Why not take a look around the Oval café?
- Credit: Archant
Harpenden pals had been telling me about the Oval café for ages; it’s the sort of place you only really know about if you live round there, as it is not in the town centre, and is a little tricky to find.
Located near the Spire Hospital, the Oval café is part of the Youth with a Mission campus. Set in beautiful grounds around an oval-shaped lawn with trees, woods and play areas also, it is not easy to spot at first which building houses the café.
On a warm day there are picnic tables outside, so head for those, and the lovely cafe is found in two rooms on the ground floor of a large, detached house.
With high ceilings, fireplace, wood floors and beautiful windows looking out over the green, it is a welcoming café.
Order at the funky counter which is made with reclaimed planks; there was an appealing choice of cakes including courgette cake, red velvet cookies, lemon drizzle and scones; apparently the scones with fresh cream and jam are very good. We were there for lunch, so will have to try those another day.
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The café doesn’t have a large kitchen, so the lunch menu is a bit limited, but head to the fridge to choose paninis, salads, fruit pots and other snacks.
Take your sandwich to the counter to be toasted; I chose the mozzarella and sun-dried panini, and shared it with my partner, along with a chickpea, tomato and pepper salad.
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It was a good value lunch, and very pleasant, but on a chilly day I would have loved a bowl of soup; it is a shame they don’t have capacity to offer that. They do a good range of coffees and teas, incuding tea pigs, and our flat whites were very good. You can get dairy-free milks.
The second room is mostly used by families with young children and there is a small play area with books and toys to buy parents time for a coffee.
There were plenty of snack and drink options for children too, with squeezy fruit and veg pouches, hummus pots and small biscuits, which was nice to see. I would have loved to have known about this place when mine were younger!
For slightly older children there is a charming illustrated guide to the site to help you explore and find out more about its original history as a children’s home.
I liked the window seating and tables with plug sockets, which is perfect for anyone working at YWAM and visitors who need to escape their home office for a while.
I read some of the signs on the walls to find out more about Youth with a Mission; it operates in over 1,000 locations and 180 countries and the mission is to “understand and express the love of God to all people”.
The baristas working in the café are also part of YWAM, and the buildings around the Oval house various training projects.
Anyone is welcome to visit the café, and it is very popular people from the hospital, ramblers, dog walkers and cyclists; the café had a basket of high-energy cycling snacks for sale, which I am sure is very welcome. As the weather improves, they put out more tables onto the lawn in front of the café, and it can get quite busy.
There is a little car parking around the side of the building, or jump on your bike and earn your cake. It is open 9am-5pm during the week, 10am-4pm Saturday and is closed on Sunday.