Just a short walk from St Albans city train station and near beautiful Clarence Park, Fleetville has always been an enclave of interesting, independent food shops. Santino’s Italian deli was always very popular, and when the owners decided to retire, we were curious to see what would appear in its place.
I popped in last week and met new owner Ed Bevin, who lives just round the corner from his cafe and deli. Ed explained that he used to work in London and, with a young family, had got fed up with the daily commute – I think many of us will be able to relate to that. When the Santinos told Ed that they were retiring, he decided to grasp the opportunity and change the direction of his life. A course on how to run a cafe, and lots of painting and decorating later, and The Fleetville Larder opened officially in February.
I love the new look; it is light and welcoming, with seating for about 20 inside, with funky reclaimed wooden benches and school chairs. It is a great place to pop in for a coffee and I am sure the parents from the nearby schools and homeworkers will love it here. There is a good selection of loose leaf Brew teas, and home-made cakes and fresh loaves. The reason for the name, though, is that Ed sells a great selection of British and French cheeses at the counter, along with a well chosen range of biscuits and chutneys to go with them. I was really pleased to also see some of our local products on sale too, including Dizzy Bee Granola and Virginia’s Kitchen preserves, both of which are home-made in St Albans.
Ed has chosen award-winning cheeses that you won’t be able to buy in the nearby big supermarkets, and it is well worth popping in if you are planning a special cheeseboard or for a favourite. When I went in, there were large wheels of Tunworth, which is a celebrity in the cheese world, having been awarded Supreme Champion in the British Cheese awards in 2013. You could also choose Cerney Ash, which is hand-made in the Cotswolds; Vulscombe goat cheese, made in Devon; Isle of Mull cheddar; Appleby’s Cheshire; and famous Cornish Yarg which is wrapped in nettles. You can go for lunch and try a board of cheeses with chutney, bread and crackers; it is a great way to try something new. The lunch boards cost 7.50–10.50 and you can share of course. Ed is hoping to open in the evening when settled, and I can imagine this will be very popular – a bit like a Pudding Stop, but with cheese!
I tried Virginia’s Kitchen onion and caraway marmalade, which had a delicious flavour and good texture, quite unlike many over-sweet and pureed commercial chutneys. The pear and walnut chutney sounds amazing too. Apple and cobnut biscuits are a taste of Kent, so look out for those too, made by The Captains Table company. There are also pretty boxes of reasonably priced chocolates, jams and teas which would make up a lovely hamper or a treat for yourself.
I sat in for a (very good) coffee, but I was pleased to see that The Fleetville Larder have chosen to use Vegware for their takeaway cups and lids; these are made from plant materials rather than plastic so are properly recyclable. You can take your cup home and put it in your green bin. It’s great to see a new business starting as they mean to go on, with thoughtful sourcing and good-quality local products for sale. Every time I have been past the cafe is busy, so this approach evidently works. The Fleetville Larder is a great new addition to the local community.
The Fleetville Larder, 129 Hatfield Road (near St Paul’s Church)