100 reasons to celebrate St Albans food and drink
PUBLISHED: 10:04 20 June 2013 | UPDATED: 10:04 20 June 2013
Happy birthday to The Herts Advertiser food column! This is my 100th column about local food – how time has flown by!
When Herts Advertiser editor Matt Adams first approached me to write a column about local food, I don’t think either of us realised there would be 100 things to say, but here we are three years later, still going strong.
Our local area is extremely lucky to have so many independent businesses, and they bring vitality and variety to our neighbourhood. Matt asked me if I could list 100 reasons why our local food is so good – I took a deep breath, and here they are, in no particular order! If your favourite is missing, do drop me a line and tell me, and maybe they will make it into the next 100!
1. Hedges Farm – award-winning beef, lamb and pork raised just outside St Albans. Blink and you’ll miss the tiny sign telling you where to turn in.
2. Redbournbury Mill – Organic flour is milled by the old watermill and baked in the tiny bakery next door. Featured on Paul Hollywood’s Bread show.
3. Hawkswick Lodge fruit farm – Halfway between St Albans and Harpenden for delicious pick-your-own raspberries, strawberries, blackcurrants and gooseberries.
4. Godfrey’s Fish & Chips, Harpenden – Made with love and tasting as good as anything you can get by the sea.
5. Heaven is a Cupcake and Dixie’s Cupcakes – Small businesses showing that there are young entrepeneurs out there, doing a great job. Lucy Clark, owner of Heaven is a Cupcake made the cake shown in the photograph.
6. Ye Olde Fighting Cocks – The oldest pub in the country? Probably. Its location by Verulamium Park and the Abbey make it a destination for visitors and locals.
7. Inn on the Park – Pretty Verulamium Park setting and good, home-made food. Perfect for families.
8. Bourngiorno Italia – Much-loved deli on Lattimore Road. The fab ice cream, Italian treats and the charming staff make this a true local gem.
9. The Farmers’ Markets in St Albans, Harpenden and Wheathamstead – For good value vegetables and delicious food including smoked fish, meats, pies, cakes, vegetables, fruits and breads.
10. Kashu – Popular local independent restaurant with owner Gels at the helm. The hog-roasts they serve at the farmers’ market are very popular too.
11. The Olive Stall, Saturday market – For the olives, and large juicy pieces of feta cheese.
12. The Foragers – The walks and the imaginative menus. Tempura of dandelions and daisies anyone?
13. The Pudding Stop – Beloved by every commuter coming out of St Albans train station. If Johnny is not there, my heart sinks. Look out for the new shop coming soon to Verulam Road.
14. Soko Coffee – Charlie and her van have a loyal fanbase happy to queue and miss their train – Charlie is there through the snow and rain to bring well sourced, delicious fresh coffee to commuters.
15. Earthworks – A community garden, providing work where needed and producing organic fruit and vegetables.
16. Highfield Park Trust – Community orchard growing apples and producing delicious juice that sells out very quickly. The Annual Apple Day is a lovely family event.
17. Willows Farm – For the giant pumpkin patch in Autumn.
18. The Bakehouse, St Albans – For stylish café in a great location by The Abbey, and fab food.
19. The Courtyard Café – Home-made food, actually made by the owner, using ingredients from their small garden. I love the home-made soups, served with Redbournbury Mill bread.
20. Country Markets Stall, associated to the WI, at the Farmers’ Markets – For marmalades, jams, cakes and treats that you would make yourself if you had the time.
21. Mokoko – A little piece of London tucked away on Verulam Road – the Pornstar martini is a firm favourite with locals, even though it’s hardly ever on the menu!
22. Picnics in Verulamium Park.
23. The Waffle House – A St Albans institution. Uses flour from Redbournbury Mill and is always busy.
24. Lussmanns – As Giles Coren said “everything a local restaurant should be, so thank heavens for that”.
25. Baking courses at Redbounbury Mill – lead by baker Steven Mansbridge.
26. The Hub, Redbourn – A good excuse to get on your bike, and ride there for cake.
27. Rollings Wine Company, Harpenden.
28. CAMRA and the legendary Beer Festival.
29. Afternoon tea at Luton Hoo, Sopwell House and St Michael’s Manor.
30. Shenley Park Apple Day.
31. The Orchard Tea Room in Shenley Park – Good value breakfasts right next to the play area.
32. Darcys – For its stylish surroundings, yummy and imaginative food, cocktails, and the Two Kangaroos pickle range is lovely too!
33. Hot cross buns from The Abbey – The original recipe comes from here, and is only made in the weeks leading up to Easter.
34. Pasteria napoletana and enormous Easter eggs from Bourngiorno Italia in the weeks leading up to Easter.
35. Kelley’s Homemade sloe gin – Sold at the markets in time for Christmas.
36. The Christmas Turkey queues – Particularly at A&C Meats, where they sometimes serve mulled wine to keep everyone cheerful.
37. Jelley’s Meats, Southdown – For an excellent traditional butchers, and fab range of sausages.
38. Jay’s Deli, Southdown – For Monmouth coffee and hearty pies.
39. Oaklands eggs – From chickens raised by the students at Oaklands college.
40. Pep-it-up jellies – Award-winning preserve maker from Croxley Green.
41. Pub walks lead by The St Albans Tour Guides.
42. Ghost tour and dinners at The White Hart Hotel, Holywell Hill.
43. A&C Meats, Catherine Street – Showing that independent butchers can thrive. Excellent chicken and game birds.
44. The Real Meat Company, Wheathamstead – Tucked away on Mill Walk, well worth seeking out.
45. Kimpton May Fair – Vicarage cake stall and Pimm’s tent. Put it in your diary for next May bank holiday!
46. Abbey Café – Perfect after a walk in Verulamium Park. You can sometimes see the choirs having their tea break. Be sure to book for the best value, and most atmospheric Christmas lunch in the area!
47. The World’s Biggest Coffee Morning – Held every year at the St Albans fire station. A worthwhile cause and a great excuse to hang-out with the firemen.
48. The Breakfast Club, Stanhope Road – Be prepared to queue for weekend brunch, but the home-made breakfasts and juices are worth it.
49. Griffith Park sparkling wine – Produced by Harpenden resident Islay Kennedy.
50. Cellar Door – Their wine tastings are terrific and you need to book ahead. The Winter Walkaround is perfect when you need to choose special Christmas wines.
51. Chilli Raj – In a city with many good Indian restaurants, this one stands out.
52. Chez Mumtaj – Imaginative Indian food with a French influence.
53. Handmade and Heavenly Christmas puddings – By Inez Rosen. Inez’s prize-winning puds have won a Great Taste Awards Gold Star.
54. Blackberry picking at secret locations around St Albans and Harpenden...
55. Boerwors sausage from The Bok and Rose in How Wood – Packed full of treats for anyone feeling homesick for South Africa.
56. Battlers Green Farm Shop – Well worth exploring for lots of local goodies and The Bull Pen café is very good too.
57. Maine Sail fish shop, Battlers Green Farm – A terrific selection of fresh fish from Billingsgate market.
58. The Farmer’s Boy, London Road – Home to The Verulam Brewery. Try Farmer’s Joy and hang-out with the CAMRA devotees.
59. The St Albans Food and Drink Festival – For the pop-up restaurants and food stalls, as well as wine tasting events and cookery demonstrations.
60. The St Albans Food and Drink Festival Awards party – Like an annual work do for all the local restaurants, bars, pubs and cafés.
61. The St Albans and Mid Herts Caldedonian Society Burn’s Night Supper.
62. Childwickbury Summer and Christmas Fairs – For fab pop-up food stalls and home-made cakes.
63. Andrea Hill’s syrups and preserves – Made with plums from the Childwickbury estate.
64. Personal advice on choosing wine from Julia Jenkins, owner of Flagship Wines – It is an Aladdin’s Cave of wine treasures and the best source of British wine in the area.
65. Fairtrade status for Harpenden and St Albans – Some cafés and shops are brilliant at stocking Fairtrade goods – come on the rest of you!
66. Transition St Albans – Local group who encourage us all to grow more of our own food, and reduce food miles. The annual Open Food Gardens are well wroth visiting for tips on how to grow your own fruit, vegetables and herbs.
67. The Oxfam shops – For selling a good range of Fairtrade and Zaytoun products, from chocolate to olive oil.
68. Poulter’s Fish stall, St Albans saturday market – Much of their fish is sourced from UK shores, including Newlyn, Falmouth, Broadstairs and Brighton. A wonderful selection that reflects the seasons. And they will chop the heads off and fillet the fish for you.
69. Childwickbury goats cheese – If it’s good enough for Will and Kate’s wedding, it is good enough for us.
70. Harvest festivals in many local churches – including St Peters and St Julians.
71. The Annual Pumpkin and Apple Gala at Luton Hoo Walled Garden – Pumpkins of every size and shape, and lots of decorated ones too!
72. The Gingerbread Man café, Harpenden – Past winner of the Family Friendly award. The same team look after the very good Nectar House café in Butterfly World too.
73. The annual Shrove Tuesday pancake race in Market Square, St Albans – Bonkers and highly competitive.
74. Eating and drinking in a lovely pub garden – Some of my favourites include The Blue Anchor and The White Lion on Fishpool Street, Ye Olde Fighting Cocks by Verulamium Park, and The Brocket Arms in Ayot St Lawrence
75. Carpenter’s Nursery, Sandridge Road – Excellent quality seasonal vegetables and fruit, with most grown on their own nearby site.
76. Our atmospheric ancient pubs, serving good beer – There are so many that do a great job, including The Boot, The Farmer’s Boy, The Cock, The King Harry – which is your favourite?
77. Street parties – Give us a good excuse and we love to throw a street party! The Big Lunch, Jubilee, The Olympics, village fetes. If there isn’t one in your area, why not organise one for this year?
78. That Little Place, Harpenden – British food that changes with the seasons. A little gem.
79. The Herts County Show – A terrific day out for families and the local farming community.
80. Hammonds End Farm, near Harpenden – Growing organic wheat and spelt to be milled ready to go off to independent bakeries.
81. Knebworth East of England Food Fair – Held in April each year.
82. Oaklands Young Chef of the Year competition – A chance for our young stars to shine.
83. The Osprey Saddlery café, Coopers Green Lane – A very pretty courtyard garden and tiny café that serves locally sourced foods, including gluten-free cakes. Well worth the cycle ride there.
84. The Village Flapjack Company – You can find these locally hand-made flapjacks in many local cafes and shops including Jay’s in Southdown.
85. Juice Dub – Funky VW camper van based in St Albans town centre during the week. Great for fresh fruit smoothies.
86. My Faithful Friend gourmet dog treats – Available at the Kimpton summer fair and Whitwell farmers markets. The “chocolate frogs” were a huge hit with our testers!
87. Pistachio Square chocolates – Bespoke chocolates for weddings and parties.
88. Queen of Herts celebration cakes – Award-winning cakes from Harpenden. For the best fruit cake you have ever tried!
89. Sweet Lily home-made preserves – Try the rhubarb and strawberry jam, made with local ingredients.
90. Hatch – Fantastic coffee and delicious, seasonal lunches served in The Maltings, St Albans. If its cold, hot pots and soups appear, even in June. The chains just can’t do that. And it’s much better value than the nearby chains. A gem!
91. “Any bowl for a pound!” – The St Albans Saturday market vegetable stalls are fantastic value. You can get anything from giant watermelons and bowls of mangoes to delicate purple sprouting broccoli. At prices the supermarkets can’t match.
92. The Cheese Wheeler – A van packed with cheese with a wonderful selection of British cheeses, including Cornish Yarg, Cropwell Bishop and a range of cheddars. Delicious!
93. Copley and Buckley honey – Produced by local bees, living in the Marshalswick area. Only a few jars are available each year, and if it is very rainy, then the bees don’t like to leave their hives, so even less is made.
94. Sycamore Wholefoods – Based on Hatfield Road and St Albans market (for over 35 years). Excellent source of grains, pulses, nuts, teas, herbs and all sorts of healthy foods that you can’t find anywhere else.
95. The Lily Lounge, Harpenden – Tucked away at the top of the High Street, this café serves excellent home-made cakes and light lunches. A nice spot to sit outside too, to watch the world go by.
96. The Local Kitchen – Small local catering company that uses local, seasonal ingredients. Cooks the food you would make if you had the time!
97. The Peahen – Always busy bar, hugely popular with locals.
98. H&H Fried chicken and kebabs – So good Enter Shikari wrote a song about it. If you get off the train late at night and starving, this is the place to head to.
99. Thai Rack, George Street – The first restaurant I ever ate in in St Albans. It hasn’t changed much, and the food is just as delicious. Very pretty location too.
100. The Charter Market in St Albans, every Wednesday and Saturday – People come from all over the country, and we are very lucky to have a thriving, traditional market in the heart of our city!
You can also read about many of these places and read articles from the last three years at my blog thelocalfoodie.wordpress.com.
If you value what this story gives you, please consider supporting the Herts Advertiser. Click the link in the orange box above for details.