Published in The Herts Advertiser 18 Jan 2018
George Street and the ‘Cathedral Quarter’ is becoming quite the destination for restaurants and bars. Busy Dylan’s, Per Tutti and Suckerpunch have created a new buzz about the area, and locals know to head away from the main roads with the chains to the more atmospheric parts of town for something interesting to eat.
The latest addition is Loft, tucked away off George Street in the courtyard with Thirty Nine 10 wine shop and Little Viking Vintage, in the roof space where 4 Nations used to be. Louise and Nick Male moved to St Albans a few years ago to raise their family, and used to own The Larder in Clerkenwell. Chef Nick was also Executive Chef at Conran Restaurants and Head of Food Development for Harrods.
Follow the lanterns up the stairs to find the stylish restaurant, which makes the most of the 600-year old building with its exposed beams and lovely brickwork. The Scandi furniture looks great in the space. There is a small copper bar area for pre-dinner drinks (there is usually space early in the week and lunchtimes for just drinks and bar snacks), and there is a nice edit of cocktails and gins.
Nick’s food is modern British in style, with a short, well-planned menu. The set menu is available at lunch during the week and early evening (until 7.30 midweek and 7 at weekends), at 19.50 for two courses. Starters include smoked salmon, with beetroot and horseradish sauce, or potato gnocchi with mushrooms and churned butter. Mains include burrata with butternut squash. We ordered across the menus as we were in at lunch time: my tuna tartare with olive crumble and tomato bread from the bar snack menu was served at the perfect temperature and had a great flavour. The poached egg, chorizo and garlic jam on toast and the chicken breast with pumpkin and charred leek from the set menu were both well-presented and generous. I really liked the thick griddled slices of pumpkin with the delicious sauce with the chicken. Nick said that he will be changing the menu with the seasons.
The main menu served in the evenings includes excellent seasonal and British ingredients, including artichoke soup, New Forest mushrooms, Cornish cod and Lake District lamb. My partner loved the lamb loin with the braised shoulder hotpot, which came with a delicious mint sauce. Louise pointed out that the Wagyu beef comes from Ashridge, and they are the only restaurant who serve it from that supplier at the moment; the rest goes to individual customers. The wine list is good and they have a hand-written book of one-off bottles which is worth a look if you want to try something off-list.
I really liked the private dining room which is up a flight of stairs; there is one large table for 8–10, and there is a lovely view across the rooftops of Fishpool Street and to the Cathedral. There are a lot of stairs involved, so access is limited.
With main courses costing around the #17–24 mark (and #42 for the beef), Loft is one of the more expensive restaurants in our area, comparable to Galvin at The Centurion and Thompson’s. They are already very busy at weekends, even in January, so it looks like people are excited to see what they offer. An exciting and welcome new addition to George Street!