We do love coffee shops in St Albans, but we have a lot of them, and more than enough chains. I was so pleased to find a new cafe in the city centre, just by the Alban Arena, run by a local couple who want to offer something different to the ubiquitous latte and muffin culture.
The Juice Pharm is run by Gray and Sarah, who both have a keen interest in healthy living and fitness. When they moved to St Albans a few years ago, they realised that there is a real gap for juices and nutritious vegan food. Brighton and Bristol have plenty of juice and veggie cafes and they were sure St Albans would love the same.
There is a great menu of smoothies and cold-pressed fresh juices; for example, Breakfast on the go, which contains banana, oats, dates, chia seeds, hemp powder and almond milk, which is a great option and far better for you than a croissant. I chose a green juice, as I prefer veg-based juices to high-fruit ones, and my ‘Detoxification’ juice contained kale, broccoli, cucumber, parsley, ginger and trendy turmeric. The juices and smoothies cost just under #5, but are generous. I doubt that I was detoxed after drinking it, but it tasted delicious and gave me a boost of energy for the afternoon. There is an argument that we don’t need a lot of fruit juice each day and I was pleased to see that most of the juices contain a good amount of veg to balance things out.
The brunch and lunch menu has been a big draw already, and there are lots of regular customers coming in for avocado on sourdough or rye toast, organic soup and cauliflower pizza. I really enjoyed my slice of pizza though it would have been even nicer hot. If you don’t want to eat gluten or sugar, this is a terrific place as there are so many options to choose from. Sarah makes all the cakes herself, and they look really beautiful. All the cakes are vegan and use dates and coconut oil for sweetness. I shared a generous slice of cacao and blackberry cake with a friend and it had a delicious rich flavour. Inspired by Deliciously Ella, Sarah also makes sweet potato brownies, which are a bigseller, and I will try one next time. You can also buy a decent cup of coffee; Gray’s friend supplies them with Grind beans, and there is a good range of teas too. When the weather warms up, the menu will change to include salads, which I think will be hugely popular.
Gray designed and created the cafe interior, and if you look at the photographs on the walls, each one is a special location for the couple, and have inspired their life choices and the food they like to eat and share. The cafe interior was not what I was expecting as they have chosen heavy black furniture; veggie cafes tend to be bleached wood and light places, but maybe the black is more practical? Gray told me about their love of Ibiza and the yoga retreats they have enjoyed in Esvedra, and how they plan to offer classes upstairs. I had a look at the new studio, and it is a lovely light space, which they plan to open in the evenings too. So you will be able to take a class, then head down to the cafe for a delicious juice to revive you afterwards. The Juice Pharm is a great new addition to St Albans and a great way to get a healthy boost in chilly February.
The Juice Pharm is open every day.