If you are looking for somewhere beautiful to go out for dinner on a warm, sunny evening, then I have good news for you. The Bakehouse, already well-known for its cafe, is now open in the evenings for dinner.
Before I get on to the food, I must write about the garden, as it is the most wonderful spot, with incredible, uninterrupted views of the Cathedral and Vintry Garden. Lights have been strung across the garden so you can stay outside even when the night draws in. Even if you are not lucky enough to bag an outdoor table, the huge floor to ceiling windows in the main restaurant mean that you can enjoy the view and lights whatever the weather.
The cafe was opened 2 years ago by two St Albans families, and has proved very popular, bringing new life to a building that had seen businesses come and go. You can still go upstairs for Monmouth Coffee and cakes baked on the premises but now downstairs will focus on a full lunch menu.
If you go in the day or evening, the main entrance is downstairs by the garden, alongside the entrance to Lussmann’s. It is now full table service, and we were welcomed by manager Simon Blunt who many of you will know as the face of The City Market Company. In keeping with the cafe, the restaurant menu is made on site, and is fresh and seasonal. Bread, tarts and cakes are what they are known for, as is the local sourcing and I was pleased to see that suppliers include A&C Meats, Stickleback Fish Co, Cellar Door Wines & The Three Brewers. The menu reminded me of Bills in Brighton, before it became a chain, with prices that are good value for St Albans, and show the chains what can be done.
We chose Pea and broad bean bruschetta on toasted sourdough with Parmesan shavings and Choux pasty buns filled with goats cheese, with a pear salad and honey. The broad beans were tiny and very fresh, and perfectly seasonal. The main courses include burgers, chicken and fish, with prices starting from £8.95. My Naked Bakehouse Burger with hand-cut chips and slaw was very tasty, with excellent quality beef from A&C Meats (Catherine Street, St Albans). The Bakehouse Burger comes with a brioche bun, rather than the usual mass-produced bun, and bacon or cheese. One friend had the BBQ Pulled Pork burger topped with blueberry BBQ sauce; again, a seasonal variation that the chains just can’t do. I would have liked a little more slaw, but otherwise, I think this was very good value. Roast chicken breast with tabouleh and minted yoghurt sauce was our other choice, and was perfectly cooked, and a good summer option.
You would expect the own-made puds to be good and I liked the choice: Bakewell Tart, Warm Chocolate Brownie with hot salted caramel sauce, and Lemon Blueberry Drizzle cake served with hot lemon sauce. The wine list is short and sensible and was devised with help from Cellar Door (London Road, St Albans); we chose Bella Modella Pinot Grigio which was the palest rose, and the most delicious one I have tried in a long time. The Three Brewers Ales are based in St Albans and there are two choices: Golden Ale and Classic Ale; good options to go with the burgers. The plan over the next few weeks is to add salads and sharing platters, and the menu will change in autumn to reflect the seasons. The service was friendly and well organised; we thought the restaurant could do with some music, but I imagine some would prefer quiet – I guess it depends if you want a quiet romantic evening or a buzzy night out with friends.
I really like it, and I can see it competing with the chains. The food is affordable and shows real care and attention. A large family group was in when we went and they were happy too; I think The Bakehouse deserves to be a new St Albans favourite.
Restaurant opening times
Mon – Fri: 12pm – 11pm (food served 12pm – 3pm & 5pm – 9.30pm)
Sat: 9am – 11pm (breakfast from 9am – 11.30am and main menu from 12.00pm – 9.30pm)
Sun: 9am – 5pm (breakfast from 9am – 11.30am and main menu from 12.00pm – 4pm)
To book a table call 07866118414.