“ Cuisine: Cafe / Address: Churches Restaurant, 14 Church Street, Boston Lincolnshire, PE21 6NQ / Tel: +44 (0) 1205 361875 „
My Mum is the sort of person who can't walk past a cake shop without looking through the window, loves cafes and wherever she goes has to eat out at some point during the day. I think she must know every small cafe/restaurant in the Cheshire area. This is where she used to live but a year ago moved to Boston in Lincolnshire to be near the rest of the family. Mum had lived in Boston many years ago so knows the town well but she was surprised to see that a lot of her old haunts had vanished and a lot of new shops, cafes and restaurants had sprung up.
Luckily, one of her favourite cafes was still going strong and an establishment where she took me last year for a bite to eat. This cafe/restaurant is situated on Church Street and named after the street. From it's location you can see the big spire of St Botolph's Church (otherwise known as Boston Stump), one of the few attractions of Boston market town. Church Street is an old fashioned sort of place, very quaint, very, very English. The building that houses the restaurant is a cross between the Old Curiosity Shop and the Crooked House. The owners have used every possible square metre of the building. Not only is it crooked it is a bit crowded too which adds a bit of colour to the place because wherever you turn you will see jars of home-made jam, hand crafted cakes, coffee beans, originally designed craft cards, scented candles, and so on. I like these country, crafty shops and cafes - this is something England does well and Churches Restaurant is a fine example of a restaurant creating a rustic environment serving good, old fashioned English food. There is a small International menu on offer but I will tell you about that later.
As you enter the cafe off the cobbled street you will see how cluttered the first floor is with the many displays. There is a seating area towards the back of the room and the decor is very twee with it's patterned carpet, stone walls, Laura Ashley style printed wallpaper. I lived in a rented cottage in Cumbria many years ago and this had the same feel. My Mum noticed that some of the walls were painted green and she commented on the shade. She has always liked 'green'. I am more a red or orange person even black so we tend to differ on interior design styles. Still, the restaurant definitely has a homely feel and the staff are very welcoming. They are very chatty and nothing is too much trouble. Coming from Warsaw where they still haven't got the hang of 'Customer Care' this behaviour was like a breath of fresh air to me. So nice to be treated like a human being. Outside is a patio area which isn't much larger than my patio at home and fits about 4 wrought iron tables in the space with accompanying rattan chairs. Very nice patio set - I like the shade of jade.
On this occasion we decided to sit upstairs and before you reach the top floor you have to climb some very steep wooden stairs. The decor upstairs is similar with it's country cottage style. The tables and chairs here are of a much darker design - possibly oak as downstairs there is a mixture of pine and oak. A young girl came to our table with the menus and asked us if we would like a drink and my Mum chose to have a pot of tea which I turned my nose up as it is so filling to drink tea with food so I had a glass of mineral water. Other drinks on the menu were all too heavy for me like, milk shakes, drinking chocolate and chocomilk. I don't really like hot drinks except my two very large cups of coffee in the morning so I decided to pass.
Now to the menu - I couldn't wait to open it to see if the restaurant was offering any sort of home-made pies. I love pies, I know they are not that good for you and highly calorific but I don't care - it is something I miss and have always missed when living abroad. I have never seen a pie in Warsaw - perhaps I should make my own and start a new business or perhaps not . On second thoughts - I'll stick to painting and writing.
I was in luck on this hot, sunny September day. Traditional home made steak and kidney pie was on the menu. I did look at the other meals on offer but had made my mind up before I entered the cafe. Mum took a little longer to choose. At first she said she wanted fish and chips but I thought that was a bit barmy as Tate's Fish and chips shop is just round the corner and I knew we were going there later in the week. In the end she was undecided. She quite fancied the gammon and pineapple but also had her eye on the lamb shank as she's very partialled to a bit of roast lamb and mint sauce. She also looked at the breakfast menu and quite liked the look of the traditional fry up but in the end she went with the lamb shank.
While the waitress took our orders downstairs we sat chatting and then suddenly someone tapped me on the shoulder - it was my brother and his wife. They had been to the market and fancied a bite to eat and decided to join us although they had no idea that we were in the restaurant. Before my brother sat down I knew he wouldn't be able to resist a pie and I was right. He ordered the same as me and his wife ordered a steak Guinness and Mushroom pudding which they had to wait longer for as we were served first.
When my meal came to the table I laughed because the plate was enormous and the amount of food on the plate was enough to feed two people let alone little old me. The pastry on the pie looked like it had been blown up with a bicycle pump - I have never seen pastry so light and fluffy. How come my pastry never looks like that? It was ever so tasty and really buttery. Inside the pie was a mixture of large tender chunks of steak, onions, kidney and a dark, rich gravy which tasted like heaven. The combination of aromatic gravy, delicately cooked kidney and soft steak with sprinklings of salt and pepper was exquisite to my taste buds. In other words the pie was delicious! The chips were also very tasty, dry, crispy on the outside and soft in the centre. A huge dollop of mushy peas passed the Praski test also - just the right texture - mushy without being splattery and just the correct amount of water content. My meal was just what I expected so I was happy.
Mum's lamb shank looked interesting sat on its white plate with a sprig of mint for decoration. It certainly looked well done which is how I like it but not sure how Mum likes hers cooked. In fact I thought it looked overcooked because when she cut a slice off the outside it was stringy yet the nearer to the bone she got the meat was more tender. At least it wasn't fatty. To accompany this lone piece of meat Mum ordered a portion of chips and vegetables. The chips were the same as mine and she was happy with her portion and the two vegetables on offer were carrots and cauliflower. She enjoyed the veg and the gravy which came served in a white jug. I tasted the gravy and it was very rich - lots of red wine with a hint of mint. I also tested the veg out but wasn't so impressed as the cauliflower was overcooked and a bit soggy as were the carrots. My mother likes her vegetables cooked in this way so she had no complaints. I like cooked veg to be crispy not soft. Whereas I gave my meal 10/10 Mum gave her meal 7/10 as she said the lamb was a bit dry and overcooked.
My brother was happy with his pie and his wife enjoyed tucking into her steak pudding which looked very filling. The suet shell was filled with so much meat and rich Guinness gravy. I asked to taste the gravy as I have a thing about gravy. I like to taste and then work out the ingredients added. Personally, I'm not sure about the addition of the Guinness. I love it as a drink but I think it made the gravy a bit bitter.
Other meals on offer on the Lunch menu were sausages and mash, roast chicken, Beef Bourguignon (spot the International cuisine!) and the old English favourite, Ploughman's Lunch. The price of the steak and kidney pie was £5.95 which was one of the cheaper meals along with fish and chips. Other meals on that menu cost about a pound extra with my Mum's lamb dish costing £6.95 and the French traditional Bourguignon dish costing £7.45.
I passed on a dessert as I was just to full. Only my mother and brother chose a pudding and they were both substantial in size and ingredients. Mum chose spotted dick and custard. The slice of spotted dick was nearly as large as a house brick and the container it came served in was full of golden yellow custard which was delicious and not too sweet according to my Ma. Bro's choice of dessert was carrot cake, home-made, the sort with cream coloured fondant icing on the top and in the centre. It looked heavy but he said it was as light as a feather and to this he added fresh cream poured from a jug. I don't know where he puts it all but he is tall and does a physical job so I guess he needs the calories.
There is a breakfast, international and light snack menu. I thought the breakfast menu looked rather appetising and I think on an early morning it would be nice to sit on the patio eating a croissant or toasted teacake; even the fry up is tempting or the smoked mackerel and Belgian pate on toast. You think the international menu would have excited me but it is just a run of the mill menu with meals like Chilli con Carne, Lasagne, Moussaka and Sweet and Sour chicken. Nothing too inspirational there although I am sure the meals will be cooked well and taste fine. The snack menu is quite extensive covering a large selection of hot and cold baguettes, jacket potatoes, salads, omelettes. Stilton and mushroom in a jacket spud sounds delicious - might try that at home. Baguettes are priced at £3.25 and jacket spuds from 75p to £1.20 which seems very cheap.
I enjoyed visiting The Churches Restaurant and tasting some good old fashioned English grub. The bill came to £33 as we included my brother's food as well - being Mum's treat. I don't think that is a bad price for 4 main meals, 2 desserts, 2 pots of tea (brother had one) and a mineral water. The food isn't haute cuisine but the dishes are well cooked, served with a smile in a cosy environment. I wouldn't eat this sort of food often but it's nice once in a while and makes a change from pierogi, beetroot, gherkins and smoked hams.
You can find Churches restaurant at:
14 Church Street
Telephone Number +44 (0) 1205 361875
If you visit by car you will have to leave the vehicle in one of the public car parks in the town or try to find a space on one of the near by streets.