London Road has been the place to watch for new foodie places in the last year or so. With the cinema regeneration and lots of flats being built, Charlie’s, The Beer Shop and Prime are flourishing and bringing new life to the area. The latest opening is St Villa, on the old Kamillos site, and I went in for lunch last week, curious to see what changes had been made.
You first notice the huge outdoor terrace, with smart garden furniture and planting, which I am sure will be popular on a sunny weekend, and it is unusual to find such a generous outside space in the city centre. Walking inside, we found a light spacious room, with stairs up to further seating. Downstairs, there is a good bar area with zinc-topped tables for drinks, bar food and dinner. On the mezzanine, with a lovely pitched roof, there is a slightly more formal feel with tableclothes and vintage photographs of St Albans.
You might know owner Tony Allushi from the very popular La Cosa Nostra just around the corner on Lattimore Road. Tony and team started work on St Villa in February and opened a week ago. La Cosa Nostra is known for its excellent pizzas, and Tony brings some of that Italian/Mediterranean influence here, but has also included some Modern British options.
I took food writer Ren Behan along with me, and we chose from the great value lunch menu. My ham hock terrine was well-made with good flavour and with a crunchy, fresh piccalilli. Ren’s goats cheese salad with pomegranate was good, but slightly hidden under a huge pile of woody leaves. The cod with vierge sauce was cooked perfectly, with a generous amount of crisp vegetables and sauteed potatoes, which I like as you don’t have to order lots of side dishes. My chicken with mustard mash and curly kale was delicious comfort food. Our glasses of house wine were delicious and served in beautiful glassware. I think prices are fair and compare to say, Lussmann’s, and the set lunch is a steal. If you are looking for vegetarian food there are some good options, including a seasonal parnsnip and pear soup and ricotta and spinach gnocchi.
Service throughout was warm and professional; the staff are clearly very experienced and I think you will feel well looked after, whether popping in for a drink before the cinema, or having a special dinner. There is a good bar menu, including cocktails (hibiscus fizz sounds lovely). Tony is known for his hospitality and already customers from La Cosa Nostra are coming in to St Villa to find out what it is like. It is very different, but I think there is easily space for both.
Tony’s wife Toma came up with the name, which takes the St from St Albans, and villa represents that the building is like a Mediterranean villa. Children are welcome and there is basic, under 5 pounds menu for young children. They are also serving classic roast lunches on a Sunday. I am really glad to see this location given new life, and by a local team; it deserves to do very well.
All photographs by Ren Behan.