Hidden treasures at new deli

Alex Johnson in the Marlowe House Deli

Alex Johnson in the Marlowe House Deli - Credit: Archant

Tucked away down St Alban’s very own Diagon Alley is a new little shop of treasures. Behind an old curved window and below a sign showing a knife and fork you will find Marlowe and House, a new deli in the Village Arcade. It is a place to go to buy delicious food, without having to venture into nearby neon supermarkets.

Marlowe and House opened just a couple of weeks ago, as owner Alex Johnson explains “out of a rather selfish desire to surround ourselves with fine ingredients, beautiful produce and proper food lovers”.

The deli is small, but everything in it has been hand-picked and offers choice that you can’t get in the chains. I was really impressed to see British charcuterie from Cannon & Cannon who sell in Borough Market. The only other place locally that you can buy this is at The Foragers. I tried venison “salami” sausage and weal, lemon and thyme sausage; both were meaty, rich and full of flavour.

There is a real trend for Brits making meat preserves now; we are so used to buying Italian deli meats that we have perhaps overlooked that we have all the ingredients in the UK to make our own. The Kentish wild fennel and garlic sausages were my favourite and each whole sausage costs just £3.50.

Alex can slice up the sausages by hand to your specification if you like; they are good for eating as they are or work very well in cooking, replacing the ubiquitous chorizo.

Bread is supplied by George from local baker Ushers. On the day I visited there were cob loaves, poppy seed bloomers and a spelt loaf, selling at very sensible prices.

Another local company Sparshotts supply all the fruit and vegetables, so you can pick up essentials such as potatoes and tomatoes, as well as butternut squash and huge red onions that you might need to prepare your supper. You can buy oil and vinegar from tapped containers; the idea is you bring your own bottle and buy only what you need. You can also taste it so you are not buying blind. The shop also stocks Sweet Lily preserves, made in Sandridge.

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The cheese counter is bound to be one of the main reasons people visit Marlowe and House as it offers one of the best selections outside of the Cheesewheeler on market days. Cornish Yarg and Colston Basset stilton are there, as is the most delicious Red Leicester I have ever eaten. As Alex said, when he tried the Hoe Stevenson Red Leicester, it was a “game-changer” for him; it has the chalky, mouth-watering texture you expect from an excellent cheddar with the rich flavour of a Red Leicester. At just £1.50 for 100g it does make cheeses sold elsewhere look a rip-off.

Alex’s passion and attention to detail show when he wraps the cheese carefully in waxed paper; it is so much better for it than wrapping in cheap plastic wrap.

Alex has a background in food and many of you might know him from his time managing The King Harry. Before that, Alex co-owned Bramleys in Canterbury. It was when Alex discovered a great deli in Vauxhall that he realised he would love to open one in St Albans. He didn’t want to open a sandwich shop, but rather open somewhere that you could go to buy ingredients for a delicious meal. I am delighted that he has succeeded, and I will be back for the charcuterie and cheese!

Special offer – to celebrate the opening of Marlowe and House, the first 20 Herts Advertiser readers to spend over £20 will be able to take home their purchases in a cotton Marlowe and House bag. Just go in and mention the newspaper!

Click here to find out more.