Most people who know me know that I’m pretty passionate about supporting local independent businesses, particularly when it comes to food & drink. But that doesn’t mean I’m against chains, because a lot of big chains started out as a tiny independent family business that just did really well, which is fantastic. What’s more, some of them manage to preserve the same values and standards that they started out with, no matter how big they get, and I think that’s a pretty awesome example.
Boston Tea Party is one of those businesses that’s managed to grow into a chain without losing its integrity, and I’m not ashamed to admit that I’m a big fan. They’re serious about using loads of local suppliers – like The Severn Project, an amazing urban farm that not only sells loads of fresh, healthy produce but also works with the local community and socially-excluded groups. They work really hard on sustainability and a ‘zero to landfill’ approach, reusing and recycling instead. They make everything on the menu fresh, from scratch, onsite. And they do their best to make sure each of their cafes feels like it belongs in the local community, as a one-off, rather than just as part of a series of identical branches plonked down in every town.
|A beautiful space|
Boston Tea Party on Alfred St in Bath is one of my absolute favourites. The building is part of a terrace that dates back to 1768, and it’s Grade II listed, featuring beautiful old stained glass windows and high ceilings, with an elegant roof lantern that lets the sunlight flood in. In the space below are outsized wicker lampshades, and hanging ferns and palms. Something about all the greenery, the white-painted wood, the wicker, gives it the feeling of a shady terrace café somewhere a little hot and exotic. It’s always buzzing, with everyone from students on their laptops to mums with prams and toddlers, and there are splashes of colour everywhere – sunshine yellow tabletops, bright framed prints, and big armfuls of fresh flowers. It’s quite the nicest place to hang out, and I often pop down there to work when I get fed up working at home, but we also love to go there for a long, lazy brunch on the weekends.
A few weeks ago (after a night out dancing at Party in the City, if I’m being completely honest) we were in need of a hangover cure, so we prescribed ourselves a big fat Boston’s breakfast. I was the most hungover (no judging) so I went for The Boss, the biggest, fattest breakfast on the menu – it’s the mother of all fry-ups, with sausage, bacon, scrambled eggs, hog’s pudding, crispy potatoes, fried tomatoes, mushrooms, baked beans and two rounds of hot, buttery toast. As Full English Breakfasts go, it was pretty flipping good – the crispy potatoes, seasoned with paprika, were particularly excellent. The only thing I wasn’t really sure about was the scrambled egg (Bostons put tomatoes in it, which I think makes it rather watery) but everything else was delicious.
|The Boss Breakfast: how good does that look?!|
My husband, meanwhile, went for his usual, sourdough eggy bread with bacon, avocado and roasted tomatoes. To be honest, this is one of my favourites too – the combination is perfect, and Bostons make seriously good eggy bread. We washed it all down with a decaf latte and a big mug of orange juice (me) and a house tea (my husband – we love the house loose-leaf so much we actually have some at home). After we’d eaten, we lazed around on the comfy banquettes, finishing our drinks very slowly and reading magazines, until we felt restored and ready for a gentle stroll in the fresh air.
Whether you need a hangover breakfast, a spot for coffee and a meeting, or afternoon tea and cake, I think Bostons is pretty hard to beat. The food is great, they’ve nailed the cosy neighbourhood café vibe and they’ve got principles too. We could do with a few more chains like this.