L’Italiana, St Albans
I’m such a fan of this little Italian in St Albans. It’s right by the Clock Tower, and the smell of garlic lingers outside it as you walk past. It’s drawn me in many a time. We went for dinner with a couple of friends recently. I had the Ela, which is a white pizza – super rich and gooey – Matt had the Calzone, Fiona had the Vegetariana and Fiona’s husband (also Matt!) had the Cannelloni. Everything I’ve eaten here is first rate – it’s won awards because it’s such a local favourite and is always packed. It’s just good, simple Italian food, but crucially it tastes really authentic – everything is as good as what I’ve eaten in Italy. And you can’t ask for much more than that, can you? If you like garlic, you must get the bruschetta – it’ll blow your head off, but in a good way…
I haven’t been to Watford for ages and ages, but we went in the other weekend to do a bit of shopping and popped into Tortilla for lunch as I’d been sent a couple of vouchers. It’s REALLY good. And really dangerous to know that I have burritos this awesome on my doorstep. Tortilla is laid out kind of like Subway, but the food is much, much (much much much) better quality. But you can select what kind of wrap you have, what kind of meat, what kind of beans and salad, and the spiciness of your salsa. Plus cheese. And sour cream. And guacamole. We both had Carnitas, which is slow cooked pork, with pinto beans, coriander rice, salsa and guacamole. It was incredibly messy (they don’t call me six-napkins-Sarah for nothing) but incredibly awesome. I will be going back very very soon.
Nights of Bengal, Abbots Langley
A good Indian takeaway is so hard to find, am I right? We’ve been disappointed quite a bit lately, but our friend Sarah recommended this one and we were really impressed. It’s not that they have an amazingly extensive menu of exciting dishes, but they just do the basics really well. Nothing was too oily, everything was well cooked and I didn’t feel like I’d poisoned myself afterwards (usually standard with food this rich). If you live in the area, definitely worth a trip.
The Pudding Stop, St Albans
I love, love, love the Pudding Stop! It’s a café in St Albans that just sells puddings and after-dinner fare (so cheese and booze are also included). It actually started life as a van (which is still going) which parks at St Albans station most days as the commuters are coming off the train. The idea is that they might like a pudding to take home to have with dinner, and Mr Pud makes incredible puddings. He was actually a contestant in GBBO a few years back. It’s just a great idea, and the café is a really lovely place to spend an evening (Matt and I actually had our first date there… we ordered all the cheese on the menu and most of the wine. It was ace.). Anyway, this is a warm peanut butter and salted caramel brownie with peanut butter ice cream, and I don’t really think I need to say much more than that to make you want to visit, do I?
Hawksmoor, Spitalfields Bar
I saw the Hawksmoor Christmas burger pop up on Twitter and quickly got obsessed with trying it, and that dream was fulfilled on Saturday. God it's god. Fried turkey, a sausage stuffing patty, bacon, cheese and gravy, all in a bun. Get there before the end of December and get this in your face - along with the Christmas nuggets. You'll thank me. You will.
So the thing about me is that I don’t like tea or coffee. I don’t drink hot drinks much at all – I like a hot chocolate, but it’s pretty rare that I fancy something hot and milky and super sweet, so I don’t have many of them. But when I was in America in the Autumn a few years ago, I found all the coffee places selling hot cider (booze free – over there, the likes of Strongbow are referred to as ‘hard cider’) and I got a bit addicted. It was so nice to get a hot drink that wasn’t full of milk and chocolate, and I moaned for years that the coffee shops in England needed to catch on. And then – finally – step in Costa, with their seasonal spiced apple drink. It’s yummy. I first tried it last year when I had a terrible cold, and it had the same comforting affect as a honey and lemon or hot Ribena. I’m a bit obsessed with it. It’s also not horribly high in calories, so that’s a plus.
Bunny Chow, Soho
I was invited to try this little food place in Soho a few weeks back. Bunny Chow’s concept is hollowed out rolls filled with tasty hot food, from pulled pork to sausages and gravy to curry. It’s seriously tasty, filling and good value too! My friend had the pulled pork and I had sausages, blue cheese and gravy. Yeah. You wanna go now, don’t you? They also do breakfast ones, and I need them in my life!
Patty & Bun, London
So somehow I got this far without trying P&B. They were at the launch of new crazy golf pop-up, Swingers, a few weeks ago, so not only did I get to try them, but it was free! Everyone knows that free burgers are the best burgers. I had the Ari Gold and it was probably the best burger I ever had. It was just full of flavour and incredibly tasty, and I could have quite happily eaten five. I now desperately need to go to P&B for reals and order all the food. So many burgers, so little time…
Where have you eaten lately?