I love this time of year in our local area. The daffodils and bluebells are out and on sunny days we can head to the pub gardens; the whole place seems to come to life again. I also love Easter food; chocolate and hot cross buns – what isn’t to like!
It is all change at the Cathedral at the moment, as you may have seen with the excavations near the visitor entrance. The Abbot’s Kitchen cafe has relocated to a large marquee in front of the Cathedral facing toward the lake. I really like the new location; we went just after it opened and sat in the sunshine at one of the outdoor tables, and the view is really fantastic. Inside, the marquee is very smart and spacious; they have set up a full kitchen so you can get all the usual lunches, cakes and coffees, so it really is business as usual. Breakfast is served until 11.30 and you can get bacon rolls, eggs on toast etc. Lunch includes jacket potatoes, soup, salads, sandwiches and a daily hot lunch. I met John, one of the full-time volunteers at the Cathedral and he explained that the refectory is being transformed as part of the new visitor centre, so the cafe will be outside for about two years. I notice they have a fridge ready for Ice Kitchen lollies, which are excellent; I am sure these will be very popular with families out exploring the park.
If you are quick you will be able to buy Alban buns; these are the original hot cross buns and have been part of the Easter tradition at the Abbey/Cathedral for nearly 700 years. They are 1.65 each if you would like one in the cafe, and we had ours toasted with butter. Alban buns are slightly firmer than many commercial hot cross buns and have a spicier flavour. When the buns were made at Redbournbury Mill they were marked with a traditional cut cross; the buns are being made by Simmons this year, who have added a piped cross. If you want to buy a packet to take home, they cost 4.95 for a pack of four. The cafe will stop selling them after Easter, so do get there quick!
Over towards Kimpton, Sarah Collins’ Barn is another seasonal favourite. Look for the signs as you drive towards Kimpton from Wheathamstead, and take the road up on your left. Sarah opens the pretty barns at Christmas and Easter and sells an excellent selection of foodie gifts and kitchen items, as well as paintings, jewellery and clothes. I really liked the Easter-themed egg cosies, as well as the pretty mugs, plates, aprons and tea towels, many of which are printed with local town names. There is a nice selection of food gifts including chocolate, olives, coffee and preserves. There isn’t a cafe here but one of the lovely things they do is offer complimentary tea, coffee and biscuits as you wander around. The Barn is open until Easter Saturday at 5pm, so if you miss it this year, remember to go at Christmas.
If you are looking for interesting Easter treats, head to Rock Pop Candy on Holywell Hill. This is a treasure trove of sweets and gifts, with many international favourites too. The ‘Reester Bunny’ made by USA firm Reeses, famous for their peanut butter cups, is proving very popular and there might be some left if you hop to it. Rock Pop Candy also sell more traditional chocolate eggs, hens and rabbits, including lovely chocolate rabbit lollipops and praline eggs. I am quite tempted by the Marmite Easter egg for our marmite-loving 11-year-old, although it is quite a risky combination.
Local company I am Cocoa also do lovely chocolate, and you will find Jackie’s home-made collection at Carpenters, The Smokehouse Deli, Perfect Moment Florist and for delivery through Box Local. The lollipops, buttons and stars are a good size for a little treat, and the large bars are terrific value for money; you get far more chocolate than packaging so you can justify it as an eco-choice too!