How some of St Albans’ most-loved food and drink venues have changed and adapted post-lockdown

The garden at The White Lion

The garden at The White Lion - Credit: Archant

Local Foodie columnist Becky Alexander goes out-out to discover how some of her favourite venues have changed post-lockdown...

Halloumi burgers from George Street Canteen.

Halloumi burgers from George Street Canteen. - Credit: Archant

So, have you been out out yet? Cafés, bars, restaurants and pubs have now been allowed to open their doors, so I set off to find out what it’s like to go properly out again! It was a bit like being a kid in a sweet shop; where to choose first?

My first visit was to the café inside the Cathedral in search of a coffee, and it was really lovely to be back inside this wonderful space. Tables had been removed to allow plenty of room. We ordered at the counter, and chose a table near the window, and our coffees and scones were brought to us with a warm smile. At the moment they are using single use cups so I hope they go back to their usual washables soon, but baby steps. There is a one-way system through the Cathedral so it was great to be able to visit the painting of the Last Supper by Lorna May Wadsworth on our way through.

After browsing the market, we went for a late lunch at the George Street Canteen. They have a really good set-up there; you are greeted at the door and taken to a table in the marquee or the patio with views of the Cathedral. Again, plenty of space between tables and we gave my phone number for their records.

It is a shorter menu than usual but all the favourites are there, and we had excellent halloumi burgers. Everyone was having a lovely time!

Later in the week we booked an outdoor table in the garden at The White Lion pub, and for the first time, our 18-year old bought us drinks! They had a great system – you enter through the garden gate where you give your number. Booking is advised but you can just turn up and they will see if there is space. You order via your phone from your table and they bring the drinks to the outdoor bar where you collect them.

It worked really well, with plenty of space between tables, and I actually prefer the table service, but that’s my age!

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They are doing Sunday lunch in a streetfood way, which was very popular. Our Blue Moon beers came with a slice of orange, and was delicious, and the dry rosé was good too – so nice to be sitting out in a pub garden in the summer. I have really missed it.

One of the (only) upsides to home schooling is having our lovely 14-year-old at home with us so we took her out for a rare lunch, this time to Lussmann’s in St Albans. We booked online very easily, and I do recommend you book as they have fewer tables to allow for more space and by the time we left it was pretty full!

The service was professional and welcoming as ever, with the staff wearing clear visors. We were asked to use hand gel at the door. A bit strange at first, but when your delicious food arrives, it is all so worth it.

We had the set lunch menu and I my fish cake was great, as ever. The teen loved her steak and my husband chose the vegan paella with tofu and I had envy; it was a delicious, generous plateful, so I would try that another time. Puds were excellent – my poached pear with a very delicate caramel crust and oat fraiche was fab.

I want to try and book a table in the garden at their Harpenden restaurant next, which is a beautiful spot. Customers were all ages, including couples in their 70 and 80s, which was lovely to see – I think many of us need a change of scene from our own homes.

I’m almost reluctant to tell you about this one – the garden bar at St Michael’s Manor. As so many weddings have been postponed, you can now go to their amazing garden for summer drinks. They have lots of space there, so the tables are well spaced out.

You order via QTap on your smart phone and this is the only way they will take orders, so do be ready for that.

It is the most beautiful spot, overlooking the lake, and I had a lovely evening with friends in our group of six. You can order bar food too, such as sausage rolls, burgers and fries – they are on the expensive side but really you are paying for the location and service.

It is so nice to see our local area coming back to life, and I think in a very sensible way. It’s weird for the staff too, so please tip generously, use the gel, and give it a go. I am looking forward to visiting more favourites soon!