Easter holidays are almost here and the clocks have changed so we all have a little more time to get outside and enjoy our lovely local parks. We are very lucky as most of our parks have cafes in or very near them, so you can reward your healthy walk or quality time with the children with a coffee afterwards.
Verulamium park, near St Michael’s village, St Albans
Inn on the Park is a family-run cafe located near the museum and children’s play area. It was shortlisted for the most family friendly cafe award last year, and deservedly so. The team there produce excellent home-made food including good soups, breakfasts and sandwiches, at very sensible prices. I spoke to the owner Wendy and she explained that they use local suppliers and use fairtrade tea and coffee.
One way to make the most of our longer evenings now is the new children’s tea time menu, served 3-5pm on weekdays. Pasta with pesto, peas and parmesan is £2.90, a mini jacket potato with sausage chunks and beans is £3.50 and they do sandwiches for £1.75.
The annual Easter egg hunt will be on Easter Sunday Sunday 24 April, and children can meet the easter bunny while they search for eggs. You can reserve your ticket in advance in the cafe, and it all starts at 11am.
On Friday 29 April, you can celebrate the Royal Wedding at Inn on the Park. They will be serving a lavish royal breakfast, and a celebration afternoon tea.
Fleetville Park, Hatfield Road, St Albans
The Beech Tree cafe is a little gem, next to the park, and opposite Morrisons. Owner Abslam Bichri called it Beech Tree as his surname is pronounced like “beech tree”. When I popped in last week I had excellent coffee and a home-made chocolate Easter cake which was probably meant for children, but was too lovely to resist, as well as a very warm welcome. There were lots of healthy options too, including a falafel wrap and salads, which are popular with those who go to the gym nearby. There is a nice terrace overlooking the play area, so on a good weather day this is very popular with families from the nearby school. Homemade flapjacks also looked good, and Javiera who was working that day explained that they make all the food from scratch themselves. They use halal meat. Do try their Moroccan tea, which is £2 for one person, and £3 for two. Served in traditional Moroccan glasses from a silver pot, Javiera added fresh African mint which they buy from one of the local shops on Hatfield Road. You can also buy Moroccan pastries to go with it.
Clarence Park, St Albans
Verdi’s Trattoria is located in the corner of Clarence Park, near Hatfield Road. A restaurant, rather than a cafe, you can buy good pizzas and pasta. On the weekends you need to book for lunch (01727 845363). They are not set up like a coffee shop, but you can order a coffee to sit outside on one of the benches overlooking the park. Verdi’s sell really lovely ice cream to a steady stream of families who have finished in the play area or parked their bikes nearby.
For more coffee options and cakes and sandwiches, leave the park and find The Breakfast Club on Stanhope Road. Park buggies outside as it gets full, but you can get excellent breakfasts, lunches and afternoon treats. The food really is good; they use free-range eggs, make their own baked beans, and do great fruit juices.
Lydekker Park, Harpenden
Close to Lydekker Park, the Lily Lounge on the High Street is a family-run business, owned by Lucy Collins. All the food is home-made on the premises, and you can pop in for breakfast, lunch and afternoon tea. They make eight or nine different cakes every day, and serve sandwiches, home-made soups and specials for lunch. Spicy Carrot Soup with crusty bread was £5.40 last week. All their coffee is fairtrade.
It is a lovely cafe with a spacious interior, and there are high chairs and a children’s menu. Open Mon-Sat 9.30-5, the Lily Lounge also opens when the Farmer’s Market is on, so do wander up there if you are in town that day. They make cakes to order, such as chocolate and vanilla sponges, which are ideal for birthday cakes.
Rothamsted Park, Harpenden
I could not find a cafe in or very near to Rothamsted park, but a short walk to the town centre gives you many choices, including The Gingerbread Man, Vaughan Road. The council are, however, thinking about introducing barbecue areas to the park, so look out for those in the summer!
The Orchard Tea Room in Shenley Park is right next to the children’s play area, and a short walk from the pretty walled garden, which hosts lots of theatre events in the summer. They do good breakfasts, lunches and afternoon tea, but one thing you must try is the apple juice. The apples are grown in the nearby orchard and pressed and bottled in the park. You really can’t beat that for food miles! Shenley Park have many heritage apple trees, so you may be able to try an unusual variety. Shenley Park apple juice is just £1 a glass. Open Mon-fri 9-4 and Sat-sun 8-4 so if you get there early to beat the crowds you can treat yourself to breakfast for £5.95.