The Horn

Best Part: The Evening


Readers, it is sometimes difficult to write these reviews. When I had to be honest about an isolated bad experience at the Hare and Hounds I was very sad. Today I am sad again. Let me start by saying that we are  very lucky to have the Horn in St Albans. It is a superb live music venue and well situated as a night spot being close to the station and town. It boasts friendly staff and a cute pub dog. It has also been recently been rebranded with shades of grey and it looks smart.


However the focus of these reviews is purely on whether our chosen venues can deliver a good midweek lunch. So here we go, is the Horn as good at lunchtime as in the evening? Well, firstly I must say that Mr Midweek lunch and I were very happy with the available beers and surprised at the extensive menu and specials. It was a cold day so I opted for the vegetable soup to warm up body and soul. My husband chose chicken wings and potato skins because he felt he had to make up for my calorie deficiency.


We had to wait a tiny bit longer than we would have expected considering at this early point we were one of the only groups of patrons. While we waited the barman told me that the vegetable soup actually had chicken in it. Being vegetarian this wasn’t acceptable but they let me chose something else from the menu which was in fact worth more than I had paid for the soup. I went for the Halloumi salad. The confusion over the soup had only been realised when my husband’s meal was almost ready so I had about 10 minutes of food envy while I waited for my own.


While sitting there and looking at the cool music prints on the walls I felt transported back to my happy student day when I used to go out regularly in the evenings without suffering the consequences for a week. I had an overwhelming feeling that the Horn didn’t really want to open at lunchtime at all. That on the whole it was waiting until the evening to really shine.  While I was pondering this and whether a pub can have human feelings (I think it can) the salad arrived. It was presented very well indeed and looked well balanced and structured. Personally I would have favoured a small amount of carbohydrate e.g. crouton or doughballs but perhaps I should have ordered these separately. The portion of halloumi was extremely generous. However on eating it I discovered it was covered in a rather aggressively mustardy dressing. Had it been more of a discreet drizzle or a less powerful dressing it would have worked. As it was I felt it overpowered the dish and gave me a sore mouth for the rest of the day.


My husband’s dish was resplendent with fat and grease, which is obviously a good thing, but didn’t feel like a lot of love had been laboured on it. The Potato Skins were actually Potato Wedges, which is obviously not a huge deal given that you actually get more potato in the deal and don’t need to worry about the potato innards being wasted. But he wanted the crispiness of the skin smothered in melted cheese, and what he got was slightly underdone potato. The wings were piled high, but had a touch of rubber to them. All these things would be swell to accompany your third pint, but as it was midday that would seem excessive.


To conclude we liked the staff and the dog and the décor. The toilets were clean and as they should be. The menu promised much. However we wouldn’t rush to go there at this time of day again. We feel that the Horn still needs to do some work to capture the St Albans Midweek lunch market. There is certainly potential. At the moment it feels to us that it does the evening thing much better than the day time thing. Don’t give up Horn, we are sure you can nail both markets soon. As we know from our old friend the Boot, it is possible to be a pub in St Albans with a four letter name that does great lunches and is a fun evening venue.




The Bakehouse

Best Part: The Baked Goods

Fair play to the Bakehouse, they have lasted longer than I ever thought they would in one of St Albans’ notorious ‘cursed restaurant spots’ (the other one being that one at the entrance to the Maltings that was latterly occupied by Phoenica). But here they still are, baking stuff without a care in the world. I’ll make it very clear that we are reviewing the upstairs Café bit, rather than the downstairs restaurant bit which we visited in the heady pre-blog days when we could eat food without having to have an opinion on it.

Mrs Midweek Lunch professed herself confused by the menu, which I could somewhat empathise with as in addition to the printed version there was a selection of sandwiches, salads and pastries on display at the counter. They used to put it all on a menu. We wondered why they had changed their strategy and decided that it would be better to either embrace the menu or the counter/chalk board fully rather than shilly shallying with a confusing mix of both. Anyhow, in spite of the confusion we did manage to place an order at the counter.

Playing the long game having seen the cakes on offer I went for ‘merely’ a bacon sandwich. It is a deep and profoundly fulfilling experience to have a simple food of which every element is virtually flawless, and this was the case with my bacon sandwich. The bacon was neither fatty nor crispy but salty and juicy. The sourdough bread was fluffy and soaked up the bacon juice to attain bready perfection. The ketchup was Heinz.

My wife went for a similarly simple cheese scone. It was large, warm and comforting with a pleasing tangy cheesy edge. As a side dish we shared an enormous salad in a white enamel bowl. It was big mess of chickpea and leaf with feta and butternut squash advertised but not terribly apparent. My wife was very keen on it. I found it pleasant enough and it gave me a slight glow of self-denial, but obviously suffered in comparison to it’s meaty unhealthy companion. But if filled stomach space at least.

But not too much, as we had room at the end to at least share a cake. Decision making was difficult in the face of the Oreo & Banana Loaf or the Sticky Cranberry Gingerbread, but we ended up with the White Chocolate & Cranberry Blondie. This was substantial and sweet, maybe a bit too dense.
 Other than being built on an ancient voodoo burial ground, the Bakehouse has a superb location, especially for looking out of windows. From one side you overlook the Christmas Market and on the other we watched a dog amuse itself in the rain outside the comics shop. The inside is equally pleasant, boasting what Mrs Midweek Lunch describes as ‘Good Mid-Century Ambiance’ and playing music from the undisputed cultural high-water mark of the mid-90s.

It is certainly designed more for the lady half of humanity (even the babies present were all female), but as a fan of the show ‘New Girl’ I am no stranger to enjoying something that is obviously targeted to the other gender. Man or Lady, this is a lovely place to spend some time gazing out into the rain and eating slabs of bread.