I only had one day off this week so in a bid to make the most of it my lovely boyfriend offered to take me to St Albans for shopping and cake. The cynic in me says this was as much for his benefit as mine! However I am not one to look a gift horse in the mouth so happily accepted.
St Albans is a beautiful cathedral city with a vast historic past, you can visit the Roman museum or take a stroll around the lovely parkland and lakes. The high street has an eclectic mix of familiar retail chains and interesting boutiques to loosen your purse strings. St Albans is one of my favourite places to eat out as there are restaurants to cater every craving; French fine dining, Greek Meze, American BBQ, spicy middle eastern and Italian comfort food to mention just a few.
Today we visited The Pudding Stop and not for the first time, it is one of my favourites. It’s the brain child of Johnny Shepherd who reached the final six contestants in the first series of The Great British Bakeoff. His venture started with the Pudmobile which parks up at the train station serving freshly baked cakes and puddings to hungry commuters. It’s success then led him to open The Pudding Stop in the city centre. His concept is simple; hearty, tasty puds made fresh on site offering comfort and pleasure to his customers. You can choose from the ever changing sweet treats available at the counter or from the unfussy but delicious menu selections.
The cafe is not huge so it can be a struggle to get a seat, today we were lucky. The decor is simplistic, dove grey paintwork and cream walls with a funky mural depicting Johnny in his Pudmobile. Long natural wood tables are for sharing and you sit on reclaimed wooden school chairs which may bring back memories for some! Gleaming chrome equipment fills the small downstairs kitchen where staff can whip up your frothy latte, pot of tea or pud inspired milkshake. If you needed any more of an incentive to come and enjoy pudding they have a projector on the back wall where they show films on Sunday evenings and GBBO every Wednesday evening during the series.
The menu occasionally has a savoury option on offer, like a cheese board, but this place really does what it says on the tin…..pudding! Its hard to pick between classics like rhubarb crumble and custard or sticky toffee pudding, or opt for chocolate heaven in their flourless chocolate cake or hot brownies! Being open till late, and a licensed premises, this is the perfect spot to head to for pud and a night cap after a meal at one of the divine local restaurants. Being daylight hours I was restrained and ordered a pot of Earl Grey, the tea selection is limited but the pots are bottomless so I cant argue with that.
Over our numerous visits I have had the pleasure of sampling a number of the goodies on offer but today I chose my absolute favourite….…Madeleines. These little sponge delights never let me down, baked to order they arrive on the table warm and inviting. Each delicate, shell shaped, morsel has a crisp edge encasing light blonde sponge. Served as a dozen or half dozen alongside a pool of chocolate salted caramel sauce for dunking.
Salted caramel is not usually a flavour I opt for but here they get the sweet and salty working in perfect harmony. The world around me became white noise as I lost myself in smooth liquid chocolate and warm fluffy sponge. Thankfully my other half was on hand to offer a napkin as I regressed to childhood, scooping up stray sauce with my fingers and dribbling chocolate down my chin! He must have been so proud!
When you order Madeleines you are advised they take 15mins or so to bake fresh, believe me it’s worth the wait. There seemed to be some delay in the bakery today and it took a while to knock up a fresh batch of batter. The waiting staff were very apologetic for the extended delay and kindly gave us some chocolate brownies to take away. The customer service here is always second to none and this gesture was unexpected but very much appreciated.
As their tag line says “The proof is in….. The Pudding Stop” and today, as with every visit, they have proved themselves to be at the top of their game.
The Pudding Stop, 6 The Colonnade, Verulam Rd, St Albans Tel: 01727 830357
P.S. Somehow the brownies made it home and were a filthy, gooey delight!!!