Have you ever eaten a meal in a bookshop?
(I don’t mean when you sneak food into Indigo or Barnes and Noble or Waterstone’s to eat while you read books you never intend to buy).
Chances are, most people haven’t eaten a meal in a bookshop because most bookshops don’t moonlight as restaurants. As unlikely as it sounds, that’s not the case in Hastings, England, where an Old Town second-hand bookshop spends its evenings dishing out some of the best Thai food in the county.
Boulevard Bookshop and Thai Cafe in Hastings, photo thanks to their website
Owned and operated by husband and wife Graham and June, Boulevard Bookshop and Thai Cafe is perhaps one of the most surprising and enjoyable things about Hastings. June, originally from Thailand, cooks up a two-course feast every evening for the eight or so tables crammed into the tiny bookshop. Diners reserve well in advance, bring their own wine (Boulevard charges a measly £2 corkage fee), and peruse the paperback titles as the delicious Thai flavours drift into every corner of the shop.
The menu at Boulevard varies slightly, but usually rotates between a few staple dishes, including spicy chicken with basil (Kai-Kra-Paow), beef curry (Panaeng Nau), and my favourite – green chicken curry (Kaeng Kiow Wan Kai).
June emerges to take orders and to customise dishes to your tastes, whether you like things fiery and spicy or whiteboy mild, she takes care to consider every diner’s requests. Her husband, Graham, takes care of the front of house, making reservations, seating guests, and being a genial and welcoming host.
One of the few tables at Boulevard, perfect for a cozy night! Photo thanks to their website.
When, after about three tries, we finally managed to score a reservation at Boulevard, we were very much looking forward to our experience. We lucked out with a cute table tucked in the corner of a bookshelf, and pulled titles off the racks when one struck our fancy. Across from us was the travel section, which was yet another thing to be excited about.
Among the many lovely things about Boulevard is the fact that when you book a table, it’s yours for as long as you want it, so you never feel rushed. As such, we sat and enjoyed our wine, savoured our meals, and delighted in the endlessly interesting and engaging surroundings.
As random as it sounds, one of the best Thai meals I’ve ever had was in the small, less-than-glamourous English seaside town of Hastings, tucked in the corner of a second-hand bookshop. Who’d have thought?