“ Address: 4-6 New Street / Boston / Lincolnshire / PE21 6ST / Tel: 01205 362753 „
It's a long time since I lived in England and there aren't many things I miss now about the place. In fact I can probably count them on one hand - sense of humour, obviously, bacon butties (but then my favourite bacon is usually Danish so I can't count that one), Hobnobs, Marmite and Fish and Chips but then I'm not sure if it is just the smell of fish and chips I miss or the actually dish.
On my last trip to UK a few weeks ago I spent 3 days in Boston, Lincolnshire. Why? Good question. The answer is that my siblings live there and have lived there for most of their lives and my parents have recently moved back to be close to them now they are getting older. So on this grand family visit my Ma decided to treat my little Polish family to lunch one day in Boston town.
There are two fish/chips restaurants in Boston and both have excellent reputations so it was difficult to choose. One is called, Eagles, and this is a little way out of the town centre and then there is Tate's, a family run business which has been trading for well over a hundred years. As Ma's legs aren't up to walking far these days we opted for Tate's as we had been sat in the central park and the chippie isn't too far away.
Where do we find Tate's?
Tate's is very central on New Street, a little set back on its own not far from Argos. There is a small road at the back of the restaurant which leads to the library and market square. You can't miss the aroma and the building does stand out as it is old-fashioned looking, painted in maroon and cream. I always think the shop front looks like it should be situated in the Yorkshire Dales for some reason.
Do you need to book?
No. But the place is always busy so get there early or else you will have to queue especially before 12 and 4pm (tea time). There are flimsy aluminium tables outside which seat 4 people. The day we visited was very warm and we would have loved to sit outside but every table was taken. So inside we went.......
Did we get a welcome?
No, we didn't. As you enter the restaurant the counter and frying area is on the right and obviously people queue here waiting for their chip butties, fish etc to be wrapped so they can take them to their car or walk around eating them in the open. The downstairs area is a lot smaller than upstairs and was already crowded. We decided not to go upstairs with a pram as we would have to fight the queue so we chose a table near to the window. As soon as we placed our bums on the seats a fishwife sort of bellow echoed through....'you can't bring a pram in here - it will have to be folded up and moved out of the way. There is a door there - people need to get by.' All these words spoken in a harsh grating Lincolnshire accent devoid of charm. I winced, smiled and thought, 'Welcome to Lincolnshire'. I know now why I never lived there once I had grown up. Once we had folded and moved the pram to the designated area we went back to our table and tried to get enthusiastic about eating in this establishment.
Being shouted at as soon as you enter a restaurant isn't the most welcoming of attitudes and we were a bit taken aback but because we were hungry we let it roll and got on with the job in hand - ordering from the menu.
Before looking at the menu I had a good look round at the decor and what other people were eating.
I had eaten in Tate's a couple of times before but years ago and I couldn't really remember anything about it. I know that a Fish and Chips restaurant isn't going to be overflowing with decorative artefacts. No Picassos or Dalis, linen tablecloths, fresh cut flowers here. I accepted that. Eating in places that are down to earth can be a refreshing experience but I am not so sure this was one of those times. Basically, the dining area was cluttered with wooden tables covered in plastic tablecloths not leaving much room for anything else. I don't mind a plastic tablecloth as you can buy some zany, kitsch designs but these were rather bland. The usual salt, vinegar and sauce bottles stood proudly on top of the cloth like tiny soldiers on parade. The restaurant wall was half-tiled with old fashioned tiles that reminded me of public toilets and there were numerous certificates and newspaper cuttings framed for all to see that they indeed did serve the best fish and chips in Lincolnshire.
But did they..........read on.......
Having spotted the burly. loud-mouthed waitress delivering a tray of fish and chips to the table in front of ours I was a bit disappointed in what I saw. Yes, the plate was piled to the top with chips but the fish seemed rather small. The fish's outer armour looked very shiny and oily. The thought of so much grease lining my arteries put me off immediately and I decided that I would order something else.
When the waitress came to our table we asked for a high chair for my granddaughter. She huffed and puffed but eventually came up with one. Did we get a smile - no not yet? Where we ready to order? Yes, I think so. Fish, chips and mushy peas twice, steak and kidney pie and chips, chicken nuggets and chips, 2 glasses of fizzy orange and two teas. I suppose the worst thing you can do in a chippie is to order a pie or chicken nuggets but I didn't fancy the fish and you can't really go wrong with a pie. Just bung it in the microwave wait for the ping and hey, presto instant food. My daughter-in-law ordered chicken nuggets so she could give some to my granddaughter and she had eaten fish the previous night in another restaurant (will review later).
With super efficiency our steam roller waitress tottered off to get our order and oh boy, I think we nearly captured a smile when she returned with our meals. The pure smile of a 17 month old baby can melt even the stoniest of hearts.
The plates were white, huge and filled with so many chips they were cascading down from the porcelain on to the table. My Ma was first to be served followed by my son. They ordered fish, chips and mushy peas. First impressions of their food - Fat, insipid, not at all mouth watering. As for the fish - what a strange shape - sort of oblong covered in a treble layer of batter. Peas were okay - fluorescent green. Well, that's normal for mushies - they always look radio active. My plate came next - steak and kidney pie and chips. No gravy. That cost extra - why didn't I notice that on the menu? My verdict - pie was tasty - nice fluffy puff pastry , plenty of succulent steak and the odd bit of kidney with quite a good dollop of gravy inside the pie but I wish I had ordered extra gravy. It would have tasted much nicer. As for the chips they were horrible - they looked like insipid slugs sat on my plate and after tasting two I gave the rest to my son. I don't know what they were cooked in but whatever it was left a greasy residue on the roof of my mouth and for the rest of the afternoon I was very thirsty. 4/10 for my meal and that's for the pie.
My Ma was sat next to me and I asked her if I could taste some fish once she had cut into the batter. The batter was really greasy and the fish was tasteless and didn't flake easily so I was glad I didn't order this meal. I don't think my son was bowled over with his fish and chips either but he doesn't like to leave anything and did eat it all.
As for my poor daughter-in-law her meal was really tasteless. Same old fat chips with about 8 small chicken nuggets but they weren't made from real chicken. She said they were fatty and reconstituted. To make her meal look more attractive it was decorated with a lettuce leaf, one slice of tomato and cucumber and at the side of the plate a small plastic pot of cole-slaw. She enjoyed the cole-slaw!
Overall, a very disappointing experience. Perhaps my taste-buds have changed or the standard of cooking here in Tate's has changed but I can honestly say the food was awful. A plate of fish, chips and mushy peas cost £6.50, pie and chips cost £4.50 as did the chicken nuggets dish. I know it is basic food but it's still a bit pricey and I don't think worth the price. This chippie is well situated in the centre of Boston and frequented not only by locals, market stall holders and shoppers but by out of town visitors. It has always had a good reputation and I was one to rate the restaurant but from this last experience I have changed my mind. I didn't like the food and found the waiting staff abrupt and rude. I certainly won't return and probably give up on fish and chips altogether. Perhaps it is only the smell that I find evocative or perhaps I should have gone to Eagles!