St Albans Street Festival

Published in The Herts Advertiser 22 June 2017

StAlbansFDF Credit Stephanie Belton FREE TO USE (62)Do you have plans for Sunday? I hope you have time to head into St Albans city centre for the St Albans Street Festival, which will be taking over St Peter’s street with fab food, funky music and gorgeous sunshine (hopefully!).

The team behind the excellent Christmas Lights Switch-on are also behind this, so it looks to be a really good event. St Peter’s street will be closed and food stalls will line the road, along with pop-up restaurants and bars; tables will be set out so you can eat lunch, have a drink and catch up with friends. You will also be able to do some food shopping to take home – there will be bread, cakes, vegetables and preserves stalls.

Free to enter, the Festival is this Sunday (25th June) from 12-6. There is a lot of great food on offer, so you can take the day off cooking; the hog roast from Hog Heaven will be hugely popular, or maybe something from Thompson’s? For something lighter, Toastlicious will be at the event with their fab toasties, which were so popular at the Christmas market; there will be something for everyone.

Favourites from the regular St Albans markets will be there, including Comida Brasil, The Pancake Bar, Chrissie’s Cupcakes, Heaven is a cupcake, The Pudding Stop and The Weeping Chef.

Farr Brewery and The 3 Brewers of St Albans will be ready to serve locally brewed beers – look out for the 3 Brewers Special English Ale; this beer won best beer in the East Anglian CAMRA awards, beating beer from over 80 breweries! I’m also very keen to see the tiki bar hosted by PoppyCock, which is the brainchild of Jas and Shane who you will know from Mokoko.

StAlbansFDF Credit Stephanie Belton FREE TO USE (86)I am always being asked about where to get decent Mexican food in St Albans, and this is your chance to find some! Cantina Carnitas have a great reputation from local festivals and events, and I love their veggie burrito bowl with black beans, avocado and salsa. Chaatit is another great veggie option: they make ‘finger-licking’ Indian vegetarian streetfood; you might know them from other streetfood events in Spitalfields, Wychwood and Paddington.

I love Moroccan food so I will definitely go and see what Marrakech Kitchen is selling. There will be real Belgian frites, Peruvian street food, South African food, falafel and hummus stalls as well as Carmen’s Caribbean food, which is always good.

If you want pud (of course) I really recommend Choux Stopper; we had pots of mini choux buns from this retro van at the Welwyn Food Festival recently. Simon Northcutt is an ex-Beaumont student and started this business just a few months ago in time for the busy festival season. La Flamenca churros is always a huge favourite at the St Albans events, with queues from when they open, so look for them too! Polar Pops are a pretty healthy option; their fruit juice lollies are great for kids and adults. A Bristol-based indie company, they are growing quickly and often appear at big music festivals, so try them while you can.

The music program should keep everyone entertained; it is spread across two stages and there will be country, jazz, pop, folk, barbershop singing, DJs and African drumming. There will be a communal ceilidh at 4pm so grab your partner for a dance in the street! Ahead of their big weekend festival event, Meraki will be hosting a pop-up mini festival; my family loved their silent disco at the Christmas street festival! See you there!

StAlbansFDF Credit Stephanie Belton FREE TO USE (87)

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Codicote Village Day


Pretty Codicote is busy preparing for the annual Codicote Village Day on Saturday 15 July; this lovely event is a real highlight of the year, drawing people from all around Hertfordshire!

Last year over 6000 people attended the Codicote Village Day, and it sounds like another fantastic day is planned, with the procession, fun fair, lawnmower racing, treasure hunt, live music and amazing food. The theme is Under the Sea, and the fair will be opened by local singer Gabz, who was a finalist on Britain’s Got Talent.

I will be helping to judge The Great Bake Off Competition, and the cakes last year looked amazing, so I am really looking forward to it! There are three categories: small cakes (such as cupcakes), big cakes and showstoppers. Just take your bakes to the marquee in the morning (or just after the parade) for judging at around 2.30. The competition is sponsored by Kitchenaid and they have donated some very smart pieces of kit for the prizes. Your cakes can be any design you wish, or have a go with the Under the Sea theme.

The food all day sounds very good, with plenty of local businesses taking part. The Goat and Globe pubs will be looking after the beer and Pimms tents. Codicote Butchers will be doing a hog roast stall and festival regulars I love Sausage will be doing a barbecue. Afternoon tea will be available, with lots of locally made cakes; is there anything nicer on a summer afternoon?

There will be a farmers market again, with a good range of stalls selling breads, preserves and cheeses for picnics and to take home. There is still time to have a food stall at the event; register at Local sellers are particularly welcome and the organisers have said they will make sure there is a range; they would particularly love some more vegetarian food options.

Live music and food will continue into the evening, and you can camp if you want to! All the info is on; see you there!


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The 3 Brewers of St Albans

Published in The Herts Advertiser 8 June 2017


The 3 Brewers of St Albans is quite a young brewery, but it has already made a real impact locally. I am sure you have seen and tried the beers at our various pubs, restaurants and festivals; it is hard to believe that the company is still only five years old. I was delighted to hear of their latest success; their Special English Ale has just won Gold in the CAMRA East Anglian regional finals, beating beers from over 80 breweries. I went to meet the team at their barn brewery in Symonds Hyde, in the woodland beyond the Osprey Shop.

The 3 Brewers are co-founders Mark Fanner and Pete Zivkovic and head brewer Matt Sutton. Mark and Pete came up with the idea for The 3 Brewers in the Garibaldi, and they moved to the Symonds Hyde Farm barn in August 2012. The business is now a 7 days a week job, as the trio do all the brewing, deliveries and festivals.

The team are delighted, and surprised at their win, as they were up against some big names. The award was presented to the team a couple of weeks ago by the local CAMRA group at the Lower Red Lion. The Special English Ale now goes through to the Champion Beer of Great Britain final at the end of the summer, so the decision will be made in time for the Alban Arena beer festival. In the meantime, if you want to try it, it is being sold in lots of local pubs and is for sale at the brewery too.

The trio have a very busy summer coming up first; they will be selling selections of their seven beers including a new summery option Blonde Ale at local events, including the Folk Festival in St Michaels, the St Albans Street Festival and the St Albans Food & Drink Festival. Mark told me that they plan to do a special beer for the local events, so look out for that. They are also hosting an open day at the brewery on September 9th, and they plan live music, a barbecue and plenty of beer tasting. I tried the Blonde and it was delicious, with a good grapefruit flavour that will go well with barbecues and, I think, fish and chips.

The brewery is on a lovely farm location and as we sat outside on the grass, Mark explained that all the water they use for the beer comes from a borehole on the land, which is 100ft deep, and which helps to give the beer its distinctive flavour. The waste grains go to Sandridgebury Farm nearby, and the waste hops are used on the compost heap at Symonds Hyde farm.

The 3 Brewers beers are available in many pubs in the local area, including the nearby Plough at Sleapshyde, The Six Bells in St Albans and The Beech House, to name just three. They are also sold at The Odyssey cinema, The Alban Arena, Carpenters farm shop, The Lovely Little Wine Shop and the Beer Shop.

It is great to hear that The 3 Brewers sell to so many restaurants too, including 4 Nations, Prime and many others; until very recently beer was an afterthought in restaurants. If you want to buy beer direct from the brewery, and this is very popular for parties and weddings, you can visit Mon-Fri 8–4; head brewer Matt is usually there, even if Mark and Pete are out doing deliveries. As well as draft in pubs, the bestselling Classic, Golden and IPAs are available in bottles, and Classic, Golden and Special English Ales are available in 5 litre mini kegs. For large parties they also do 36 pint and 72 pint casks.

The 3 Brewers, Symonds Hyde Farm, Symonds Hyde Lane, AL10 9BB

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Hatfield House Food Festival

(published in Welwyn Hatfield Times 31 May 2017)

Fabulous Baker BrothersIf you are looking for something to do this weekend (2–4 June), why not head to the beautiful grounds of Hatfield House for the Food Festival? With over 150 stalls, and demonstrations from well-known chefs, it should be an excellent day out.

The street food avenue is where to head to for lunch; the choice sounds excellent, and I know my family will be keen to head to the Duck n’ Bite stall for crispy duck wraps and the Smoke Shack for BBQ. I prefer veggie food so will be checking out Camp Halloumi or the Thai food stalls. The pud choice looks good; there will be a churro stall, which is always hugely popular, but I am keen to try the Whipsmith ‘Liquid Nitrogen Ice Cream Factory’, which sounds very Heston Blumenthal. There are several bars, selling everything from beer to whisky, and the double-decker bus bar will be a huge draw, as will the I Love Bubbly Champagne bar. If this weather continues, it will be a fab place to spend time and enjoy a drink. There is a local producers marquee for take-home cheeses, preserves, charcuterie etc as well as lots of kitchen items such as Polish pottery, hand-made spoons and glassware.

Running from Friday to Sunday (10-5), there are demonstrations and workshops every day at the festival, and these are free to attend to ticket holders. There is also live music all weekend.

The Fabulous Baker Brothers aka Tom and Henry Herbert will be appearing on Friday and Saturday on the Social Kitchen stage and the BBQ theatre. Their series on Channel 4 of the same name was a big success, and they are known for baking and barbecuing; Henry is the butcher and chef and Tom is the baker.

On Sunday, Rosemary Shrager, who you will know from her recent appearances on ‘I’m a Celebrity’ and ‘The Real Marigold Hotel’, will be demonstrating on the Social Kitchen stage. As well as appearing in many TV shows over the years, Rosemary also owns a cookery school and patisserie in Tunbridge Wells and has written many books.

There will also be appearances from Paul Jagger, who was a quarter-finalist in The Great British Bake Off in 2015; he made the amazing bread lion! Paul will be leading baking masterclasses. Clover Hutson will be leading the workshops about family cooking in the Social Kitchen. You will also be able to go on Foraging Walks led by Mark Lloyd, who was head chef at River Cottage and has appeared on Market Kitchen, Hairy Bikers and BBC Breakfast. There are also classes specifically for children including making vegetable cupcakes and pizza fom scratch. The kids’ Food Lab sounds great too; watch out for Jelly Explosions! The Hatfield House website has a full list of all demos throughout the weeked, but you can juts turn up and see whatever you like the sound of!

Advance website tickets cost 9 for adults and 5 for children. If you buy on the door, tickets are 11 for adults and 7 for children. Under 5s are free. You can reserve a place in some of the workshops in advance for no extra cost, or check for space on the day.

Hatfield Food Festival

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Bistro Gautier


Guy, Liana and their father Mark

Guy, Liana and their father Mark

I’ve been taking French lessons again, in an attempt to improve my rusty school French, which is how I discovered Bistro Gautier in Harpenden. We meet each week there over café, and my French teacher kept telling me that the food is excellent, and that I really must try it. You may know Bistro Gautier as the old Amble Inn pub on Station Road; it has now been transformed into a modern French bistro by the Gautier family.

Siblings Liana and Guy Gautier set up the bistro with their father Mark Gautier last year; Liana explained that Bistro Gautier has always been a family-run business. Mark was a classic French chef who worked at The Savoy and The Dorchester, and together with wife Corinne started a catering company specialising in French food, which is how Liana and Guy got to learn about hospitality. Liana explained that they loved working with their parents, cooking at events and festivals, including Glastonbury. The family have lived in Harpenden for many years, and Mark and Corinne used to help run The Amble Inn in its previous guise as The Dolphin, so when it became available, the family jumped at the chance to establish a permanent base, and Bistro Gautier was born.

It is a true bistro, in that it has a very relaxed atmosphere, and you can pop in at any time of day, whether just for a drink or for a meal. Liana explained that it still very much a pub, and that they have lots of regulars who call in for a drink at the bar or head out to the garden. The menu starts with brunch, and continues through into the evening with a la carte.

I really like the exterior and interior of the bistro; it is light and modern, with a pretty, well-tended terrace and garden. The copper penny wall by the front door was Mark’s idea, and see if you can spot the sparkling lights in the ceiling too. The giant fairground-style sign outside looks fantastic and I imagine was inspired by their festival travels.

I went in for lunch to try the prix-fixe menu, which is available midweek 12-5, and must be one of the best deals locally: two courses are 10 pounds and three courses are 13 pounds. I had a delicious and generous bowl of cauliflower soup, flavoured with truffle oil, and a beautifully cooked piece of trout on ratatouille. My glass of French Sauvignon Blanc was excellent. I took a French friend who is an excellent cook, and she explained that much of the menu was typical – she was pleased to see snails with dill sauce. Her starter of beetroot and avocado looked beautiful; there was a slight muddle as she had asked about gluten-free options, and her starter then came with toast, but replacement gluten-free toast was brought quickly. The beef boulette (meatball) was good, although we thought it would have been lovely with my ratatouille. We didn’t want dessert, but enjoyed a generous pot of mint tea and a good espresso. Service is added to the bill automatically, which is a little unusual – I prefer to add it myself.

Trout with ratatouille

I want to go back and try the a la carte menu; the baked aubergine with caramelised lemon sounds lovely, and you will find French classics such as magret de canard, moules mariniere and poulet au citron, as well as many others. The Bistro is very busy at weekends, so do book ahead. The brunch menu looks really good too, with mimosas, eggs on brioche, croque-monsieurs, omelette Arnold Bennett (in a nod to The Savoy), as well as cooked breakfasts. With the sun streaming in from the garden this would be a lovely place for a relaxed weekend brunch. Liana explained that they recently celebrated the Bistro’s first birthday outside with a barbecue and cocktail bar, and they plan to hold more events through the summer, so do look out for those too.

It is lovely to hear about a family-run restaurant in our local area, and the Gautier family have done a fantastic job of creating a welcoming and affordable bistro. It is a modern taste of France, right in the heart of Hertfordshire.

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Photo caption: from left to right: Amy Laverick, Carmelo, Kristiina Mjazina (business partner), Costin Nicolae (head chef), Thomas Evans (coffee master)

Tucked away in an old-school ‘parade’ of shops down a side road, you have to be in-the-know about Carmelo’s, a new cafe in London Colney. When I popped in mid-week for a late lunch, nearly all the tables were full with a mix of families, friends, retirees and office workers so the word has definitely got out. There was a warm hello when we walked in for the first time, and during lunch I could see that there were plenty of regulars who know the team. So many people had suggested I go and try Carmelo’s, and I was keen to see what the fuss is all about.

Carmelo Giallombardo opened his cafe about six months ago, and you may recognise him from the Beech House and Pret in St Albans. He had been wanting to open his own business for a while and was delighted when the shop on Haseldine Road became available. The interior is very smart, with funky graphic wallpaper, blackboards and large windows that let in plenty of light. There are high chairs so young families are welcome, and there are magazines and stools by the counter for anyone popping in for a coffee on their own. Parking nearby is fairly easy and it is also a short walk from the local schools for post-drop-off parents.

Carmelo explained how the menu has evolved since opening, adapting to what is most popular with the regulars. The menu focuses on breakfast and brunch options, with a healthy approach; the classic breakfasts are baked rather than fried. I was also pleased to see avocado on toast, salmon and eggs which has helped to broaden the appeal of the cafe. Carmelo told me that the vegetarian breakfast is one of the most popular choices. You can order breakfast at any time of the day, which is great – cafes that have strict time cut-offs for parts of the menu can feel a bit unfriendly.


The ‘veggie’ breakfast is very popular.

Coffee is a delicious Italian blend made by an old friend of Carmello’s, who also supplied coffee to the family cafe back in Bologna, Italy. Carmelo told me that they plan to offer barista-training with Tom Evans (the resident coffee expert) and sell their own blend – it’s just a matter of having time! It is good to see that soya and almond milk is available, at no extra cost. You can also get Tea Pigs, smoothies and milkshakes – a lovely after-school treat. I’m sure the waffles are popular with children too.

I really like the lunch menu; I chose a baked sweet potato with feta, avocado and salad, and it was perfectly cooked and generous. The teenager chose a Greek salad, which was good value at 6.50. There is usually a home-made soup of the day, and a man sitting near me had a very generous bowl of mushroom which looked delicious. Bread is supplied by Dolce Forno in north London and the Italian bruschettas on the menu are very popular, and make a lunch in themselves. Local supplier Sparshotts deliver the fresh salads and vegetables.

If you are popping in for tea and cake, there is a nice selection at the counter, with many made by the cafe staff. Flapjacks, rocky road and brownies looked good and prices are sensible, and lower than in the chain cafes.

Carmelos dad

Carmelo’s Dad.

In such a short time Carmelo has made a real success of his cafe; regulars come from St Albans, Radlett and Shenley. Carmelo told me that the reason he thinks the cafe is doing well is the team working there, which includes his partner Kristiina, who he worked with at Pret. The staff know the customers and all work hard to keep standards high. I think it is also to do with Carmelo having worked in family cafes all his life; his Dad came over to help in the early weeks too. Carmelo has plans to open in the evenings at weekends, and to extend the Mediterranean menu with tapas and sharing plates. It is a very welcome newcomer to London Colney, and I am sure I will return!


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World Food Festival

Frances Quinn

I really don’t want you to miss next week’s World Food Festival in Welwyn Garden City, so make a date in your diaries for Saturday 20th May. Now in its 6th year, this lovely event continues to grow and is one of the best food festivals, right on our doorstep.

WGCfoodfestivalThe festival is free to enter, unlike many in the UK, and with over 30 food stalls as well as demonstrations and live music, there is plenty to do. You will recognise many of our local favourite indie businesses from the markets, restaurants and cafes, and you will be able to buy food from over 20 countries, along with foodie gifts and homeware.

The festival takes place on the green on Howardsgate, between 11-5, so perfect for morning coffee, a delicious lunch and then afternoon tea (or perhaps churros, choux buns or crepes?). Last year over 10,000 people visited the festival, so plan to arrive early and walk into the centre if you can.

stallholderwgcYou will be able to eat lunch from Brazil, Japan, Indonesia, Lebanon, USA, South Korea, Mexico, Spain, Italy, France, Greece and Cyprus; so there really will be something for everyone. Look for local favourites such as Red, whose popular restaurant nearby sells delicious Indian food and Comida Brasil; their stall in St Albans town centre is also very popular. There is plenty of choice if you want vegan and vegetarian options, and I am looking forward to trying 24 Carrot, who sell juices, salads and wraps.

balloonswgcThe Cooking Demonstration Stage is always a focus, with chefs sharing their tips throughout the day. This year, Great British Bake Off winner Frances Quinn will be appearing between 1.30-2.15, and it will be interesting to see what she creates for us. Frances’ book Quinntessential Baking, published by Bloomsbury, is full of amazing creative bakes, so this is a must for any keen bakers out there looking for new inspiration. Since winning the Bake Off, Frances has had some amazing cake commissions, including for the Tate, Nike and the illustrator Quentin Blake. There is no need to buy a ticket; just turn up and watch. Space will be tight with everything else going on, so the organisers recommend coming early to ensure a great view. Other demos include Sophie Lotinga who won the Oaklands Young Chef of the Year competition last year and a soda bread class with Linda Dobbs from Mill Green Museum.

As well as some of the small indie businesses, there will also be stands from Waitrose, Mill Green Museum and Oaklands College who train many excellent chefs that go on to work in leading London and local restaurants, including Michelin-starred.

The live music sounds excellent, with local favourites The Swanvesta Social Club (1pm) and Easydread (4.30pm) playing, along with the new talent of Oaklands College’s Music & Performing Arts students. There will be plenty of space for picnics, so see you there!

The Welwyn Garden City World Food Festival is organised by the WGC Business Improvement District (BID) and Oaklands College.

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