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Why I Chose This Experience
In a word, I didn't. This experience day was bought as a gift for me through the online store - buyagift.co.uk (similar company to the more famous redletterdays.co.uk). As I'm sure most of you are aware, the company works by sending out an attractive gift pack with details of the experience, contact details and an activation code. Everything is paid for when the package is bought, so this means I didn't have to pay for anything, great!
Booking And Getting There
You can of course book through Bateaux London directly but as I received mine as a gift I had to quote the voucher number instead of providing debit/credit card information over the phone/online. I have to say that booking was a less than easy experience. When telephoning the main reception number, it took three or four attempts, over a couple of days, to actually get through to a receptionist to make a booking, this was frustrating considering from when the gift voucher is activated there is a time limit to book a date. When I finally did get through to speak to a member of staff, I found my call was dealt with pretty quickly. I called on a Tuesday and I asked to reserve a table for the Sunday coming and to my surprise there was availability. Although we were not asked if we had any special requirements, which would have been a pleasant thing to do, our reservation was processed almost immediately. Not a perfect start from Bateaux London's reservations team, however from here it was all 'plain sailing'. Bateaux London is based in the London borough of The City of Westminster and this river cruise leaves from Embankment pier, which is opposite Embankment tube station, so it is very easy to get there.
Dining On Board Naticia
Our table was elegantly laid, with a smart beige tablecloth and crisp white linen napkins. Cutlery and glassware were all set out well. My partner and I were showed to our table and were offered a drinks menu; this included four wines by the glass and bottle, including rather expensive champagnes, a selection of bottled beers and a soft drinks list. I chose a large glass of red and my partner a large glass of white, these were delivered promptly and we paid for them after our meal, they were of average price. The package included a three course meal, from a set menu along with tea or coffee and chocolates. A menu was placed on each table and before lunch was served we were asked if we had any dietary requirements, we were happy with the menu. We did see other diners during the meal eating alternative dishes to the set menu; so don't be afraid to ask if you're not a fan of something. Lunch is served banqueting style i.e. everybody is served and cleared at more or less the same rate, this does not mean you are rushed or that it is too slow. The starter was traditionally garnished smoked salmon, served with buttered brown bread. This was a light, enjoyable starter and even better with a touch of black pepper and bit of fresh lemon juice. I would have preferred the butter to be on the side, so I could use only a small amount. Main course was a whole roasted chicken breast served alongside three vegetables - cabbage, carrots and broccoli along with roasted new potatoes and a touch of gravy. The chicken was extremely delicious, the skin was browned well and the meat was tender and moist, I thought it was cooked nicely. The gravy that accompanied the meat was full of flavour; it did not drown the food but didn't leave it dry. The broccoli was just right, it was a whole floret and not a mush like some places prepare, it had a small crunch just as I like. The cabbage was good and the carrots were tasty. The roasted new potatoes were perfectly seasoned; the skins had a nice texture with soft potato inside. I thought this course was perfect, it was a very good size, satisfying both my partner's appetite and mine. After main course we were served a slice of chocolate tart, with mixed berries. This was very chocolaty; it was dark chocolate and quite rich. The berries on top made a nice contrast. We were served coffee and tea with plenty of time before docking, this came with a chocolate each, they were wrapped in foil and as we were full from lunch we took them with us to enjoy later. The coffee was not piping hot and really very strong, I must admit I didn't enjoy my cup and refused a refill. Overall we both thoroughly enjoyed our roast lunch, each course was attractively presented, decent sized portions, main course was piping hot and everything was served at just the right pace.
The Cruise And Entertainment
I would advise you to arrive in good time, as the boat boards from the glass pier at 12.00 and leaves promptly as 12.30, so if you don't want to miss the cruise get there on time, we were the first there. The boat sets off east along the Thames passing a lot of well-known sites along the way. Part way through the boat does a 180-degree and turns back passing Embankment pier and going further west to see more sites that way, doing it this way means you can see the most of the river's major landmarks. Although we were not sat directly next to a window we could see through them okay, but a window table would have been ideal. I think a guaranteed window table costs extra. The boat docks at 15.30 so it is a fairly long experience. The house band provides the entertainment, there are four members who play live jazz music. They played songs by Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra and I was pleased to hear them play a favourite of mine, 'Fly Me To The Moon". The lead singer done well to create a relaxed, peaceful atmosphere. We also witnessed one of our fellow diners request a song to be played and the band done well to perform it.