted caramel sauce served with tea by the Rare Tea Lady and an award-winning truffle of your choice.

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Song for the Day: Musical Mondays and New Rooms

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I just moved house. My house has that new house smell. Actually, it doesn’t if I’m honest, because this house is beautifully old and wonderfully dilapidated. It’s a victorian terrace with all the quirks, nooks and crannies that I have ever hoped for in a home.

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I don’t like new houses. They’re too…square. I love places like this, where the floors are stained honey brown and worn from decades of  footsteps; where the walls blister and bubble in odd curves and strange shapes; where the cracks make the house feel like a defiant old women. The Dowager Countess of Grantham who is stuck in her ways and her own style who isn’t the least but interested in your new fangled modern nonsense, thank you very much!

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There’s also a cupboard dedicated to baking and booze, which has become my shrine to gin and sugar.

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It’s safe to say I’ve fallen for this house. I’m sitting serenely at my scrubbed oak table under the unashamedly girly bunting on a white-painted chair and thinking that I can, almost, very nearly ignore my neighbours….just about. Ok, so all is not quite dreamy, but more of those ogres at the end as I’d like to post beautiful pictures of my favourite corners of my new hideaway first, along with the songs that remind me of moving house and finding that little space that’s all your own…well, mine and the two-ton-tessa who lives above me.

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Ah the neighbours. Why is it a prerequisite in London to hate your neighbours? My first night they welcomed me with an all night sprint competition up and down the hard wood floors followed by a sport of olympic-worthy trampolining on the ceiling above my head. 

I have put them into three sections. There’s Mr Stampy, or Mr Tosser, depending on my mood. Now, he’s a tiny Brazilian with a Napoleon complex and a nose like a dorito who enjoys wearing hard-soled shoes and stamping around his domain, long walks down the hall and has a great sense of humour, if your idea of a jolly good laugh is to burp really loudly and with surprising frequency. 

There’s mumbles, who seems to follow Stampy around apologetically and who tries to be quiet but ends up making more noise by dropping things and/or joining in with Stampers Magee.

The third is a new addition. I call her Madame le Squeal. I can never exactly make out what she is saying but the way she drawls and camps it up it sounds like every sentence she utters is a double entendre (in your entendre). She is fond of loud exhalations of high-pitched excitement and is just THRILLED to be living with her new besties. 

They all seem to work varying hours that span 11am to 6am and have set up a pretty effective watch sentry-style schedule, taking it in turns to alternate sleep with stamping. 

If anyone has any decent suggestions for asking someone to modify their walk without sounding like a) a bitch or b) a bitch who cares what other people think it would be most appreciated!