Published in The Herts Advertiser 3 August 2017
Have you been to the new cafe HIIT on Holywell Hill, St Albans yet? HIIT, as all gym bunnies will know, stands for high intensity interval training, and is a clue to the nature of the food found inside. Co-owners Rob Ashman and Kris Tyrell have backgrounds in gym training and wanted to start a healthy eating cafe in the area; the food and drinks on sale are largely plant-based and offer an interesting alternative to many of the local chains. You will find it opposite Nando’s; the choice is yours!
I met Rob and Kris just after the opening weekend, and they were pleased with the early positive response from customers. I like the interior of the cafe, with three large sharing tables with laptop sockets and a row of seating in the window, although the layout might have been clearer with the counter near the entrance. You can choose prepped salads, snacks and pressed juices from the cabinet or go the counter to order smoothie bowls, bagels, smoothies and hot drinks.
Andy Mayersbeth is in charge of the kitchen, and has worked with nutritionist Jason Hamilton to create the menu. I think the Build Your Own bagels and toasts will be really popular; you can order wholemeal, gluten-free, sourdough and rye and top with salmon, egg, avocado, chicken,pesto etc to make your own combination. These work out at 3.50-5.00 each which is pretty good value. I ordered an acai smoothie bowl which came topped with nuts, seeds, granola, coconut and banana which was lovely, although icey cold so best on a hot day.
Coffee is by Lulu Coffee Company, who have a fab coffee shop in Ware; it is really delicious, so it is lovely to have it available in St Albans. You can get the usual espressos, flat whites and cappucinos along with Special Brew teas (although they were out of chai when I asked). You can get almond, soya and coconut milks to go in your hot drinks, so ideal for anyone avoiding dairy.
The box salad lunches include salmon, falafel, chicken and beef and my friend chose a beef salad with cauliflower rice and pineapple salsa. At around 8 pounds, the lunches aren’t cheap compared to other takeaways, but you are getting good-quality ingredients, and a reasonable size. Rob and Kris explained that they have put the macro info on the lunches, but it wasn’t correct on our salad; it’s early days though, so mistakes will happen. I was a bit surprised at the prices of some of the snacks (the broccoli snack pot was very pricey), but I think the team may adjust these as they see what sells well.
Embrace the Cake make all the cake products for HIIT, and the selection varies each day. All the cakes are vegan and free from refined sugar, and are dairy and gluten-free. I really liked my Rawreo ‘cookies’ made mostly from dates and cashews, with a nice layer of cashew cream in the middle. At 4 pounds for two they are not cheap but they do contain expensive raw ingredients. The nut-coated energy balls ‘Ferrero Rawche balls’ were nice too, with enough in a bag to share back at the office. Embrace the Cake also make The Jaffa ‘cakes’, pecan pies, choc berry slices and carrot cakes.
Rob and Kris are using Nelson’s in Hemel for the meat supplies and Ross&Co from Watford for their organic vegetables and fruit, and I am pleased to hear that they are using Biopac for some of their packaging.
We now have some good healthy eating cafes in St Albans, with The Juice Pharm near the Arena, and The Green Kitchen near Oaklands. It makes a welcome alternative to the ubiquitous muffin and sandwich places, so I hope all you fit locals will give it a go!