Throughout my five years as a student at Exeter, there has only ever really been one daytime foodie spot in the city that has consistently delivered.
The food is delicious, the coffee on point, the space welcoming. Most importantly, they always (without fail) manage to poach their eggs just right - you will not find any straggly, waterlogged whites or overcooked yolks here my friends.
Over the years, I've been here for birthday brunches, light lunches with weekend guests, coffee and cake with the family and evening toast with my fellow students (if you can find something to beat endless rounds of Marmite on sourdough whilst having a good old natter with friends at 6pm then please let me know).
I can hand on heart say that I have never been disappointed by Boston Tea Party (and after four years with Michele, I am a pretty fussy eater!)
Which is why it was a pretty big deal for me when they asked if I'd like to do a review in exchange for a meal!
Because I'm a really cheap friend, I took Sophie along for her birthday (it's ok, I bought her a present too!) She's also my partner in crime when it comes to eating - we once polished off a four-course feast including cheeseboard whilst our fellow dining partners waited impatiently after their single course...
We arrived after work for an early dinner to find the large upstairs dining room bathed in the golden afternoon. It was relatively empty at 5pm (although if you've ever gone for brunch at the weekend, you'll know that this is a rare state of affairs).
Surrounded by a handful of students working away on their assignments, friends chatting over coffee and a couple of young families relaxing after a busy day out, we sat back and relaxed with our drinks whilst we waited for our food to arrive.
I had the fruits of the forest smoothie and Sophie went for the iced tea. I'm not normally a big smoothie fan but I'd already tried the blueberry and ginger smoothie on a separate visit and absolutely loved it. Unlike other smoothies which can be overpowered by the flavour of banana, these ones actually taste like what they're supposed to taste like! This one was icily rich with the flavour of berries. The iced tea was delicious too, with the flavours of the tea balanced by a subtle and refreshing sweetness. Sophie hogged it for the rest of the meal, proclaiming it beautiful!
And then before we knew it the food had arrived. The glorious, wonderful food.
We ordered the sweetcorn hash with halloumi, poached eggs, avocado and tomato salsa...
...the lamb kofta pitta with houmous, crunchy herb salad, tzatziki yoghurt, pomegranate and spiced cous-cous...
...and the teriyaki salmon with brown rice, red pepper, pak choi, spring onion, sesame seeds, coriander.
We started off with the sweetcorn hash, sharing it as a kind of starter.
As usual, the eggs were perfectly poached with runny golden yolks ready to ooze across the dish.
It wasn't something I would normally have ordered but I'm pretty sure this is what I'm going to order next time I go!
The hash itself had been fried and was slightly crispy on the outside but smooth inside. There was a certain saltiness to the dish that mainly came from the halloumi and the hash itself but this was countered perfectly by the popping sweetness of the corn and the sauce. And then avocado and poached eggs. I mean, it doesn't really get much better than that now does it?
As such our mains had a lot to live up to!
Sophie had the lamb koftas.
Now with Sophie being Greek, these babies had a lot to live up to! However she was impressed with the authentic flavour combinations, the way the lamb had been cooked just the way she liked it with a slight blush of pink in the middle, the aroma of the coriander, the crunch of the radishes and pretty much just about everything. The one improvement would be a bit more pomegranate on the cous cous please!
I had the salmon, which arrived absolutely piping hot beneath its teriyaki glaze (yes, even after I'd fiddled about taking 100 photos of it!) There was a subtle crunch and sweetness to the glaze which married the other flavours in the dish perfectly. The rice was beautiful; nutty brown rice coupled with the vibrancy of spring onion, red pepper and coriander. I found it ever so slightly dry but Sophie insisted that this is exactly how she likes her rice. Besides, with the juicy salmon fillet, it slipped down like a dream anyway.
By this point, we were two very full and very happy diners.
A proper thick milkshake that's been made with ice cream - I couldn't manage too much so left the birthday girl to it!
I normally visit Boston Tea Party for breakfast (the mushrooms on toast every time, thank me later) or coffee and cake so I'm glad we went for dinner and tried something different. I wouldn't normally think of coming here for a lunch or dinner (if I'm honest, I've never gotten past the breakfast page of the menu!) but perhaps next time I will.
Would I recommend it to a friend? Absolutely. The only criticisms we could make by the end of our meal were a) the small amount of pomegranate seeds on the cous cous and b) the wifi can be pretty patchy.
Otherwise, it ticked all of my boxes; a varied menu that offers new dishes every now and then, an independent business that pays attention to the ethics and quality of its produce, friendly and helpful staff, food that never disappoints and a big cosy room with a mix of armchairs, communal tables and small little corners to hide away in.
And the best bit? It takes me all of 2 minutes to walk there from my flat. Needless to say, I'll be back very, very soon...
A big thank you to Boston Tea Party for having us! As mentioned earlier, the meal was given to us in exchange for this review which is, as always, my unfettered personal opinion.