The newly launched Upper Deck Café at the London Transport Museum has been designed to quench the thirst and ease hunger pangs of visitors to the museum. Set on the first level of this small and quirky place, the café looks out over the museum itself and joins up to the shop, where double decker buses, trains and tubes are all available to purchase in miniature.
We had quite obviously missed the rush hour when we arrived at 8pm on a weekday evening, and were oddly the only people in the café. It looked as though it had more or less shut up shop for the day, and when the waitress came to take our order, it turned out that it almost had. We were going to opt for the mixed platter from the menu (chicken skewers, lamb kofte, fish cakes and vegetable tempura), but it transpired that hot dishes were not an option as the chef was finishing up. Slightly disgruntled as it was over an hour to closing, we dithered over the menu looking for another option, before the waitress inferred that the the Mediterranean Mezze was the only dish that was really available. Comprising mixed peppers, humous and aubergine caviar, we took our chances and agreed to two mezzes. As for liquid intake, the café’s cocktail list was calling out to us, so we ordered a Routemaster and the Metropolitan Mixture.
While we waited for our orders to arrive, we cast an eye around the café, noticing plenty of retro references to days of London Transport past. The café’s seating is upholstered in ‘moquette’ fabric - a modern take on the famous moquette seating fabric produced in the early 70’s for London Transport, used on the Circle & District and on buses. There’s also a set of traffic lights by the entrance to café, and the odd headroom notice for anyone over 6 ft and 6 inches. If you should wish to, you can make a purchase in the shop on the same level as the café, which boasts plenty of tourist-led items, but also some wonderful original artwork and advertising posters for sale.
In time, our food arrived, which served to fill a gap, but was unfortunately fairly uneventful in flavour and presentation. Having set our hearts on something else initially, it was a second-best substitute, and I suspect, the only option available when we walked in. Whether the chef had taken an early departure is anyone’s guess, but as all of the 7 other dishes on the menu were hot, and also unavailable, we wondered if the kitchen staff had decided to leave early and beat their own rush hour.
Thankfully, all was not lost as our cocktails were nothing short of fabulous. The Metropolitan Mixer got nods of approval in between sips, and the Routemaster tasted like an adult raspberry Slush Puppy. If you like a cocktail that really packs a punch, The Anorak was full of whiskey and was served up in a long glass stylish enough to make a train spotter look glamorous.
The allure of the Upper Deck Café is more about the cocktails and the surroundings, rather than the food. The evening snack menu is just that – a rather limiting affair if you’re after a decent meal inside you, but fine for stopping up a gap. Upper Deck does boast a breakfast and lunch menu, the latter of which is more substantial than the evening option. If you visit Upper Deck, make it a place to sip cocktails with friends, and purchase the odd vintage poster design. As food goes, it’s not on the map just yet, but it certainly makes for a great-tasting drinks destination.
Lunch for two with a glass of wine, will set you back by around £15-20 each. Cocktails range from £6.95 - £8.50.
Upper Deck Café: London Transport Museum, Covent Garden Piazza, London, WC2E 7BB
Tel: 020 7379 6344
Reviewer: Helenka Bednar