Best Part: Christmas!
Christmas time is here, come and celebrate. Come and celebrate at a succession of Swiss-style chalets filled with expensive arts and crafts projects. It seems that we cannot be satisfied with the large number of traditions already associated with the festive period and so need to keep on loading more and more on like some sort of Holiday Tradition Buckeroo (Sandwiches! Jumpers! Far too many Christmas movies on Channel 5!). One of the latest, in this country at least, is the Christmas Market. Long established on the continent these have now started springing up all over the country, with varying degrees of success. I am not an expert on the subject so cannot proclaim where St Albans sits in the league table (although that sounds like a great idea for a blog!), but based on it’s own merits I would say it is…. alright, I suppose.
There is a limit to what you can actually stick in a stall at a Christmas Market, certainly if you are going to include enough of a mark-up to make it worth your while, so it tends to be booze, cheese, olive oil and wooden things. It’s quite charming but I don’t recall ever having bought anything that wasn’t for immediate consumption. One new addition this year is a nice central hub where artists can play whilst children indulge in various activities. It gives the place a nice focal point and they pipe the music around the place. It is a very scenic location, just under the Abbey, and walking around at night with the lights twinkling can give you a nice hit of Christmassyness. During the day when it’s largely empty… less so.
The main dining options are centred around a separate ‘food court’ annex. The options are Hog Roast, Wurst, Crepes, Toasties and Chips. There was also a Mulled Wine cart, but he was not mulling on our visit. There are a few benches and tables to sit at, though you have to get a bit friendly with your fellow shoppers if you want to sit down. Which I suppose is in the spirit of the season. Between us we managed to visit most of the stalls, though we only got water from the ‘Toast Office’.
Owing to me having consumed no less than 5 different pork products for my dinner on the previous evening I decided not to go for my usual standard of a big German sausage. Instead I got a Pulled Pork Bap. Yes, I know. Anyway, the pork itself was pretty good, though there wasn’t much of it, and it worked surprisingly well with the stuffing. I would advise against the onion though. There were large chunks and close to raw so they overpowered the combo.
The brie and chutney crepe seemed to be very difficult to consume by my ham-fisted wife. She gets overwhelmed with street food (see our review of the St. Albans food festival 2015). It is very tricky for her to take the food handed over by the vendor, pay with the other, get a drink with a third hand, gesture to her husband with the fourth, take napkins with two spare fingers and then drop her bag, ukulele and temper at the table. Yes, she prefers table service. However the crepe was well made and filled with contrasting creamy and piquant flavours. If you enjoy watching huge crepes being made with finesse it would be worth hanging around and watching the masters at work. All in all a good choice.
We got a large portion of chips to share, so large in fact that they drew gasps of admiration from our tablemates which is always gratifying. There was a mix of curly and sweet potato with a couple of toppings. As their consignment of American cheese had disappeared somewhere in the mid-Atlantic we went for cheddar and onion rings. I’m not a huge sweet potato guy so planned to leave them to my companion but they seemed to have absorbed the lions share of the cheese. Overall they were filling, and not offensive.
But you don’t go to a Christmas Market for amazing food. Well, not this one at least. There is a reasonable range of choices and they will give you the energy to trudge round the vintry gardens once more if that’s what you desire. Manage your expectations and the Season’s Greetings to you all!