Once an industrial no man’s land between SZR and the old Hard Rock Café, Al Quoz is now an established destination with repurposed warehouses providing places for expression, play, retail, and restaurants. The Original Gangsta of the Al Quoz scene, The Courtyard continues to hold off competition and remains one of the coolest alleyways in Dubai.
Tucked away in the lush foliage of The Courtyard is a wonderful little cobblestone walkway called The Collective. The Collective is a modern-day Souk, showcasing a collection of concept stores, designers, and shops from local vendors. It’s a posh hippy market – think Portobello Road market except with maids, Range Rovers and AC.
Boston Lane is the latest addition to The Collective and replaces its previous occupant, Brew with pastel peaches and eggshell blues, pink terrazzo, rattan weaves, riad archways and whitewashed wood. It is a café that has charm and character in abundance, and I desperately wanted to fall in love with it.
However, I say this with utmost affection and honesty, but I wish they had applied the same amount of care and detail to how the place operated as they did to how it looked. Customer friendly, it is not – especially when busy. Awkward queuing systems, bottleneck collection points, no menus until you reach the counter and no table numbering systems. It puts such unnecessary stress on the guest experience.
Boston Lane’s hero products are coffee and toasted sandwiches, which is an eclectic combination. They serve other deli options, such as chia seed puddings, smashed avo pots, salads and pastries, but they pride themselves on homemade toasties and coffee from local roasters, Nightjar Coffee.
We ordered the breaky roll, chicken on rye, mac ’n’ cheese toastie and a Mexican salad. I ordered a flat white because the lovely girl who took our order was Australian and The Serb ordered a mint and lemonade juice because she liked the colour.
Like Starbucks, they ask for your name and call you when your order is ready. In these situations, I like to give superhero alter ego names. Steve Rogers, Peter Parker, Diana Prince – you get the idea. That day I was Stanley Beamish, A.K.A Mr. Terrific. Stan for short.
We eventually found a table, and I refused to let the Serb engage in conversation as I had to be ready to jump up the moment I heard my name called. It was my bat signal. In hindsight, it was a foolish move, as she picked up her wallet and wandered off to peruse the various collections of beautiful things we definitely don’t need at home.
Eventually, I heard my name called, and Mr. Terrific sprang into action. I approached the crowded counter with my receipt held high as if it was my passport and I was trying to enter my embassy in a foreign country during a civil riot. I made it to the front and collected my flat white coffee. Nothing else was ready. At this rate, I would have to make an additional five journeys to complete our order. Thank God, I had chosen Mr. Terrific.
The place was busy with a great mix of nationalities. Locals and expats mingled, taking Instagram pictures, smelling soy candles, convincing themselves they needed a beautiful looking bicycle from The Movement, or a wicker lamp shade from Tribe. It was a testament to the attractiveness of the space and created a wonderful atmosphere.
Meanwhile, in Boston Lane, after several frantic dashes to the counter, we eventually had our drinks and toasted sandwiches.
Unfortunately, the toasties were largely underwhelming. The mac ‘n’ cheese filling was unseasoned and bland, and the bread was dry and crumbled into pieces as you ate it. It was the same with the breaky roll – a dry brioche bun with underseasoned eggs and stringy veal bacon. The rye bread fared better, but again, the chicken mayo filling lacked flavour and seasoning.
The good thing is these are not unfixable issues – encourage the chef to taste the seasoning levels, focus on getting a better bread delivery schedule, and most of the problems are solved. The concept of Boston Lane is wonderful, and I am sure they will iron out these niggly little things in due course.
Mr. Terrific’s final trip to the embassy counter was for the Mexican salad. The salad consisted of baby spinach, sweetcorn, kidney beans and shredded cabbage and squirted over the top was the most unfortunate looking dressing I have ever seen. If your dressing must have that consistency and colour, it is advisable to toss your salad first.
Overall, Boston Lane is a delightfully quaint little DIY café that is a perfect spot for a quiet afternoon chatting with friends, reading books or writing your latest blog. It has its quirks, which I think is part of the appeal.
I did mention earlier that I desperately wanted to fall in love with the place – If they can improve their toasties, focus on the guest experience a little more and provide me with a proper Bat-signal, I definitely think love is possible.
Lunch for two – 168 AED