Community cafés are worth checking out

Soup at the Cross Street Centre.

Soup at the Cross Street Centre. - Credit: Archant

Tucked away from the hustle and bustle of St Albans city centre is a lovely café I’d like to tell you about. The Cross Street Centre is a light, spacious venue that is an absolute bargain and who doesn’t appreciate that in January?

Part of the Dagnall Street Baptist Church, the café is run by a small team who make most of the food themselves, including all the lovely bakes and cakes. It's open 10am-2pm every day except Sunday, so it's perfect for a morning coffee, a light lunch or to take your laptop in and get some work done. When I popped in there were toddlers enjoying the spacious carpeted space too, and everyone is welcome (yes, even dogs).

There are short menus on the tables and then head over to the counter to order, where the soups and cakes change with the seasons. I had a lovely bowl of vegetable soup, which was only £4 - I would have liked a home-baked cheese scone to go with it, as mentioned on the menu, which sounded lovely, but they had sold out of those (the regulars know!).

If you want something more substantial, jacket potatoes are £4.70 with the classic fillings available, such as coleslaw, baked beans and cheese. Toasted sandwiches, including tuna melt are very popular, and they do a good range of cold sandwiches such as Coronation chicken, salmon and cucumber and egg and cress. They do a hearty ploughman's lunch too. If you need a quick, nutritious breakfast while in St Albans, scrambled eggs on toast for a fiver is a pretty good deal or just get some toast for 90p for two slices.

I was very impressed by the range of home-baked cakes and puds, which had a lovely old-school vibe. Bread pudding, crumpets and mincemeat cake were available when I went in, and one of the customers told me that trifle is very popular, and at just £2 a pud, that is an affordable treat.

The café does a decent coffee, with all the tea and coffee being FairTrade, and the prices are more in line with the chains, with a latte or flat white around the £2.20 mark. You get a discount if you take in your own reusable cup, and I chatted to a couple of regulars who were doing just that.

I love that there is somewhere affordable to head to in the city centre, and that your food is made for you, with a warm welcome. All profits go back into the church and of course help to keep the café open for all.

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There are a few church community cafés dotted around St Albans. I have heard fab things about the food over at St Julians (Thursdays 10am-3pm) where they do homemade cakes, soups, bacon sandwiches and toasties. Any profits are passed on to local charities. You are very welcome to take your laptop in to do some work or use one of their own computers, with wifi access, or have a chat. The Vineyard is well-known in the community for its food bank and you can also pop into their café The Blend Bar, where again the coffee and tea is Fairtrade. And of course, the café at the Cathedral is now open again, having spent over a year in the marquee outside. If you haven't yet been in to the new visitor centre, it is a wonderful place to explore, then head into the café for a snack, coffee or lunch.

At a time when profit seems to be all, it is worth noticing that there are community groups in the area who want to bring people together and offer something affordable. Of course they are pleased if you are interested in religion, but this is St Albans after all, and we do have quite a history of that!