Victoria Embankment, London WC2N 6NU
Phone: 020 7695 1800
The concept behind Bateaux Cruises is a simple one: if eating on the riverfront is good than eating up and down the river can only be better. There are several different kinds of meals/voyages for the hungry would-be mariner to select from: Lunch, Dinner, Afternoon Tea along with Black Tie events on Sunday evenings. My girlfriend and I sprang for the mid-week dinner cruise and, despite my best efforts to ruin our evening by being late enough to miss departure, we were safely ensconced on board when the floating restaurant slid out of its harbour next to Embankment Station at 7.45pm.
The cruise lasts a cool two hours and forty five, first wending its way as far south as Wandsworth before steaming up to Canary Wharf before returning to its berth at 10.30.The dining area is in the ship’s hold, to protect against any ill-timed storms presumably, though the chamber is lined in pleasingly large windows. The dining area also contains a central dance area lined with lights that unfortunately can put one rather in mind of a disco on a cruise ship. This was to cater for the live music, complete with a jazz singer working her way through a litany of torch songs [apparently the live music situation depends on the type of cruise your on] who had some success in wrangling couples onto the dance floor over the course of the meal, but thankfully we were able to evade her predatory gaze.
The meal itself consists of five distinct courses, all included in the fee for the cruise itself [sadly drinks are extra], which are served staggered over the cruise. The jewel in the crown was undoubtedly the Smoked Mackerel Rillettes, served with Horseradish mousse. The whole dish had a wild, sparklingly fresh taste that came together beautifully with textures of beetroot and radish. The main course, English Lamb Rump with aged parmesan, wild mushrooms, watercress puree and pan jus was perfectly filling but felt a bit anonymous compared to the Rillettes. Finishing up the meal was a Pistachio and Apricot Torte served with apricot coulis, crème anglaise and mint poached apricots which was crisp and creamy and brought the meal to a satisfactory close.
The real delight of the cruise comes from wandering up from between courses and relaxing of the open air top deck, delightfully coated with Astroturf and cushioned sofas perfect for watching this glorious summer weather. Travelling on the Thames is to travel through London’s history, towering Victorian factories cocooned in scaffolding squat just a few river bends away from gleaming skyscrapers. The imposing battlements of the Tower of London face down the impressionist crash helmet of City Hall; connected through the ages by the snaking river. The views are beautiful with plenty of space to oneself [unlike the experience of taking a crowded river taxi where your crowded inside on plastic seats], perfect for a romantic evening. For the Dinner cruise, the price comes out to 82.00, which is pricey for a good, but not scintillating, meal. However when you combine it with cruising through the best scenery that London has to offer on beautiful summer evening and it’s worth its weight in gold.