Best Part: It’s s Mexican Restaurant! In St Albans!
Best Part: The Independence
There are times when a midweek luncher just wants to go to a café. An independent café that doesn’t claim to be something it isn’t, a café that doesn’t look intimidating. Well if you are shopping in town and feel the same way we would encourage you to gander up the side street that houses Panda cards (another marvellous St. Albans business) and a few shops down you will find Waddington Road café. Interestingly this road is called Waddington Road, which speaks to the imagination of the café owner.
A few years ago these premises were the site of a greasy spoon café which has now come under different management. It is now a clean, modern, smart café with an excellent lunch menu and lovely décor. However it has not got above itself – the staff and cliental are friendly and the delicious menu reasonably priced. It is the perfect spot for restorative tea and cake or a lunch (either a simple or imaginative.) My vegetarian options were almost overwhelming. If the old greasy spoon seeker had returned after a few years, possibly forgetting he had sold his café in a drunken haze, he would still be able to buy a cheese omelette. But the owner assured me these are now made with free range eggs and they have halloumi in. I have had one here on another occasion and was very pleased. Even my children, one vegan and one fussatarian were happy to eat here.
This time I had a halloumi and tomato ciabatta which had a good balance of flavours and textures. Although they serve tea in a pot (as everyone should), I was tempted by the homemade fruit smoothies. I opted for a banana and blueberry one and it certainly perked me up after an unpleasant morning.
Mr Midweek lunch was new to Waddington road and was in a festive mood. This was perhaps premature as we were not far into December, but he does get over-excited about these things. One of the reasons he gets so excited is the Christmas sandwich, as long time reader may remember from his series of vignettes on different Christmas sandwiches a few years ago. He therefore went for a Turkey and Stuffing panini, and it was pretty good. Nowhere near the majesty of an actual Christmas Sandwich made from leftovers from an actual Christmas Dinner, put pretty good. There were a few crisps on the side, but they weren’t real crisps so we won’t discuss them.
Luckily we had brought some proper crisps as a starter, as we were very hungry on arrival, so the fake multi-coloured non-potato crisps were less egregious.
Waddington Road is one of a small group of great independent St. Albans cafes where you can be sure of good food and service that doesn’t break the bank. There aren’t many of them and you have to look hard but I now consider this one to be my friend and will be there again soon. Why not give it a try too?
Best Part: The Gentrification
Best Part: It made us feel so young! (comparatively)
Now, while St. Albans Midweek lunch has generally focused on city central dining opportunities, we decided to open things up a bit. Hopefully in going a little further out than the city station, we will discover a range of exciting new dining opportunities and tap into a wider reader base. We will of course still eat in St Albans and only during the week!
This time, we decided to try a very popular luncheon avenue; the garden centre cafe. What? Yes, you heard correctly, we are going full on garden centre this week. My husband does not like garden centres and therefore I have generally only lunched in such establishments with my retired parents and my then pre-school children. It turns out that since those days, the client demographic has remained stable. To make a cursory observation, if the diners were not over 55 years of age they were generally under 2. Mr Midweek Lunch and I are pretty much the average of those two ages but most people had the good manners not to stare.
Ayletts garden centre is conveniently situated off the North Orbital, only a short walk from a pet supermarket, a shed emporium, the fish place and more excitingly the new Loaf store (which we did not visit). As well as selling a range of garden goods and boasting a popular sinister moving Christmas display, it has a large cafe offering a range of hot and cold food. Keeping the horticultural theme this is named the Dahlia Coffee House, but I would be surprised if it has ever been referred to as anything but the Ayletts Café, other than by the most dedicated of garden centre marketeers. Although I would generally visit for afternoon tea I was pleased to see plenty of very reasonably priced lunch options on the menu.
Mr Midweek Lunch had a Homemade Grannie’s Bake. Whether the Granny or the Bake was homemade was not clear from the menu, though thinking it through it does seem much more likely that it was the former (people having a much greater sense of propriety back in those days). Putting such matters to one side the dish was a sort of cross between a Moussaka and a Gratin (possibly the Granny in question hailing from Greek/French parentage, which does maybe undermine my previously reasoning on the location of her conception). It was gratifyingly cheesy, possibly gratin-ifying, but was rather let down by a limp side salad. A good stodgy choice when the weather gets brisk, anyway.
I had a toasted goats cheese ciabatta slice with side salad which was pleasant but not exceptional. It needed a little piquancy to offset the cheese, perhaps a sweet chilli jam. However, while we may not have made the best choices on this occasion, I must point out that our lunch was extremely good value for money, the total bill coming in at around £16, and therefore I was well satisfied. Remember of course that Ayletts is not just a cafe. It provides a happy afternoon out for those who get their twisted thrills from browsing round plants, planters, garden structures and interesting gift ideas. It is a great place to take pre-schoolers who like to climb inside the larger planters while their poor parents have paused to consider the polyanthers. The Christmas display will also be a draw for those wishing to traumatise their children.
The Ayletts cafe is worth a lunch time visit if you have garden/leisure business to attend to. It won’t break the bank and you can be sure of a proper cup of tea served from a pot. This alone is a draw for me.
Best Part: The Bonus Starter!
Hello again! We had rather longer of a break than expected but never fear, we are back again to eat lunch and give scores. And we’re all out of scores.
Normal service will be resumed shortly, but in the meantime I just wanted to pay our respects to those eating establishments that are no longer with us, most of them occupying the same 3 locations. So let us take a moment to remember these late lamented friends, in order of lamentedness.
Of those past reviewees that are still with us, the following are our favourites. Will anything arise to challenge their pre-eminence?
|The Fleetville Larder||9|
Come back soon for more luncheon fun!
Best Part: The Dripping!