Discover Harpenden's newest restaurant
PUBLISHED: 12:52 18 November 2019 | UPDATED: 12:52 18 November 2019
Rothamsted is the reason that Harpenden exists in many ways, with the estate dating back to 1212. Walking through the grounds over the past year, I have noticed that they are doing various events to open it out to the public, including afternoon teas in the beautiful old manor house and film nights with dinner in the main building, and I was intrigued. I'm always interested to find somewhere new to eat for our readers, so I went along to find out more.
The Rothamsted Restaurant is in the more modern building on the left as you enter the site from the main Harpenden Road, and it is a busy daytime restaurant for those working in the research centre. Did you know it is also open to the public, and you are very welcome to go in for a coffee, have lunch or even work for a couple of hours? The restaurant is a large, light-filled space with seating outside too when the weather is better, but even on a winter day, it feels like a lovely place to be, with lots of plants (naturally) softening the space.
Lunch is a steal, and for about £6 you can get an excellent lunch, cooked by Head Chef Jeremy Beasley and team. Jez explained that he always has four main course hot options (always vegetarian, vegan, fish and meat), and this changes all the time. You might see vegetable biryani, roasted butternut squash and coconut curry, aubergine parmigiana, smoked mackerel bubble and squeak, katsu chicken curry, salmon teriyaki or Mongolian chicken with peanuts, for example. Veggie and vegan food is very popular, which might be expected for a workforce who are experts in plants and the environment!
You can buy sandwiches, salads, jacket potatoes and soup, as well as puddings, cakes and cookies. It is open during the week 8.30am-4.30pm (except for Friday when it closes at 4pm).
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I went along to one of their evening events, when the atmosphere is more fine dining, and we had an amazing vegan meal, including pithivier of garlic-roasted vegetables, Yorkshire pudding onion loaf and curried cauliflower burger. The pithivier had excellent pastry, with pretty layers of vegetables. My chocolate and orange pannacotta was delicious, and yes, still vegan (no animal gelatine). I had a great chat with Jez who explained that he is taking the restaurant in a more sustainable direction, with coffee grounds for collection, fewer suppliers and there is even going to be a wormery. The next step would be to take out the giant drinks fridge with the plastic bottles of water and just go with the glasses and tap water.
I love that they have teamed up with Farr Brewery to make their own Rothamsted Beer (the hops come from wheat grown on site), which is for sale in the restaurant (£10 for three bottles in a box, or £3.80 per bottle). You can sometimes also get Rothamsted Honey from hives in the grounds too, although it gets snapped up fast!
The afternoon teas that you might have heard about take place in the lovely Grade I listed Manor House on various Sundays between May and September, so look out for those again next year. They have a couple of lovely rooms for private parties, and they hold cream teas on the lawns in the summer.
Film nights look fun in the run-up to Christmas, and you can book dinner in the restaurant beforehand too (kids welcome of course). It is lovely to see that they are selling Darlish ice cream during the films. Ring 01582 938500 for more info.
I was really interested to hear that Henry Dimbleby (founder of Leon and the Sustainable Restaurant Association) visited recently as part of his research into the new National Food Strategy (our first in 75 years). As Rothamsted are world-leaders in agricultural research and development, I am sure there was a lot to talk about.
Do pop in for lunch one day, and you will see the various posters around advertising forthcoming events. It is a fascinating place to spend time, and the food is delicious!