Column: Battening down the Hatch
PUBLISHED: 09:41 14 February 2013 | UPDATED: 09:41 14 February 2013
Whether she's sampling sausages, chomping cheese, sipping wine or munching on apples, Herts Advertiser food writer Becky Alexander is looking for the finest local produce from the St Albans district, and will be sharing her discoveries with readers in her fortnightly column.
Hatch is such a good idea you wonder why it hasn’t been done already. Opposite the bandstand in the Maltings in St Albans, entrepeneur Chris Evans has opened ‘Hatch’, which is exactly as the name suggests – a serving hatch selling fantastic food to take away. Have you spotted it yet?
If you work in St Albans town centre, you now have a great new option for a good value, delicious lunch. If you like Leon, Eat and Pret, this is the place to head for, as you can pick up excellent boxed salads, hearty hand-made sandwiches, as well as hot soups and hotpots. Chef Andy is also producing freshly baked pizzas, straight from the pizza oven tucked away in the kitchen behind the hatch.
When I popped by, the sandwiches included free-range chicken, pancetta, avocado and lemon mayo; chorizo, spinach, yellow pepper and chipotle mayo; and hummus, roasted pepper and rocket. Prices are around the £3-4 mark.
The hotpot of the day was chorizo, red pepper and chickpea with smoky tomato and paprika, served with bloomer bread from Flour Power Organic City Bakery, which is delivered fresh each morning. Perfect for a freezing day.
You can just go and grab a coffee. The coffee is hand-roasted in Cornwall by Origin, and tastes delicious. Origin have an excellent reputation and have good working relationships with the farmers who supply the beans. They also use the world’s first environmentally friendly roasting machine.
You can pick up an espresso for £1.50 and a regular tall black for £2 which gives neighbour Costa a serious challenge! And this week if you bought a coffee before 10am you got a free croissant. I don’t think you can beat that for value.
Look out for their delicious, freshly baked cakes that they are making themselves at the moment. I really enjoyed the bara brith fruit loaf – perfect with a cup of tea. It is lovely to see a classic British recipe on sale, and I kid myself that it’s a fairly healthy cake option!
You might recognise Chris from his time working as manager at Lussmann’s nearby. André was, of course, one of the first customers. Chris lives in St Albans and knows the area and people well, so he has done his research into what we want.
As he explained: “The idea behind Hatch is a simple one – to bring good quality, hand-made, interesting food and really good UK roasted coffee to St Albans. Local residents, workers and shoppers are particularly knowledgeable about food and have sophisticated tastes and are familiar with Leon, Eat and Pret. They have been looking for a local equivalent and that’s what Hatch offers”.
I think he has got it just right. Hatch opened just a few weeks ago when we had the snow, but they stayed open and already have lots of regular customers. I can imagine when we have good weather, this will be the place to go to to grab food and drinks before heading towards the parks and gardens in the town centre. They also have a few wooden tables and chairs nearby so you can sit and enjoy a break if you like.
The shop itself is smart and funky and Chris explained how the wood came from St Albans Wood Recycling in Fleetville and how Maurizio Dominici came to the site and made the worktop and counter in situ.
Parts of the kitchen are made from recycled scaffolding and Chris did much of the work himself.
Hatch is open every day, from 7am-5pm Monday to Friday, so you can pick up breakfast bright and early on your way into work. It will also be open at the weekends, 9am-5pm on Saturday and 9am-4pm on Sunday.
These boys work hard, and have plans to do delivery to local business, and catering too. Visit www.hatchstalbans.com for more info or call in to talk to Chris. We wish them every success!