If you want to find somewhere interesting to eat or drink in St Albans you need to head away from the main shopping areas into the quieter side streets. Tucked away on Catherine Street opposite the excellent Bistro Paprika is The Meating Room, which has already proved very popular with locals and visitors who have found them via great reviews on Tripadvisor.
A small, but stylish, restaurant specialising in burgers, The Meating Room was opened a year ago in May by cousins Al and Jamal and their partners Nargis and Raihaanah. Fed-up of commuting into London every day, they discussed plans for their own restaurant over many lunch breaks. Born and raised in St Albans, Al and Jamal wanted to start their business here. Al told me: “We wanted people to come in here and think of it as their own St Albans restaurant, not just another chain.” They have kept this in mind in everything they do, and all the burgers are named after places in St Albans, so you can choose a “Flaming Fleetville”, a “King Harry” and a “St Peter’s” burger. Customers are always asking for a burger named after their favourite local area!
The team have worked with local suppliers from the start, from the carpenter who made the booths to the baker who makes the brioche buns. Al told me that when he discussed with Prudens in Markyate if they would bake the buns, he took his own recipe along, which surprised them. He wanted the buns to be baked with honey, not sugar, as he thought most brioche buns were too sweet. They have gluten-free buns too (I am always asked by readers about this!).
The Meating Room take a great deal of care in their sourcing, using halal West Country beef for their burgers from a supplier in Kent (the local farms couldn’t supply the amount they wanted). The burgers are made every day in the tiny kitchen and are used the same day; any spares go to Jubilee Centre Community Meals nearby and on some days they simply run out. I took the family a couple of weeks ago and thought my burger was full of flavour; a reflection of its freshness.
Raihaanah designed the logo, menus and the look of the restaurant – it is a little taste of Shoreditch in St Albans. Raihaanah is also the person behind the friendly tweets.
You need to take your own alcohol and they charge a modest corkage fee to cover the glasses; it makes it a very good value night out. If you prefer they do a good range of juices and fresh milkshakes, served in mini milk bottles.
I was pleased to see a good value “Little Dude’s” menu. The owners are parents and Nargis is a teacher; Al explained that it was important to them that the food was as nutritious and healthy as possible.
I like that The Meating Room is actively involved in the local community. I have seen them support local schools (Al and Jamal went to Mandeville and Marlborough) and Al told me that they have just sponsored new shirts for a local school rugby team. They work with older students too; one Hertfordshire University student designed and constructed the website, marketing students helped with the PR campaign and they have employed a local apprentice.
Al told me that they would love to move to a larger site one day – it is already difficult to get a table in the evenings – but the high street rates are only affordable to the chains. So if you want to try somewhere with local passion, head off the beaten track.
The Meating Room, 22 Catherine Street, Al35BX