Regular readers will know that I have a love affair with the Boston Tea Party, the West Country chain that started in Bristol in the late 1990s. Indeed, my first ever Coffee Spot was the original on Park Street. So, I thought it was about time I visited what is, quite possibly, the closest Boston Tea Party to my home town of Guildford. It also happens to be, I believe, the biggest and occupies the oldest building, the Grade 1 listed Old George Inn, which dates back to the early 1300s.
As with all the other Boston Tea Parties, it has taken an iconic building and made it its own, unique place. Simultaneously, however, it’s instantly recognisable as a Boston Tea Party, a trick that’s very hard to manage and looks effortless when it’s pulled off.
Sprawling over three floors of a magnificent, historic building, the Salisbury Boston Tea Party boasts over 200 seats upstairs alone, plus an attractive outdoor seating area on the pedestrianised High Street. There’s the usual coffee offering from Bristol-based Extract Coffee Roasters, tea from Bristol-based Canton Tea Co, oodles of cake and an excellent food menu based around several all-day breakfast options.
You can read more of my thoughts after the gallery.
The Salisbury branch of the Boston Tea Party occupies two buildings, a brick-clad one on the left, which houses the entrance, and a timber-framed, double-bayed giant to the right over the entrance to the Old George Mall. I suspect that this was once an old coaching inn, with the mall the entrance to the stable block.
Downstairs it’s very similar to the Exeter branch, the bulk of the space taken up with the counter. This is at the back on the left, tucked away past the cake, a well thought-out layout which means that those waiting to order and collect their coffee don’t get in the way. The stairs are on the right and, just as in Exeter, there’s limited seating downstairs, in this case a window bar either side of the door, and a single, round, two-person table by the chiller cabinet.
The stairs lead up and across to the building over the Old George Mall (known as the Great Hall). Before you get there, off the first landing, there’s a long, low-ceilinged seating area, stretching down to another window projecting over the High Street. This has tables and comfy chairs against either wall, plus a semi-circular padded bench in the window.
However, to see the Salisbury branch at its best, keep on to the second floor. This sprawls across a large area, perhaps as large as Exeter. It occupies both bay windows facing out onto the High Street, and goes all the way to the back of the building, where it looks out over the Mall. However, for such a large space, it’s actually full of little nooks and cosy corners, with internal wooden panelling and beams splitting it up into number of smaller spaces. For example, each of the bay windows is its own area, while behind you to your left is a cosy corner made up of comfy sofas/chairs. This means that, unlike Exeter, it never gets really noisy, even when busy.
The décor is amazing, with wooden floorboards throughout, ancient wooden beams and a mix of plastered walls and wooden panelling. This is topped off by white, plastered ceilings. The furnishing is provided by a mix and match of wooden tables and chairs, the occasional bench or pew, and the traditional Boston Tea Party sofas and comfy chairs. Of all the Boston Tea Parties, this has to be my favourite space.
On this visit, I decided to live dangerously and have the bulk-brew filter coffee, having never had it before at the Boston Tea Party. Disappointingly the staff didn’t know what the coffee was, but accurately described it as sweet and fruity. Impressively, it got brighter and fruitier as it cooled, such a contrast to the stewed, bitter (and frankly horrible) image of bulk-brew filter coffee that I’ve had for far too long. If I get many more cups like this, I might have to start treating bulk-brew filter as a serious option!
I wasn’t that adventurous though; sticking to my favourite Eggs Florentine for lunch, although the presentation has been changed, the two eggs no longer coming on their own muffins, instead being served together on one giant muffin. Fortunately there’s been no decrease in quality: the yolks are still rich and creamy, while there were generous amounts of the smooth hollandaise sauce.
You can also see what I made of all the other branches of the Boston Tea Party that I’ve visited.
|OLD GEORGE INN • 13 HIGH STREET • SALISBURY • SP1 2NJ|
|www.bostonteaparty.co.uk||+44 (0) 1722 238116|
|Monday||07:00 – 19:00||Roaster||Extract (espresso + bulk-brew)|
|Tuesday||07:00 – 19:00||Seating||Sofas, Comfy Chairs, Tables, Bar, Tables outside|
|Wednesday||07:00 – 19:00||Food||Breakfast, Lunch, Cake, Sandwiches|
|Thursday||07:00 – 19:00||Service||Order at counter (food), counter (coffee)|
|Friday||07:00 – 19:00||Cards||Mastercard, Visa|
|Saturday||07:00 – 19:00||Wifi||Free (with code)|
|Sunday||09:00 – 18:00||Power||Limited|
|Chain||Regional||Visits||24th November 2014, 9th January 2015|
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