It seems like the majority of my Twitter buds are London based, but every now and then I spot one taking a day trip out of the city to visit my hometown of St Albans. It's 20 minutes from St Pancras, and super well connected to the M25 and M1, too - the ideal spot to explore for a weekend, especially now there's a Premier Inn in the town centre. It's also PRETTY. We have a cathedral and Roman ruins and markets and the oldest pub in the UK (and reportedly more pubs per square mile than anywhere else in this country). Oh - and lots and lots of nice places to eat.
I'm always being asked to recommend places to visit here, and I figured that if my buddies are asking me, then maybe some of you guys are wondering too. So here it is. My ultimate list of the 15 best eateries in St Albans, Hertfordshire (in no particular order).
Image source (it was closing when I visited)
1. Hatch, The Maltings Shopping Centre, St Albans, Hertfordshire AL1 3HL | 01727 730621
If you're not looking for it, you might miss Hatch, which is just that - a hatch in the wall, near the bandstand in The Maltings. They sell coffee, cakes and EXCELLENT sandwiches. If you're in St Albans on a nice day, then I highly recommend grabbing one of their pulled pork baps and taking it to eat in the park. And if the weather's not so great, but I've made you really fancy a pulled pork bap now, head to Canteen, their newer residence which lets you sit down and eat in. They also do an excellent brunch.
2. Lussmanns, Waxhouse Gate, High St, St Albans, Hertfordshire AL3 4EW | 01727 851941
This is one of my mum's favourite restaurants, and with good reason. It's great quality, beautifully cooked food - their steaks are wonderful - and while a little on the expensive side, absolutely worth it for a special occasion.
Image source (there was scaffolding up when I visited)
3. Craft & Cleaver, 62 Catherine St, St Albans AL3 5BU | 01727 568300
My love of this new smokehouse is pretty well documented by now. A BBQ joint was just what St Albans was missing, and my, this is a good 'un. They cook all the meat daily in their smoker (which they imported specially from the US) and have a huge, extensive menu full of everything that is wonderful - ribs, brisket, fried chicken - but also some pretty tasty veggie options, too. And brunch! There's a nice beer garden, and the large selection of craft beers means that it's a great place to pop into for a drink (although why wouldn't you stay for a meal?).
4. The Pudding Stop, 6 The Colonnade, Verulam Rd, St Albans, Hertfordshire AL3 4DD | 01727 830357
Hop off the train at St Albans station on a weeknight, and you might spot a little van outside the back entrance. That's The Pudmobile, set up by an ex-GBBO contestant who thought that commuters might like to pick up a dessert on their way home. He was right - it's extremely popular, so much so that he opened a shop of his own a couple of years ago. I took Matt there on our first date, actually - he was sold when I said they only sold puddings, wine and cheese. We had all three, it was magical. I adore TPS because it offers something that nothing else in St Albans does and feels like a truly independent business. Johnny, the ex-GBBO contestant himself, mans the station van himself most evenings, and will give you recommendations on the best accompaniments to his pecan pie or rhubarb & custard doughnuts (oh yes). But the team in the shop are great too, so do pop in and try their salted caramel and peanut butter brownies. Served warm. With peanut butter ice cream.
5. Tabure, 6 Spencer Street, St Albans, Hertfordshire AL3 5EG | 01727 569068
I've already reviewed Tabure as I went to their preview night, but I'm delighted to discover that it's doing really well. I went back recently for my birthday night out and it was really busy with a great atmosphere, and the food was even better than I remembered! I recommend having a look at my review for some tantalising food photos to whet your appetite, but just to summarise here, Tabure is a Turkish restaurant that explores both the classic dishes and those you might not have heard of. It's a great place to go with a big group of friends so you can order and share the whole menu between you. My top recommendations are the stuffed courgette flowers and, um, the house red. It's a really nice wine! The menu isn't on their website but you can view it here.
6. Relish, The Alban Arena, Civic Cl, St Albans, Hertfordshire AL1 3LD | 01727 810384
Being so close to London, most St Albans natives know a good burger when they eat it. We've all been to Meat Liquor or Byron, we've got discerning tastes. So when I say that Relish is really good, you'd better believe that I mean REALLY good. They have an extensive menu of burgers, supplemented by fried chicken, ribs - oh, and great brunch options. Their boozy milkshakes are off the freaking chain, and Yanky burger is one of the best I've ever had. Just look at it. I'm all about those crispy onions.
7. The Beech House, 81 St Peter's Street, St Albans, AL1 3EG | 01727 701230
I'm not sure if I'd define the Beech House as a pub or not... it's somewhere in between a pub and a restaurant, I suppose. But it's always a great bet if there are lots of you as it's huge inside, and they happily take bookings. The menu is very gastro-pub - lots of classics, done well - and there's a great brunch menu (they're open nice and early, too). I haven't been in for an evening yet, but there are lots of cocktails on offer so I will have to give them a go at some point - but basically, they're covering all their bases, and doing it well. It's right by the Premier Inn, too, so if you are in St Albans for the weekend, you could do much worse.
8. Little Marrakech, 31 Market Pl, St Albans AL3 5DL | 01727 815144
There may not be a Mexican in St Albans - something I lament daily - but it still has a pretty eclectic range of cuisines on offer. Exhibit A is this Moroccan restaurant, which is bloomin' excellent. Pretty easy to miss - an unobtrusive doorway sandwiched between a couple of shops - but the people who know it's there absolutely adore it. It's not huge - so if you fancy a trip then I highly recommend a reservation as it's usually fully booked - but that just means the service is first rate. The food is out of this world - think slow cooked meat that falls off the bone, comforting tagines and mindblowing flavours.
9. Kimaya, 144 London Rd, St Albans, Hertfordshire AL1 1PQ | 01727 853191
I'm so fond of Kimaya. I discovered them one night as I really fancied Wagamama, but didn't want to leave the house, so I was looking for similar places that delivered on JUST EAT. Kimaya do a lot of similar dishes to Wagamama - including a katsu curry and some udon noodle dishes - but they also do sushi (not my thing) and thai dishes. I love their crispy chicken pad thai and their crispy duck, but most of all I love their sweet potato croquettes, which are the best thing ever. They are great value if you eat in - they're right by the independent cinema, The Odyssey, so make a night of it - but I'm here for their takeaway more than anything else.
10. Prime Steak & Grill, 83-85 London Rd, St Albans, Hertfordshire AL1 1LN | 01727 840309
This fancypants steak restaurant is quite close to my flat, and I tried it recently. It's a great option for a posh meal out - it's not the cheapest place around, but they do a good fixed price menu if you get there early or for lunch, and on Monday nights you can bring your own wine along with no corkage - instantly making the night a LOT cheaper (£35 each including a bottle of wine is not too shabby, right?). The meat is beautiful quality, the sides are amazing - I'd love to go back here.
11. The Waffle House, Kingsbury Watermill, St Michael's St, St Albans AL3 4SJ | 01727 853502
Everyone seems to have heard of the Waffle House, and with good reason - their waffles are the best around! Waffles just aren't a huge thing in England, are they? So when there's a place that sells good ones, it deserves acclaim. You can get savoury or sweet ones - or both - with awesome specials that change regularly, although if you're going for lunch on a weekend, expect to queue. It's in a super pretty part of St Albans though, so as long as it's not raining, you probably won't mind that too much.
12. The Breakfast Club, 62 Stanhope Rd, St Albans AL1 5BL | 01727 855466
You might miss The Breakfast Club if you're visiting St Albans, as it's off the beaten track, close to the main station, but it's worth a visit. The locals certainly know it's there, as there's usually a queue! Confusingly, it's not affiliated with the London chain, but it's just as good, if not better. I find it impossible to order just one thing when I go, which I think is totally acceptable - why aren't two course brunches more of a thing, I ask you? I recommend the rarebit menu (the Buck Rarebit is basically life changing) and the pancakes with bacon. But it's all good, and as it's open until 3pm it's the perfect place to slink to when you've had a late one.
13. Bar Meze, Bar Meze, Adelaide St, St Albans, Hertfordshire AL3 5BH | 01727 847799
I'm a big fan of this place - every time I've been I've had such a good time, whether with a big group, on a date, a quiet night with a friend or with my family. The highlight was taking my Granny and Mum along. Gran doesn't get out much (she's 99 this year!) but she absolutely loved the food. Even more so, though, I think they both loved the Greek waiters who are all extremely flirty and hilarious - the service really stands out here. The food is delicious too, a great place to go with a big group of you - much like with Tabure, I recommend ordering everything and share it.
14. JK Palmers, 13 High Street, St Albans, AL3 4ED | 01727 843555
Everyone needs to know where their nearest really good sandwich shop is, and ours is JK Palmers. It's nothing special on the surface - just your standard deli with tubs of fillings on the counter to be stuffed into baguettes and paninis - but they're really good at it. This is often where I find myself with a hangover (the kind when all I feel like is an extremely mayonnaisey sandwich), but it's usually a good bet. You can eat in (with table service) or take away, AND they do chips. If you can only go once, make sure it's in December to try their legendary Christmas panini - turkey, stuffing, sausage, bacon and cranberry - but do make sure you ask for brie to be squished in there too, it neeeeeds it. It's not Christmas without a Christmas panini!
15. L'Italiana, 3 French Row, St Albans AL3 5DU | 01727 860609
I've been to Italy three times now, so I feel like I have a little bit of experience in what makes a good pizza. And if not, I like to at least sound like I have experience. So, if you believe me, then you'll believe me when I say that L'Italiana makes a good pizza. This is super authentic Italian cooking, full of flavour (and garlic!). It's on pretty French Row, and in the summer you can sit outside. I've been there before on a hot evening when a family of Italians have come in for their dinner - that's how you know it's good Italian food, if real Italians are eating it!
There are about a million more restaurants in St Albans that are equally great - have I missed your favourite? Let me know in the comments!
Disclaimer: This post is completely un-sponsored and purely based on my experience as a St Albans native who likes to eat! The only two restaurants on this list which I have been invited to review are Tabure and Craft & Cleaver (and have been back to both since and paid my own way).