League Table

So, it seems like we’ve been doing this for a while now. 18 Reviews worth, in fact. So, here are how the scores stand so far. Number 1 is still the Cock from review #3, will anything reach the coveted 9/10 mark?

1 The Cock Inn 8.9
2 St Albans Market 8.4
2 Bistro Paprika 8.4
4 Craft & Cleaver 8.3
5 Las Iguanas 8
6 The Waterend Bar 7.9
7 Smokehouse Deli 7.8
8 Bellaccino’s 7.6
8 Tabure 7.6
10 The Snug 7.1
11 The Crown 7
11 Kimaya 7
11 Jamie’s Deli 7
14 Hare & Hounds 6.5
14 Deli Box 6.5
14 Lussmann’s 6.5
17 Subway 5.2
18 Fishy Delishy 4.9

The Snug

Best Part: The Mystery Door!


It was a cold day so we decided to visit the Snug to try out their lunch deal (just £6.50 kids!).

THE DECOR

 As an eatery that was renovated a few years ago it was a brutal reminder of a time when not everything had to be grey, trendy yet cosy and the toilets were good if unmemorable.

 One slightly odd feature was a mystery locked door that didn’t seem to go anywhere and yet staff (we assume) occasionally appeared through it. We decided in the end that it must lead to Narnia and spent the rest of the meal hoping for the arrival of Mr Tumnus. He didn’t come. Perhaps the White Witch had turned him into stone again. Anyway, on to important matters.

THE WAITING STAFF

 Our waiter was good at his job – he remembered the order and brought it to us in good time with a cheerful manner. He had a large Hipster beard and on this point I would like to make an observation. I have seen a lot of waiters with Hipster beards lately and predict it will replace grey in being the most important factor in determining an en-trend eatery in St. Albans.

THE MENU

I was very impressed with the range of Vegetarian options. Mr Midweek Lunch felt less inspired but found an all day breakfast that excited him. In spite of all the lovely choices in front of me I made the error of being healthy and ordered the Quinoa salad. I have had mixed experiences of Quinoa, the first of which tasted like it had come straight from Satan’s bottom and the second from somewhere if not close to Heaven then at least lovely St Albans. Clearly like facial hair it is what you do with it that counts. The Snug promised a nice lemon dressing and sweet tomatoes so I was keen, especially with the additional Halloumu for a £1 surcharge. In reality once the Halloumi had gone (quickly as I LOVE the stuff), I was disappointed. I felt there wasn’t enough of the lovely lemon dressing and that the tomatoes weren’t sweet enough. It was a very good start but if the Snug considered developing the it I would recommend perhaps some cubed roasted squash or sweet peppers to balance the dish.

The breakfast was by and large of a good quality. All the meaty portions were top notch, and they served the best hash browns I have had since the Royal Marsden Hospital (and I do love me a hash brown). The tomato was again not up to snuff, being tough and slightly bitter. The snug may need to reconsider their tomato sourcing options, maybe have a word with nearby Tabure. And the egg was served the wrong way (over easy, or probably over hard if the internet is not lying to me about this being a thing) without consultation.

But the toast was good, if not quite warm enough to melt the butter on touch, and served surgical style. Let’s spend a little time appreciating toast. Mmmm… toast.

The Snug gave us a good value lunch in a timely fashion in a pleasant environment. They also gave us a talking point in their trans-dimensional portal.

7.1/10

Fishy Delishy

Best Bit: The Name!


It’s Fishy, but is it Delishy? I normally end up at Fishy Delishy when I head out for lunch with no real plans, and reach the end of St Peter’s Street without inspiration hitting so settle on the chippy as a place of last resort. This time was the first time I have visited it as a definite destination. I’m not entirely sure I will again.


In previous incarnations this site seemed to spend more time shut than open, but they passed the first test today by not being locked. We love an old frontage when considering shops and eateries so this bottle green chippy presented so many possibilities. Mrs Midweek lunch was hoping for an old fashioned interior too. Once inside we were treated to cheerful newspaper print tables (as an aside, when was the last time fish and chips were actually served in newspaper? Have we all agreed that this will stay a cultural shorthand despite the actual reality, in the same way that floppy disks signify saving a file?), but the rest of the décor was a bit… naff. Vague nautical themes sit on sparkly gold walls, but it all sits in an awkward middle ground. If it had fully embraced the ship imagery to the point of absurdity, or committed to retro appeal with total diner chic then it would be something different and awesome. Currently it is not.

Mrs Midweek lunch has nothing to say about the toilets except that they were clean and not grey.

The menu went a bit beyond the standard cod/burger/suspiciously coloured sausage triptych. Not much beyond, but the did do calamari. And beer. The beer was welcome. My companion ordered a cloudy fresh-pressed apple juice that, on arrival seemed suspiciously clear.


For a main course I decided to go maverick and ordered the chicken and chips. It was.. not good. Now, I don’t hold myself entirely free from blame in this situation. I made two tactical errors. Firstly I ordered chicken in a fish and chip shop, akin to going for an omelette in a curry house. I was not playing to their strengths. Secondly, though it came with gravy as standard I said no to gravy. Because I don’t like gravy. The chicken when it arrived, though plentiful, was dry and flavourless. It also was sort of chewy, which is not a great sign when you’re eating meat. We’re both to blame, but I feel a restaurant has a duty of care to make it impossible for stupid patrons to order something that bad.


Mrs Midweek Lunch, being a sensible sort of cove, went for cod and chips. As part of the lunchtime deal this was only £5.99, which allowed her to splash out on mushy peas. She felt it was an acceptable cod and chips but it wasn’t brimming with flavour and thus she was nonplussed overall. The mushy peas were nice although she would have liked more of them. It was good value but she suspects she would have got a more delishy fishy in a pub.


Fishy Delishy is not without it’s appeal. The waiting staff have cute little green aprons and general the fishy battery smell is appealing. Although they originally tried to fob us off with little sachets of ketchup when we pushed the issue they gave us their big proper chip shop squeezy bottle. And they seem to care about sustainability, or at least whosoever wrote their menu does. So visit them, buy fish and then maybe go and sit in St Peter’s churchyard to eat it. But stay the dickens away from their chicken.

4.9/10

The Crown

The best bit: giving us the chance to discuss whether beer can really be ironic.


Our venue this week is a little out of town (around a 15 minute walk) but if you are in the region of the city station or Clarence Park as we were then you might be interested to pop into the redeveloped Crown pub on Hatfield Road.

THE DECOR

 Just as every other new eatery has done of late, the Crown have chosen to be en trend and decorate in grey. It is a large building with several sections and each one has been done up slightly differently but on/en theme i.e. dark grey in one room, light grey in another, middling grey in.. etc. This is complemented with rather nice floor tiles/carpet featuring grey accent tones. We went for the quieter dining room style room but there is a buzzier open plan bit where the trendier people sat and talked (loudly). Some of them were even wearing grey – it must be catching! The young waiting staff were attractive and friendly and wore grey striped shirts. Are you getting bored of the grey talk yet? Mr and Mrs Midweek lunch were wearing blue because we are not cool.

THE MENU


We nearly didn’t go in because the menu on the pub frontage only seemed to feature burgers and we weren’t in the mood for them. However it turned out that this was only the front page. The back had ordinary mains, starters and a kids menu. There was also a specials board. As a vegetarian I was a little disappointed with the main course range. There was a boring old tomato penne option and I think that was it.


However I chose the mini smoked mackerel fish cakes from the starter menu accompanied by (of course) some sweet potato fries, the portion of which was too generous to finish. They were thin rather than fat chips and good enough but not in the same class as the Smokehouse Deli. The fish cakes, interesting dressing and surrounding salad however were extremely tasty and I would heartily recommend them.


Mr Midweek Lunch had a reasonable steak sandwich with a much less generous portion of proper normal potato fries and felt less hungry than when he started, but not an awful lot more than that. The beer menu was exciting to start with but it turned out that most things weren’t in stock. He had a pretend craft beer made by a big brewery (Greene King) that was unable to escape it’s essentially un-craftlike roots.

THE TOILETS


Everything you would expect. Pristine modern white sanitary-ware, white tiles with grey grout. Clean and attractive.

THE SCORE


We were going to give it 6.9 but then the bill arrived in an old book. We love old books and hadn’t come across this gimmick in any of the other grey eateries so we give it 7/10. Perfectly acceptable but the menu needs development. The Crown is one to keep your eye on and we will make a return visit with the children to try out the kids menu.

http://www.crownstalbans.com/

Las Iguanas

Best Part: The Empanadas

‘Hang On’, you say, ‘Las Iguanas? I’m a pretty eager follower of the St Albans Food Scene and I ain’t never heard of no Las Iguanas!’ Well, my fictional argumentative poorly spoken chum, we weren’t in St Albans. And what is more, if this isn’t too much of a mind-sizzler, it wasn’t even midweek. We were on a bank holiday jaunt to Brighton, but look on it as a Summer Special edition of St Albans Midweek Lunch, like when the On the Buses crew went to Pontins. And there is a reason for this, which I will come onto.

So it may seem slightly unimaginative when in such a vibrant culinary hot-spot as Brighton to go to a chain restaurant, but when you have two argumentative children in tow and all the delightful bijou vegan cafes are absolutely packed it was a very welcome sight. And it is at least a chain that has not yet reached our own fair town.

What’s more, its a chain that does everything right. The welcome was friendly, the waiter handsome, the menu comprehensive and well explained and there were interactive menus for the small people. When you add the lunch menu to the a la carte (veggie and normal versions) you had almost too much choice, and not just your standard nachos and burritos but a pan-Latin selection with a variety of ingredients you don’t often come across. So of course youngest child went for a burger.

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But there was the choice, at least, and eldest went for a slightly more adventurous fajita. They were very good sized portions, and as part of the deal they got bottomless squash and puddings. What is more, to my wife’s delight, they provided a goodly portion of child friendly vegetables (see review of Hare and Hounds). Eldest child was so delighted he has since written to Las Iguanas HQ to request they open a St Albans branch.

There was even a deal (in addition to the lunch time deal and the buy one cocktail get one free deal) that the children would eat free with every adult main course purchased. However, against the stringent advice of the waiter I eschewed this offer because my menu item of choice was only on the lunch menu. If anyone has seen the film ‘Chef’, as I had the night before, they would have been as unable as I was to resist the lure of a Cuban Sandwich.
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The sandwich of reality did not live up to the Hollywood fantasy, being not much more than a ciabatta, if yet a ciabatta with some very juicy meat within it. I’m sure it should have been fried or squeezed or something, but it was passable.
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The veggie burger my wife ordered was something of a disappointment, too, with a charred crunchiness that would have been temptingly juicy if actual meat were involved but when you’re talking about beetroot you just end up with the carbon bitterness of an unattended barbeque.
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But all of this was happily accepted when the sides were tasted. Some sweet plantains were pretty much indistinguishable from bananas, but nice juicy fried bananas. And then there were the Empanadas, mango and brie in a deep-fried parcel, oozing out over the sweetcorn and chili relish.

Add into the mix a couple of very well chosen and interesting beers (it was a bit early for cocktails), and you have a super meal that satisfied the whole family. Which we cannot enjoy without travelling to Wembley. So the reason for this non-St Albans review is a call to Las Iguanas, come, join us, there are plenty of young monied families who would gladly part with their hard earned cash to taste their Latin wares.

P.S. I have since become aware of their dubious corporate policies on tipping and in no way endorse it, but the staff all seemed fairly cheerful (or desperate) so there we go.

8/10

http://www.iguanas.co.uk