Boston Tea Party – 84 Queen Street, Exeter, EX4 3RP, Tel: 01392 201181
Free wifi, open Mon – Sat 7am til 7pm and Sun 8am til 6pm.
Boston Tea Party have 18 cafes from as high as Birmingham all the way down to Barnstaple, with a 19th cafe about to open in Bristol (making the total 6 in and around the city!). I must admit, I haven’t been to a BTP in a few years, since the Salisbury branch we tried when it opened over 4 years ago when I lived there – we weren’t particularly blown away based on the existing offering in the city. I note on their website that 80% of their suppliers are based in the South West and that their eggs and meat are all free range – so this is a good start to reignite my interest.
BTP is based in another prominent building I pass most days, and my particular thoughts have been ‘oh it’s seems a bit small’. I can’t tell you how wrong I was – this is a true example of ‘don’t judge a book by it’s cover’!
The buildng was originally purpose built as a post office but was only used for this for around 7 years; Exeter’s Boston Tea Party has been in the building since 1998! The ground floor area has 2 small tables along with window seats where you can watch the world go by, along with a few tables out the front. It also houses the takeaway fridge with yummy sandwiches and cold drinks as well as the counter and main hub where it all happens.
This level is very deceiving as I was blown away by the contrast of upstairs which is bright and open, with high ceilings and plenty of tables and could be compared to the tardis – it is even painted blue. The calm colours and lighting work well with the natural light that pours in. There are plenty of adjoining tables as well as separate ones to cope with any size group of people. Some sofa seats line the left side, below a noticeboard encouraging local paraphernalia, leading to a book corner with another sofa.
The fact this is really an upstairs cafe does prove an access problem for those who can’t tackle stairs. Unless you have help I don’t think you could take a pram up but that is the nature of the building and possibly a problem that can’t be fixed even if they wanted to. Once you have found your table after venturing upstairs, you have to go back downstairs to order, remembering your table number – perhaps this is something that needs to be re-thought as, if you were on your own, this would pose the possibility of losing your table unless you left your belongings behind to claim it and similarly if you had a child with you it would be a big inconvenience.
So as I browsed the menu, I was pleased to have been invited into the old post office to see what BTP has done to put their ‘stamp’ on the coffee/tea/cafe market – the menu has been consistent over time but recently some toasted sandwiches and raw veg smoothie drinks have been added to expand their offering. An additional leaflet attached to the menu told me to ‘Cut the Crappe’…the cheeky yet clever title referred to some new drinks using avocado instead of frappe powder (a mix of unnatural ingredients, high in sugar used to give the smooth texture used by most competitors in their frappes). It is full of vitamins and potassium and they use maple syrup for sweetness. I instantly decided on the mocha crappe and it was delicious. Not full of ice which tends to dilute it; it was fluffy, creamy and even malty- that could be the coffee flavour. I would definitly have it again.
For research purposes I also tried ‘The Red One’ from the new raw veg smoothies – a drink containing beetroot, carrot, apple, cucumber, orange juice, ginger, mint and parsley (£3.35). A large vibrant maroon filled jar arrived equipped with straw – this is definitely not my sort of drink normally but I must say that all the flavours blended well together and with each sip you could still identify the different elements but without anything being overpowering. There were lots of bits in it, so either more blitzing needed or a bigger straw in order to avoid blockages! There is the option of ‘The Green One’ – I’ll let you find out what that is yourself…
I must say there was plenty to tempt me on their large menu, which consisted of breakfast, brunch, lighter options, mains, toasted sandwiches and salads. All items are served all day so you are not tied to turn up at a certain time to get your favourite. I was very impressed by the tea options (if that’s what you’re into) – I dont think I have ever seen such choice. I counted 25 vegetarian options and 4 vegan items, clearly marked and there is almond and soya milk available for hot drinks too. There is also gluten free bread, which is made especially for them in Bristol. This isn’t something I have to worry about but it’s great that it is obvious and those who are concerned don’t need to feel they have to ask as it’s clear to see. Normally a large menu spells frozen items, and not fresh but I can see that a lot of the ingredients are used in different combinations in various meals across the menu – this instills confidence in a clever use of stock/ingredients and minimising waste – it allows them to offer more when in fact they use less and therefore can use fresh.
The brunch options that stood out for me included Chorizo Hash (£7.75), my favourite Eggs Benedict (£6.75) and then the Sourdough Eggy Bread, Smoked Bacon and Avocado (£7.50). I chose the latter as it sounded very different and right up my street. Delicious oven roasted vine tomatoes sat atop a generous fan of avocado, kept company by lovely smokey bacon all sitting on top of some lovely soft eggy bread. The assumption that you would use the tobasco they provide as part of the meal is a good one, as a few drops here and there really livens this up – I thoroughly enjoyed it.
I also chose the Chipotle Chicken and Parmesan Toasted Sandwich and went with the half option (£3.50) – it was a good lunch portion and with very nice quality bread. The salad had a vibrant zingy dressing, the sandwich contained tasty chiquito peppers and good chunks of chicken. The parmesan was subtle and the chipotle was just enough in the background to lift it in flavour with a hint of heat but nothing too spicy.
The room was fairly well filled with around 50 – 60 people, and I noted one or two people querying the delivery of their lunch – I too waited maybe 20 mins for my food. What I will say is, that although they call themselves a cafe, this is not another coffee chain with just sandwiches in the fridge and you get served your toasted takeway swiftly – it is in fact a cafe-come-restaurant. So appreciate that you are getting a good meal, well cooked and this takes time as it is not fast food. I really enjoyed my visit to this tardis and I will absolutely return to investigate the rest of the brunch menu…whether or not that is actually at brunch time, lunch time or early dinner is up for discussion – but no pressure, they serve it all, all day.
Until next time BTP…TTFN!