Garry and I could not have chosen a better day for our visit to Bateaux London Cruises. A blue sky hung over the Capital and the glass high-rises glittered in the springtime sun. We arrived at Embankment Pier feeling peckish and looking forward to Afternoon Tea on the Thames, aboard the fittingly named Harmony.
After checking-in at reception, we took a seat and eagerly awaited the announcement to embark. Upon boarding the vessel, we were greeted by friendly – not to mention impeccably turned-out – staff, and shown to our table.
The room was spacious and uncluttered. Each table was simply laid – with pastel tablecloths, white crockery and crisply printed menus – in preparation for the treats that were to follow. Large windows offered views on both sides and, in the corner, a tuxedoed pianist tinkled the ivories of a baby grand.
As the boat set-off, our tea order was taken and, within moments, a steaming pot of Earl Grey sat before me. With only a brief glance at the Premier passenger’s champagne, I poured my first cup and sat back to enjoy the ride.
The route took in several of the city’s most recognisable landmarks. The water-level perspective and mellow atmosphere, however, meant this was unlike any sightseeing excursion I recall. The London Eye and Westminster passed by our window, unaccompanied by the crush of tourists or blare of traffic noise.
Before long, a silver cake stand was delivered to our table – an enticing selection of sandwiches, scones and cakes carefully arranged on its three tiers. Unfortunately, I was unable to tuck-in right away though as Garry – a keen photographer – had disappeared to the upper deck. I found him there – viewfinder to his eye and shutter-finger poised – as we neared HMS Belfast and Tower Bridge.
My colleague retrieved, it was time to sample smoked salmon, cream cheese and cucumber sandwiches; a zesty tarte au citron and soft-centred lemon and blackcurrant cake. The chocolate torte was rich and velvety, and a generous globe of Cornish clotted cream sat alongside fresh scones and strawberry jam.
Leaving only crumbs behind us, we now both made our way upstairs to admire the sites in the open air. We cruised back under the Millennium Bridge, past the familiar dome of St Paul’s Cathedral and the Tate Modern’s imposing tower, and then – all too soon – the boat was preparing to dock.
Garry and I returned to the hustle and bustle of dry land with some reluctance. The Classic Thames Afternoon Tea Cruise afforded us a uniquely tranquil view of the everchanging city skyline, and we owe our thanks to Bateaux London Cruises and their excellent staff.
If you feel like treating a loved one, the Experience Days voucher can be found here.