The Alfred Le Roy canal boat has been making waves as the coolest thing to be seen in London waters since that heaven-can-wait whale found himself charging up The Thames. Combining expertly-mixed cocktails, artisan eats and a two-and-a-half-hour boat tour of the River Lea, you’ll find the Cocktail Cruise setting sail from The Crate Brewery every weekend for the duration of the summer.
The Boat and Tour
Much like every other person living in this country, I love to talk about have a healthy mistrust of the weather. But luckily, so does the Captain of this fair vessel. And as such, the Alfred Le Roy is set up to thrive in all kinds of weather; whether it’s a sunny Sunday or a wash-out Saturday, it can be cosy in the cold (or wet), or airy and light in warmer climes.
When I visited over the Bank Holiday weekend, the sun was shining, so they were able to crank open certain parts of the roof, and you could also hang out in the area at the front tip of the boat for your obligatory Jack-and-Rose ‘I’m flying’ moment. The tour itself lasts around 2.5 hours, and though a big pull of this event is just the relaxed cruising along the canal; between the relatively-familiar East London sights like the Olympic Stadium and Limehouse Basin, it's also a great way of discovering some visit-worthy little venues and beautiful spots along the water.
The ambience of the cruise was absolutely not what I thought it was going to be. For some reason, I had in my mind we were in for a quaint tour of the river and canals, with one or two experimental cocktails to wash the experience down with. The truth is the boat is much cooler than that; with a soundtrack of day-appropriate house music in the background, the cruise was really lively from start till end. There were a few big groups on our cruise, and though I had a chat with a few people, everyone kept to their tables in the main - it was a mix of couples, smaller friend groups and then larger parties. The vibe on the day was definitely laid-back, and if you’re after a relaxed-but-fun atmosphere, you’re in luck. It’s definitely nowhere near the ‘boozy boat party’ category, but if you’re after a serene, super-quiet few hours on the canal, this probably isn’t the tour for you.
The Food and Drink
As the name of the event suggests, the cocktails take the main stage. We opted for an Akoya (botanical gin, pressed apple, cranberry juice, lime juice, Kombucha, mint and cucumber - £8) and a classic Le Roy (coffee rum, Baileys cream liquor, Disaronno, with half & half cream - £8). Both of the drinks were punchy, unique and delicious. Alongside the bespoke cocktails, the bar is open for the whole cruise and there’s a good selection of local beers and wine too.
Our ticket included food; which I’d definitely recommend. You’ll enjoy a selection of delicatessen bites with cured meats, cheese from Neal’s Yard Dairy, and typically-beautiful breads from carb-loving East London favourite, E5 Bakery.
I love Hackney, and I love canal boats; so predictably I had a great time on the Cocktail Cruise. That said, it wasn’t like anything I expected, and it’s certainly worth trying out yourself if you fancy doing something a little different in London. The danger with this type of event is that it’ll either be pokey and uncomfortable, or that the ambience will be quiet and awkward. This cruise couldn’t be further from those things; you have plenty of room, good views, and the vibe is buzzing but not in-your-face.
So with that; if you get a chance, hop on-board and try it for yourself at some point.