I think it is the same in any major city, you visit as a tourist to see all the sights, sounds and attractions, fall in love with the place and do everything you can to live there as soon as possible in order to do things you couldn’t the first time around. Or second or third…
If you are lucky enough to one day call that city your home and settle into the hustle and bustle, those original desires become a bugbear. This is because a lovely holidaymaker i.e. you from seven years ago, is trying to take a beautiful picture of Tower Bridge while disrupting your commute home and probably doesn’t know how the Tube works!
Now this review is not about how living in London has made me bitter and cynical (but keep your eyes peeled for that piece coming soon…) quite the opposite. I got the opportunity to sample a fantastic Autumn update at one of London’s most unique concepts. All the while, being reminded of why London is a bloody great place to live!
The gourmet establishment in question is none other than Bustronome. A delicious idea that started in Paris five years ago. Guests are invited aboard the top deck of a hi-spec, glass-roofed bus, enjoying fine-dining as they travel the City’s most famous landmarks. Not just dinner and a view, guests have an audio pen they can use to learn interesting facts about attractions by touching the pictures included on the map menus.
- You can fit 1,200 double-decker buses in the turbine hall at the Tate Modern
- The Shard is 95% owned by the state of Qatar
- The Royal Albert Hall, built in 1871, hosted musical juggernauts including the likes of Bob Dylan, ABBA and even Mika.
The menu in question was brought to life by Executive Chef Olivier Ruiz. This was in a way, his own love letter to London. Each dish has been designed to reflect seasonally available ingredients with a back-story of their history in the City.
With a total of 38 covers on the top deck, and a 360° panoramic view, we pulled away from Embankment heading east towards Tower Bridge. Shortly after, the first of six courses arrived…
The light and refreshing cured smoked haddock and eel are provided by the oldest London cure restaurant in the UK – world famous Forman’s of London, and served with English heritage beetroot, cucumber pickle and lemon cream. Not only was I receiving a fact filled educational tour of London, I was also feasting on a most delicately presented dish. Very impressive considering this was all taking place on top of a moving bus.
This was my first venture with a savoury cheesecake and hopefully not the last. But I must admit my muscle memory was a little confused with the first few bites, however, like the Greek athletes that used to chow down on it before the games, I overcame the odds.
Following the cheesecake…
Olivier Ruiz has really done his homework. William the Conqueror brought his chef to England for his coronation meal to serve a Norman specialty – pan-fried cod with civet-of mussels, purple broccoli and pearl vegetables. An exquisite third round, from a chef that travels.
And then on to the main…
Not long after passing St Paul’s the main arrived. A dish drawing inspiration from the first wedding held at the Cathedral in 500 years; Prince Charles and Lady Diana’s big day, we were served a Chicken Ballotine stuffed with fine lamb mousse and tarragon, served with pomme fondant, carrots, a pea purée and morel sauce. Well-crafted and homely, this was the perfect halfway point in both journey and palette.
Second to last…
Heading into the sophistication of West London, we were served our fifth dish. A breakwater on our way to dessert, that only can only be described as a bold fin in the form of an apricot stilton, served with apple and celery and roasted figs.
A regal end to the evening as we swung past Buckingham Palace. A dessert fit for a monarch (Queen Victoria’s favourite) – a strawberry trifle with vanilla custard ice cream. Usually, I am not one for dessert, but this might be the highlight of my evening. Finishing off a round trip, flavoured with melt in the mouth texture.
Sufficiently fed, educated and travelled, we arrived back to our starting point at Embankment in our comfortable Bustronome bus and I alighted a very satisfied man.
Fine dining is all about taking someone on a journey via the medium of food and culture. Bustronome clearly felt this wasn’t quite enough. They have created an experience that can either form the highlight of a trip if you are just passing through the Big Smoke or remind any local why they should stick around. Plus, it’s not often you get to send your compliments to the driver as well as the chef!
Bustronome London, Coach Bay 40B, Victoria Embankment, London, WC2N 6PB, England.
Tel: +44 (0)203 7445 554
The closest stations to the departure point are Charing Cross mainline and underground stations and Embankment Tube Station.
Type of Restaurant: Bus Tour Fine Dining
Price Band: Medium/High
Insider Tip: Plan your trips to the loo whilst at a red light!
Reviewer’s Rating: 8/10
Sam Brady is a London based freelance writer and photographer covering travel and lifestyle.
Main photograph by Bustronome, food photographs by Sam Brady