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Marmalade Sandwiches Fit for a Queen

Is there anything more English than a Paddington Bear afternoon tea on a Routemaster through London? The only things that could have made it more British, would have been rain and Cliff Richard driving the bus, while singing Summer Holiday.

Thankfully, the latter didn’t happen on our trip, which was brimming with charm, landmarks and marmalade sandwiches.

The Peruvian bear became an unlikely mascot for the late Queen, following a Platinum Jubilee sketch, which saw HRH smiling at the bear’s clumsiness during afternoon tea and revealing that she too carried marmalade sandwiches around, but in her iconic handbag, as a crown offered no protection from the elements.

Paddington’s closing line: “Thank you Ma’am, for everything” became the nation’s goodbye, when she died three months later. And after 60 years as a much loved book, film and TV character, the cuddly refugee was adopted as the country’s teddy. Floral shrines near Buckingham Palace were filled with so many Paddington tributes, Royal Parks organisers had to politely ask the public to stop leaving marmalade sandwiches and stuffed bears.

So there has never been a more fitting time for Brigit's Bakery to launch the first, official Paddington Bear afternoon tea bus tour, celebrating the capital.

We were welcomed onto the red, double-decker, emblazoned with images of the bear and led up to the top deck, where tiers of sweet and savoury treats awaited us on gingham picnic tables.

Each table had built-in screens, so that Paddington and Mrs Bird could provide us with an animated guide to the tour, which included some of Paddington's favourite landmarks, like Big Ben, The Houses of Parliament, Westminster Abbey, Hyde Park, Nelson’s Column, Downing Street, St. Paul's Cathedral, Borough Market, Green Park and Piccadilly Circus.

It was difficult not to feel regal, while literally looking down on the capital, nibbling a finger sarnie. And from now until early January, you can also take in the beautiful Regent Street Christmas lights and enjoy the capital's decorations from the cosy comfort of the bus, which is itself decked with boughs of holly and fairy lights.

The tour takes just under two hours, which was almost enough time to work our way through the food, which included glittering shortbreads, designed to look like nibbled marmalade sandwiches, mini pizzas, smoked salmon and cucumber pretzels, turkey ham and cheddar or cream cheese and cucumber finger sandwiches and naturally, marmalade sandwiches.

And for those who share the bear’s sweet tooth, the homemade sweet treats included a rice pudding studded with chocolate honeycomb, chocolate cupcakes crowned with Paddington’s chocolate paws, lemon meringue tarts, chocolate macarons and freshly baked scones with cream and jam. Brigit’s Bakery also provide vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free and halal afternoon teas.

I washed mine down with some prosecco and marvelled at the acrobatics of the friendly staff, pouring fizz and juggling hot chocolates on a swerving bus. Our hot drinks were served in bespoke Paddington travel cups, which passengers take home as a souvenir.

There wasn’t a hat big enough to store our left-overs beneath, but fortunately, they provide take-away boxes for the pleasingly generous offerings at the end of the experience.

Since there are no loos during the tour and passengers are required to remain seated for its duration, the recommended age is five and upwards, although this is left to parents’ discretion and my four-year-old daughter enjoyed the experience. It’s also much easier to keep little people seated for a meal on a moving restaurant, with changing sights through the windows, Paddington on the screen and tiers of treats before them. Although babies are not allowed on the tour.

In nearly two decades living in the capital, this was my first London bus tour and my first marmalade sandwich. And I’m glad it took place on this particular bus, which really was fit for a queen.

Paddington Afternoon Tea Bus tour Departs from Trafalgar Square, Wednesdays to Sundays.

Prices from £45 adult, £35 child.

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