In our fast moving society where coffee shops and Ercol furnished Scandi-style cafes tempt you in with their modernity, isn’t it nice to know that in St. Albans there is one place you can go that is proper old fashioned yet every day English tea room? Not Kanuka with it’s trendy transparent cups of (brilliant) tea and not even the Bakehouse with its wonderful array of smart comfort food no, we are talking about a place that wouldn’t look out of place in “Dad’s Army”. In fact you almost expect people to wander in with gasmasks carelessly slung over a shoulder hoping to cash in a tea ration. There may well be a hat rack, I didn’t notice. The point is, it is a nostalgic sort of place and set in the village arcade you would expect nothing less as the walls are actually lined with marble from our city’s Lyon’s Corner House.


I am a big fan of this place because I like tea in a pot served in a cup with a saucer. I also like reasonably priced simple breakfast and lunch fare. Today we visited with our children who are also keen on straightforward cuisine. There was a slightly sticky moment when I had to explain to our animal loving son what a Welsh Rarebit was but that is as exotic as it gets and indeed you would expect it to. I had the aforementioned Welsh Rarebit and found it to be the perfectly sized portion of rich cheesy goodness on a thick piece of toast. My tea was simply just right.


We had to order twice because son two became overwhelmed about a ham sandwich. Anyway, he was delighted with it when it arrived. The other son joined Mr Midweek Lunch in Bacon & Eggs. There was something about the Wodehousean and though he wasn’t having them at 3 o’clock in the morning to recover from a spree around Piccadilly the notion was still a sound one. I disapproved of this thoroughly, as I do of so many of his actions, because they had already had breakfast but no amount of tutting would dissuade them from the bacon. I don’t like the smell and messiness of it at home so perhaps it worked out well for all of us. Husband found them entirely satisfactory. Eldest said the eggs were “very good.”


This very simple yet well prepared and served lunch for four set us back around £25. A small warning is that Abigail’s do not accept credit or debit cards. This may be because they didn’t have such things during WWII. They are not the only ones as “The Courtyard Café” for one operate the same system. It is surprising but not a deal breaker as long as you come prepared. It keeps their prices lower I suppose. So good value, good tasting food in a quaint setting overlooking the Cathedral. As a family we have given it a fond…



West Cornwall Pasty Company

Best Part: The cheese straws (from Simmons)


While the weather is still fine if not warm (at the time of writing it is neither), you might consider grabbing a Cornish Pasty from the transparently titled “West Cornwall Pasty Company” and taking it to the Vintry Gardens. You could probably even take it back to your desk but the lovely warm smell might make your colleagues jealous. There is some scant seating but it is not comfortable, encouraging diners to move along please.


I went to University in the West Country and managed to go for four years without eating a real pasty. Now I live in the Home Counties it seems the time to do it. I even make them sometimes. If you like pies it makes a lot of sense. Just stuff everything in the pasty, meat, veg and all and tuck in; how sensible. They are quite creative at “The Cornish Pasty Company” I had a vegetable curry pasty, son 1 had a butter chicken one, husband had a Steak & Ale, son 2 refused to engage so we had to go to Simmons for him.

The price was heftier than I expected. Pasties were around £7 which was a bit steep for a takeaway and our drinks were about £2 which was standard but still annoying. Therefore for 3 people it cost around £26. It was cheaper at Abigails for 4 people eating in.


Anyway, the taste. My pasty was absolutely gorgeous. It was sweet and spicy inside and the pastry itself was crispy and comforting. My son gave moist of the Butter Chicken pasty to his father as it was too curried for his liking. Not a great success. He should have stuck to a traditional Cornish one and indeed would have done so if he liked onion and minced beef. As it is he likes a fair few things but we still couldn’t find something to his satisfaction. Potentially this is not the place to take children who aren’t also tin miners.


Mr Midweek Lunch regretted his rash choice of s Steak & Ale Pasty. He only went from it because there was a limited choice of ones in large, and it was wholemeal to add insult to mediocre flavour. Then as we left through the second door he spotted a whole range of tastier options, many in large size. But it was too late then, too late by far. Anyway the flavour was a bit cloying, and he much preferred his son’s leftovers, nibbled as they were. In general, he tends to prefer Pasties from East Cornwell anyway.


As for the cheese and bacon turnover from Simmons, it looked delicious but no doubt our son made a fuss about it as he usually does about any food we serve him. It did, however, allow us to pick up a Cheese Straw each. I would recommend these whole-heartedly, full of mature melty cheddar flavour with a dash of mustard. For the price we could have had 6 of these each, which would have been a more satisfying meal though potentially not that balanced.

It wasn’t a very successful lunch but I still think it is worth a visit if you want a warming treat and are happy to pay a bit over the odds for it.