Eating delicious, nutritious food shouldn’t be difficult, even in cold January. If you need a helping hand, I really recommend you head over to Parker & Vine, a very stylish new deli in Harpenden.
You may already know Parker & Vine from the local farmers’ markets, or at the Childwickbury summer and winter fairs. Jane Parker trained at Le Cordon Blue and Luton Hoo, and started her catering and market stall a few years ago, and in May last year joined with friend Sue Vine to open Parker & Vine. Sue brings her retail experience, making this a great double act.
Walk into the shop (opposite Waitrose) and you will see huge piles of delicious, seasonal salads on the counter. On the day I went you could choose from roast cauliflower with za-atar and green tahini dressing; superfood salad with broccoli, peas and seeds; baked aubergine with sorrel dressing and pomegranate; and a very popular Brussels sprout and ginger coleslaw. You can buy 2–4 generous portions for lunch, costing from £5–9.80. You could also choose a large slice of frittata or quiche to go with, or perfectly cooked roasted beef. Everything is prepared daily in the kitchen upstairs by Jane and her team. It is a very easy way to increase your vegetable intake! If you need something hot, there is a fresh soup each day; it was Moroccan lamb and chickpea when I went in, priced at a reasonable £3.
The window is full of cakes and bakes, made by Jane and baker Amber Hunt, a trained pastry chef. You can buy whole cakes or generous slices. Spiced apple cake, caramel pear cake, flapjacks and brownies (there are gluten-free options) all looked good, and after eating a hearty salad lunch, a piece of home-made cake seems entirely reasonable to me. You can also get a good cup of coffee or tea, served in funky black and white cups. There are a few stools if you want to eat and drink inside.
Parker & Vine are well-known locally for their catering; they have cooked for weddings, birthday parties, sailing club dinners and business get-togethers. You need to give them 48 hours’ notice, and there are some amazing options available. I like the sound of the 12-hour pulled pork, the cauliflower and parmesan ‘cake’, and the mezze options. You can opt for 10–20 servings, and choose from roast butternut squash, chickpeas and chorizo, cannellini bean hummus, and many more. Whole puds and tarts to share are also available.
Now Jane and Sue have their shop they are no longer doing the Harpenden market, but they continue to sell at St Albans farmers’ market. The shop is open Mon-Sat, 8.30-4.30, so if you need a fix between markets, head over there. It is a taste of Ottolenghi right on our doorstep.