BHS Cafe

Best Part: The Longevity!


We chose to make our eating venue the BHS café the day before the outcome of the takeover/administration battle was announced. We thought, correctly that this would be the last time for us to have a meal in the establishment and in fact I am pretty sure it was the first.

Before I start, I must mention a most revolting event that I witnessed while waiting for my companion to arrive. A strange lady who had long since finished a hot drink, openly went over to where half a cold cappuccino and tea had been left on a neighbouring table and tipped the dregs into her own cup! Furthermore readers, I am very much afraid to tell you that she drank this concoction with great satisfaction. I wonder if my eating experience got off to a bad start after this.

So, lunch at BHS? Well, it is very sad to see a well loved British business in decline. All the members of staff looked depressed and who could blame them? The lovely guy behind the counter was hassled by the lack of stock (clearly head office couldn’t replenish any supplies) and lack of motivated colleagues in the kitchen. Our younger son for instance wanted the child’s lunch box which consisted of a pick and mix of 5 items e.g. fruit, sandwich, crisps etc. There were only two things to choose from so he had to make it up from adult supplies. However, he did this very cooperatively.


Mr Midweek lunch had an inedible tomato with his jacket potato but we didn’t like to make a fuss because quite frankly, what would be the point? Worse still he bit down on something that turned out to be a small piece of plastic in the potato, possibly a promotional giveaway? But we are British, and we were in British Home Stores, so he placed it to one side of his plate and continued on stoically. His own small tribute to the national character that has sustained this slightly low-rent M&S through the years. He also had an incredibly sweet Cherryade, though it was soured slightly by the knowledge that it would be his last from BHS.


One positive thing to come out of the visit was that our elder son and I discovered how a tuna melt Panini can be enlivened with some slightly aggressive but surprisingly pleasant red mustard dressing.


I am reluctant to grade this meal. Would we recommend it if it wasn’t closing? Hard to say because the experience was very much reflective of this fact. Yes, probably it would be fine for a good value cuppa and cake. However in terms of our lunch, the results are as follows: the tuna paninis were extremely tasty and the kids lunchbox as one would expect (apart from the adult crisps). The jacket potato was not edible, apart from the inedible elements. Let’s average this out at 6. The service was better than one might expect in the circumstances, again a 6. As for the ambience, well there wasn’t any. Let’s give this a total of



The Courtyard Cafe

Best Part: The Art!


The Courtyard Cafe’s style is retro kitchen; a look that I rate highly. I also like eateries such as this that display local art work for sale. It marks them out as a member of the big St. Albans creative family. However this was not the only reason I felt at home immediately. You see as well as art, they sell some of that awful “vintage” 1970s crockery that my parents got rid of when I was a toddler. Ergh! Retro is not always chic, especially when it is brown.
The single toilet was acceptable without being great but then so is our downstairs loo at home.

Quite varied for a small place. It is displayed on blackboards which I find a bit stressful to read but most people like this approach. It is a sort of up market café menu with good (probably) local ingredients. The open kitchen fills me with confidence too. I had a caramelised onion and goats cheese tartlet which was perfect in every way. The onions were sweet and juicy and the cheese pleasing counter balance of creaminess. The tartlet was presented on an attractive dark green salad. I do not like salad, losing patience with it on many occasions but Mr Midweek lunch was surprised to see me eat the whole thing and enjoy it.

My husband’s love of spiciness and sombreros overcame his natural distaste for omelettes and ordered the Mexican omelette. He was generally happy that he did. The jalapenos and spicy sauce (or salsa, as our amigos might have it) were very nice, and the eggy section tasted of eggs, but not fried eggs, which are better. Still, overall I would recommend it to a hungry ranch hand. The salad once again succeeded, but better still was the bread. It was dense and dark and warm and filled out that bit of stomach that was untouched by omelettes.


We didn’t have any cake even though they looked amazing because I don’t like my husband to enjoy himself too much, but I did let him have some botanical cola.


Ordering and paying at the counter at the start is an efficient way of doing things. This meant that we weren’t waiting ages for a member of the waiting staff. One quirky issue is that the Courtyard Cafe do not accept credit/debit cards. We knew and came prepared but surely they must lose a few customers this way. They aren’t even very close to a cash point. I am an old fashioned, one might say “retro” sort of lady but even to me this seems a bit daft. Debit cards are a convenient and not so modern invention. Why, I remember my parents having them in the eighties and I am pretty sure at least one of the was brown!


This was a jolly good lunch. It can be hard to get a table here at busy times because it is friendly and serves great food. However, I would highly recommend chancing your luck, getting some cash out of a cash point (the nearest is Santander but watch your aged fingers on this snappy modern machine) and paying a visit soon.