31 JANUARY 2022


© 2022 Business Travel News Ltd.

Article from BTNews 31 JANUARY 2022

ON TOUR: Dining out in Hertfordshire *

With dining out an essential part of any holiday and staycations in the news, ON TOUR stays close to home this week as BTN’s Richard Cawthorne, who is also Food and Drink Editor for the magazine Hertfordshire Life, surveys the foodie scene in his home county. The magazine supports local businesses with regular reviews and updates of restaurants and gastropubs.

If you are seeking an alternative to London as a place for quality eating and drinking, Hertfordshire is a good candidate. It’s close by, well served by rail services and, if you drive, there are no congestion charge or ULEZ problems and parking is a lot easier than in the capital. It’s also better value for money. As elsewhere, Herts is responding to the pent-up demand for going out generated by the listing of Covid restrictions. Diners are benefiting from ever-growing competition among its restaurants and gastropubs for custom as a new generation of chefs and inventive foodie ideas arrive on the scene.

Nor are we short of London-style showmanship to get the message across. Tranquil Turtle, a restaurant that opened in Stevenage last month, advertises 250g gold-plated Wagyu steaks at £100 among more usual items on its menu, which is under the watchful eye of head chef Noel Busby. For those with smaller budgets, there is a gold-plated prime beef burger at £45. It’s served in a black bun.

By far the most activity on the foodie front is in St Albans, with Berkhamsted, Harpenden, Hertford and Bishop’s Stortford as well as Stevenage all developing nicely. In St Albans, a 20min train journey from St Pancras and one of Hertfordshire’s fastest growing centres thanks to the easy commute, favourites in its mix of restaurants and gastropubs to check out include Thompson, Lussmanns, Per Tutti, Tabure, Dylans Kings Arms, The Ivy Brasserie, Cote, The Cock Inn, and Loft. Dylans has just won the award at the 2022 Top50 Gastropubs event for best front-of-house team of the year. Lussmanns, notable as a champion of sustainability, also has restaurants in Hertford, Hitchin and Harpenden and, as of a few months ago, Berkhamsted

In Berkhamsted, head chef Richard Leskovsky is causing a stir at The Lamb, one of the town’s oldest pubs, reborn to include a restaurant and already winning awards. The son of a chef, he says: “Food trends are aways changing and it’s best to be open-minded and try new ideas and techniques.” His ideas include mushroom and pineapple ketchup plus pickled fennel, crispy sage, celeriac rémoulade and rhubarb dust accompaniments dishes.  

Typical of what is happening in the countryside is Judges at Northaw, near Potters Bar, a former village pub converted into upmarket restaurant and offering a choice of menus designed by head chef Fernando Lema. Filet mignon medallions and grilled salmon with avocado salsa are among tempting a la carte main dishes.

Rather less typical is the Zebra Riding Club on the Birch estate at Cheshunt. Once the country seat of a brewing baron, the estate now houses a hotel and wellness retreat. Among various eccentricities, the former lady of the manor, Valerie Lady Meux (pronounced Mews), was said to have had a fondness for zebras, a legacy now preserved in the name of the restaurant. It is headed by chef Robin Gill, well known for his London eaterie Darby’s and The Dairy in Clapham, and with a CV that also includes training under Marco Pierre White and at Le Manoir au Quat’Saisons. Check out the set menus on the website – it’s definitely different.

Elsewhere, new menus have been introduced at the Centurion Club, between St Albans and Hemel Hempstead, with the arrival of Calvin Hill as head chef. A 30-year veteran of the culinary and hospitality industry, he is supervising a range of food offers including  à la carte, set lunch, Sunday lunch and afternoon tea. Featured mains include 35-day aged fillet steak, or mushroom crushed fillet of halibut with apple salsa.

A monthly chef’s buffet networking meal, discounts on food and drink and personalised packages for company staff are among benefits being offered by a business lunch club just launched by The Hummingbird restaurant and bar, a 2022 Good Food Award winner, in Hertford. Famed for its colourful décor and set in a converted grade 2 listed townhouse, it is the brainchild of restaurateur David Catling, the man behind the Pitcher and Piano, Jazz Café and other central London and national restaurant companies in his portfolio.

Another favourite is Chez Burton in Baldock, a take on the emerging trend toward small-plate dining but with the twist that it offers what creators Neill and Jacqui Burton call “fine dining without the formality”. Chef Adrian Parker’s menu borrows widely but not entirely from Eastern influences with intriguing dishes like shio koji steak with miso mushroom purée, pickled mushroom, crispy kale, black garlic and truffle ponzu, set off by more traditional fare like venison cottage pie with roasted garlic mash, celeriac crisps and chocolate.

Just outside Hatfield, housed in Brocket Hall’s former hunting lodge, Auberge du Lac enjoys an idyllic lakeside setting overlooking the beautiful 543 acre country estate and the Hall itself. Presently closed due to the pandemic it is exepcted to reopen in April.

That is just a sample of what Herts can offer on the food front, with plenty more to come as 2022 gets under way. Many of our pubs nestling in country lane settings hard to equal elsewhere are enjoying upgrades, with the new looks often including the addition of a food offer and experienced chefs coming in to manage it. All the signs are the new year will be one of the most exciting for some time for lovers of eating out – and for Londoners, it’s right on the doorstep.


Auberge-du-lac Hatfield

Centurion Club between St Albans and Hemel Hempstead

Chez Burton Baldock

Cote St Albans

Dylans Kings Arms St Albans

Judges Northaw 

Lussmanns St Albans

Per Tutti St Albans

Tabure St Albans

The Cock Inn St Albans

The Hummingbird Hertford

The Ivy Brasserie St Albans

The Loft St Albans

Thompson St Albans

Tranquil Turtle Stevenage

Zebra Riding Club Birch Estate at Cheshunt

Index/Home page

OUR READERS' FINEST WORDS (All times and dates are GMT)

All comments are filtered to exclude any excesses but the Editor does not have to agree with what is being said. 100 words maximum

Malcolm Ginsberg, United Kingdom

I would like to add The Grove (footballers hangout and very expensive, Sopwell House (replaced by The grove for soccer teams and more reasonable priced and St Michaels Manor near the centre of St Albans , lovely garden and no parking problems.

Simon Grigor, United Kingdom

May I recommend three more for Richard to try? 1. The Baker Arms in Bayford: 2. The Farmer's Boy in Brickendon. Both are pubs serving really good food; and 3. Little Marrakech in central St Albans. Moroccan food (as you'd expect from the name) and absolutely lovely it is. Bon Appetit!