FOOD REVIEW: Afternoon Tea on Wheels in Vintage Style

Paul Gustafson September 27, 2018

Owner Peter Waldron and the magnificent Regency Routemaster Bus
Driver Peter Waldron and the magnificent Regency Routemaster Bus

If you were there for this year’s Brighton Pride Parade, or if you’ve been in town over the last couple of months, you may have noticed the striking sight of a beautifully restored 1960’s routemaster bus cruising the streets of Brighton, Hove and Rottingdean.

IF so, you were looking at a new and welcome addition to the Brighton and Hove food and drink scene which is both a visitor attraction as well as something fun to enjoy if you live in town.

On a sunny Friday afternoon a friend and I went along to Pool Valley where the afternoon tea tours depart daily Wednesday through Sunday.

Two things struck me immediately. The first was the very personable way we were greeted as we boarded, with the three members of the team – our driver, our waiter and our tour commentator – all welcoming us and giving us a bit of background on the bus and the journey ahead of us.

The second is the really great job they’ve made of the interior of the bus, which has been lovingly fitted out in a plush yet clean-lined retro style, creating a quirky and stylish space for up to 42 guests seated at tables of two and four people.

My friend and I are partial to an afternoon tipple so not surprisingly we opted for the aptly named Gin Lover’s Tour.

The bus started up and headed east towards Hove, and shortly after, two deliciously refreshing pink gin cocktails arrived at our table.

As we cruised through town, taking in the sights from the covered top deck, we enjoyed a delightfully tasty tea which included three types of savoury sandwiches followed by a selection of fine pastries and other sweet things.

I particularly enjoyed my smoked salmon sandwiches with lemon and caper butter, and later a very delicious carrot and pistachio cake, while my friend was very taken with his honey roast ham and mustard fingers and also a lovely selection of macaroons.

Beyond these all of the savoury and sweet elements were of high quality and mainly sourced from local suppliers.

To top it off we finished with a classic buttermilk scone with clotted cream and strawberry jam. Oh yes.

Along with our second gin cocktails which had arrived in timely fashion, we ordered Earl Grey and English breakfast tea respectively to help the food down. Both were full of flavour and refreshing.

Of course we were riding through town on top of a vintage bus so china cups and saucers were understandably not an option, but the smart branded flasks the tea was served in worked well, as did the non-slip table mats.

All in all the guided tour lasted about an hour and a half, winding through town before heading out to Rottingdean and then back via the Marina and Madeira Drive. Along the way our guide’s quirky and sometimes camp commentary kept us all informed as well as chuckling.

This was lovely way to see the city and a unique, relaxing and highly enjoyable take on afternoon tea.

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