That Little Place
When I reached 100 columns we had a think about what we could do to keep things interesting. There is still plenty to write about food in the local area – new independents seem to pop-up all the time, with market stalls, restaurants, and cafes. We still want to fly the flag of local business and celebrate the original, in the face of endless chains opening. So what’s next. I am delighted to say that I will now being doing the occasional restaurant review too. They won’t be tied to advertising, and I’m going to focus on the independents. We have plenty to choose from locally, so I’m going to look at the ones who are doing something special – making food from scratch on the premises (amazing that even needs to be a criteria), doing something newsworthy, and if they use local ingredients then brilliant. I’m going to try to avoid clichés such as “washed down with”, “on a bed of”, and I won’t refer to my husband as “the blonde”. If you have a great recommendation, let me know at thelocalfoodie.wordpress.com and I will check it out.
The first restaurant ticks all the boxes, and I have wanted to write about it for years. That Little Place in Harpenden is a rare thing: it is run by the owners, who cook for you, welcome you at the door, and wait on the tables. They care deeply that you have a great experience and want to come back. It makes a welcome change from the large chains, whose chef-owners simply cannot be in 40 places at once. Chef Alec Goodhand has been there from the start and was in the kitchen when we popped in on a Monday evening. It was a hot evening but the small restaurant has effective air-conditioning, and was very bright and comfortable. It was half full, which is a very good sign for a Monday night.
The menu focusses on British dishes, using as many local, seasonal ingredients as possible. Food miles are noted on the menu, highlighting how much care the team put into their sourcing. Home-made elderflower cordial was available with sparkling water or Prosecco; perfect for a hot evening. We shared a starter of Childwickbury Goat’s Cheese Cakes with home-made Red Onion and Thyme Marmalade, which was a generous portion for the 6.50 price. Each cake was wrapped in a microscopically thin crumb crust which went very well with the soft, mild cheese inside. Delicious. The salad leaves were a bit boring; a few pea shoots or rocket leaves might have been nicer, but I’d order it again. Seeds and sunflower rolls from local baker Prudens (2 minutes walk away) were fresh and tasty, with little retro pots of balsamic and oil. Other starters included scotch eggs, mackerel and beetroot salad, and carpaccio of local beef.
For the main courses, Steve chose Beef and Harpenden Ale pie, which scored very well on the smug food mile points, as That Little Place brew their own beer, and the beef is from Hammonds End Farm, just up the road. Hammonds End are well-known for supplying grain to Redbournbury Mill and the bakery, and now rear pure-bred Sussex steers. A huge pile of triple-cooked Maris Piper chips came with the pie, which I had to help with in the name of research. Just fab. I chose Roasted Lamb Skewers, with the lamb from Hedges Farm. It was incredibly juicy and more-ish, and came with more crushed potatoes and peas than I could manage. Every course was almost twice the size you get in other local restaurants, yet the prices are reasonable. The Beef and Ale pie is 11.95 and the lamb skewers 13.95 and we didn’t need to order any side dishes, although some are available. There are plenty of yummy sounding fish and veggies dishes, so I am sure any visitor will find something interesting to choose. They clearly label the menu with gluten-free options too.
Puds were classic Brit – Eton Mess, Sticky Toffee Pudding and cheeses with home-grown quince preserve. The Eton Mess was large enough for us to share and exactly as you would wish it to be, with fresh, light meringue. On a hot summer’s evening, strawberries are really the only way to go.
The drink menu is well-balanced, with plenty of British favourites including ciders from Millwhites in Gaddesdon, and Nyetimber English Classic Cuvee for anyone thinking about Champagne. That Little Brewery make Harpenden Gold in the summer and spring, and switch to producing ALE5 in the winter, which suits the menu well.
The shelves are lined with awards, and I’ll note a few so you know that it’s not only me who think this That Little Place is a true local gem:
* Winner – National Green Apple Award 2012
* Runner Up – Review Restaurant of the Year 2012
* Finalist – Herts Green Awards 2012
* Finalist – District Best Local Producer 2012
* Runner Up – Best Restaurant 2010 St Albans & District Food and Drink Festival.
If you have yet to try some of our local foods, then this is a perfect way to experiment: local, seasonal food, cooked with love and care. But be sure to book!
5 Station Road
Herts AL5 4SA