Boston Tea Party – Corporation Street, City Centre
Today many pubs seem to be rebranding themselves as restaurants or coffee houses. Boston Tea Party goes the other way, a coffee shop and brunch place that comes with a wine and craft beer menu a similar size to the food menu. At 10am on a weekday morning we stuck to soft drinks, but the drinks menu which comes crocodile clipped to your hipster-style wooden clipboard signals the more grown up nature of this brunch venue.
Boston Tea Party itself is an independent chain of restaurants which started in the south west, and is moving slowly north, from Plymouth and Bristol, to Cheltenham, Worcester, Birmingham, and coming soon, Stratford on Avon. The Birmingham city centre branch we visited is right at the top end of Corporation Sreet, away from the shops, and right in the heart of the courts and hospitals that make up the gap between the shopping centre and Aston University. As a result, at 10am, many of the customers appeared to be business-meeting-brunching, with a sprinkling of students.
After choosing a table from the multiplicity of options (American-style diner booth, standard restaurant tables, tables with easy chairs, bar height tables and bar stools, or bar-style window seating), you order at the bar. The bar itself is temptingly crowded with delicious calorific, and some healthy-style, cakes and snacks, and resisting the urge to order a giant cake to go along with brunch is a challenge. Ordering took a long time, despite a short queue, but the service was fast and friendly. Tea soon arrived.
Eggs Benedict came with one giant half muffin, rather than both sides, which always makes me wonder what happens to the other side of the muffin. The ham was thick and double-sliced, and the eggs soft in the middle. The hollandaise had a slightly congealed quality to it, as if it had been sat too long on the side, or made too thick, but that aside, the other ingredients, served in an enameled tin dish, were very pleasant.
The West Country breakfast was a very standard version of full English, with half-hearted toast and all the major ingredients present and correct, but without any special something to set it apart from some of the other top versions of the dish available around the city. Nothing you could fault in this dish, but also nothing special about it, certainly no hint of the West Country associations of the brand beyond the title of the dish. I wonder if some of the more unusual dishes, such as sweetcorn hash, or smoked salmon on pumpernickel rye, bring a more exciting brunchy-experience to the table?
The toilets are clean and in tune with the vintage/industrial theme of the cafe. To wash your hands, the exposed pipes end in valves rather than taps, which is a fun touch. Sanitary bins sadly don’t blend with the theme at all. You can get a vintage toilet with a vintage sink…why has no one yet created sanitary bins which look more appealing and in tune with the rest of these lovely surroundings? So many lovely loos are spoiled by an unattractive white plastic bin.
As you leave, you can appreciate that although Boston Tea Party itself is currently shrouded in scaffolding, the surrounding law courts have a vivid red beauty, even on a day of driving rain.
Price: mid-range: £6.76 for eggs Benedict, £7.75 for a West Country Breakfast, rising to £10 for ‘The Boss’
Atmosphere and design: rustic, vintage, with industrial touches and a relaxed grown-up hang-out atmosphere.
Food: the standards of full English and eggs Benedict are well-cooked but with bland and uninspiring ingredients; the wider menu has an emphasis on organic and free-range ingredients, with lots of healthy options
Toilets: industrial touches such as valves replacing taps in keeping with the theme of the cafe
Enjoyment: Always worth the walk up from the city centre, as throughout the day they will always have something to tempt you, from brunch, to coffee and cake, to a boozy afternoon with friends.