Sandwiched between Stoke's Croft and Monpellier, the newest of the Boston Tea Party family lends itself to the local community; a welcome pit-stop from the early morning rush to the early evening wind-down. On this occasion, The Boy and I found ourselves amidst that first band of clientèle; bleary-eyed, pre-caffienated and each in dire need of a substantial breakfast...
Date and Time: Wednesday 26th October 2011, 7:50
Name of Establishment: Boston Tea Party (BTP)*
Location: 156 Cheltenham Road, Bristol
Reason for Visit: That all-important culinary kick-start to the day!
Although it's the eleventh outlet of the BTP fleet, Cheltenham Road's version is a perfect example of what those behind this popular South West chain have set out to achieve. Describing every café as a 'one-off' in that its inspiration is derived from its immediate surroundings, this particular branch oozes a distinctive urban vibe and proudly displays art work courtesy of the local talent – thus, fittingly striving to retain an independent quality which draws on a concept (somewhat notoriously) renowned within this part of the City. The sporadically panelled reclaimed timber, exposed metal work overhead and mish-mash of furniture which, borrowing an assortment of styles from leather-effect arm chairs to simplistic classroom attire, also reflects the raw, cosmopolitan communities which exist beyond its four walls. Yet, despite the allure of the eclectic, almost edgy, atmosphere created within this space, it has to be said that there are several aspects which have denied the natural elements to permeate its roughed-up interior. Firstly, I'm aware that we are now smack-bang in the deep dankness of winter but regardless of the floor-to-ceiling windows, (that incidentally are opened up in the summertime) the awning which shades the front of the building consistently casts its content in shadow, even if the sun happens to be shining. Furthermore, it's not entirely up-together in terms of cleanliness (The Boy and I had to give our table a good old wipe down prior to eating) and the solid concrete floor constitutes a distinct lack of warmth. All at once, wrapped-up in my winter coat, I found myself longing for the snuggly sofas of the BTP on Park Street - not to mention the peace and quiet of the quaint exterior courtyard as opposed to the industrial-effect metal picnic benches that are bolted down and traffic-facing here...But alas, another postcode brings another experience and so my visit continued...
Breakfast was ordered promptly with the smiley chap at the counter and if the venue itself was lacking in warmth, the service certainly wasn't. Whilst we're on the subject, it’s fair to say that I have never had an undesirable encounter with any of the staff at BTP and thus, I mused that being friendly, efficient and rather partial to a good old chin-wag must be part of the job description! I digress, I opted for the Boston Scotch Pancake stack (£4.95) which layered with an ample portion of applewood smoked bacon and drizzled with maple syrup brought about that sweet meets salt combination that never fails to tantalise my taste buds. However, just as the flavours were perfectly balanced, the pancakes themselves were rather poorly executed; their texture resembling the cardboard rounds of pub beer mats as opposed to the light and fluffy disposition I was anticipating and two of the three featuring varying degrees of burnt; from a little charred to downright incinerated! In fact, if it wasn't for the the other elements which were rich and tasty (the bacon is particular proving good-quality, thickly cut and free of fat), this dish would have bordered on inedible. It didn't get much better for The Boy whose real-time feedback to his 'Eggs Royal' (£6.50) was “meh!” - I'll elaborate as unless you’re on a similar wavelength to The Boy, I doubt this makes much sense. Hence, the dish, comprising The Boy's all-time favourite 'breakfast of champions' was disappointingly average; the eggs which were advertised as 'softly poached' masqueraded as their hard-boiled counterpart and the toasted English muffin was ever-so-slightly lack lustre. The smoked salmon and creamy Hollandaise were satisfyingly flavoursome however and the dish was attractively plated, (though less appealing upon the discovery of a rouge black hair harboured in the arrangement!)
|Boston Pancake Stack|
That said, the coffees we ordered were spot on; a soy cappuccino for him and a skinny latte for me. Both were of an excellent standard and, sourced from 'Extract Coffee Roasters'*; a family-run and Bristol based company, ensued a rich-noted and punchy aroma as well as that strong caffeine hit that The Boy and I had sought after. This is not to mention that the only milk used here is a West Country organic variety – lush! Besides coffee are all the usual suspects including a fragrant range of loose-leaf teas, iced coffees, hot (and chilled) chocolate, smoothies and the best home-made lemonade I have ever tasted! Whilst we're listing positives, I will assure you that I've sampled a host of the available edibles (all in the name of research of course); the imaginatively named and freshly assembled sandwiches for instance of which the Parma Chameleon (think Parma ham, parmesan, roasted tomatoes, basil and lemon and garlic mayonnaise) is my personal favourite. Furthermore, the lunch menu has recently been souped up (so to speak) and besides the sandwiches available from the chiller, there is a varied range of burgers, baps, toasties and yep, you guessed it....an ever-changing soup of the day! In addition to this, I also happen to know that those responsible bake a mean flapjack and the plum crumble cake (bought from the Cheltenham Road BTP no less) is simply divine! Subsequently, the BTP franchise is clearly successful (they're award-winning don’t you know?!); the ever-present buzz within each and every café seems to suggest that the experience that The Boy and I had was a blip and yet perhaps they have simply taken on too much. After all, the focus on a locally sourced and ethically driven menu really shouldn’t warrant such a mediocre experience.
|Make mine a Skinny Latte!|
In conclusion, perhaps not my favourite visit to BTP – it may well be that this particular establishment has taken the attributes of its neighbouring communities to the extreme whereby the laid-back attitude and grungey-appeal of Stokes Croft has constituted an edginess that proves more chilly than cushy. In terms of its fare, The Boy and I could have simply been privy to forgivable teething problems due to the work-force having so much more to contend with in line with the newly extended menu. Besides, I know from previous visits (to this and other branches) that the quality of the service, comfortable surroundings and range of edibles are characteristically commendable and thus, I would suggest that Cheltenham Road just needs to up its game a little to bring it in line with the overall ethos of the BTP chain that we have all come to know and love.
And now for the male opinion....
The Boy gave Boston Tea Party (Cheltenham Road) a rating of 6/10 and in three words, suggested he would 'Frequent Whiteladies instead'...I think you know what he's getting at!