Last Friday I celebrated my Thirty *Ah-Hem* birthday. Having the day off work was the perfect opportunity to visit a little place that had caught my eye. Each day my journey into work takes me down a narrow country lane on which I often get stuck in slow traffic. Although the lack of speed can be frustrating it does allow you time to notice things that often pass you by. Just the other week a sign caught my eye for “Three Wise Monkeys, Vintage Emporium”. The first thing that springs to mind is that we don’t have enough emporiums these days. Imagine a world of food emporiums, shoe emporiums, wine emporiums! Sounds like a wonderful place doesn’t it?
I am aware of a chain of opticians called the Eye Emporium which conjures up such amazing images of glass cabinets, weird and wonderful trinkets and drawers full of eye balls (FYI it’s your standard opticians but one can imagine!). This was not a sign I could turn a blind eye to.
Off we went down rain soaked lanes to seek out the emporium. It’s hard to spot at first as its part of a large Osprey outlet center and the Three Wise Monkeys sign was not obvious from the road. Tucked around the back of the high end barn conversions is a treasure trove of all things vintage. Welcomed by a small tea room your eye is immediately caught by the bespoke furniture and shelves of antique crockery. Chunky wooden tables surrounded by beautifully upholstered farmhouse chairs. The stools at the breakfast bar are converted tractor seats, stark and metallic against the natural wood and kitsch finishes. A door in each direction beckons you to explore but which way first?
Being a converted barn everything is charmingly wonky, exposed beams and wooden floors. Every nook and cranny is filled with treasures from bygone eras. Each room is divided up into sections for individual stall holders, all with their own unique style. From Old street signs and gardening equipment, glassware and pottery, clothing and handbags, up cycled tables and chairs, artwork and lighting, jewelry and gifts. My eyes couldn’t rest, flitting from one to the next, down low, up high, every inch another discovery. After perusing we took a rest for lunch and cake before going back for more.
The cafe is beautiful and all the furniture is up for sale so if your chair is comfy you can take it home! The menu was comforting, just what we needed on a chilly damp day. A cheese toasty each and a huge sausage roll to share, delicious buttery pastry encased flavorsome pork and chili filling. You can have it served with salad and coleslaw which would be a meal in itself but we had to save room for a slice of cake, it’s my birthday after all! It was disappointing that the cakes aren’t homemade but the site has a trade only license so doesn’t have the facility to cook things from scratch. The brought in selection was vast including coffee and walnut, raspberry and white chocolate slice, chocolate brownie and an array of muffins.
My partner in cake beat me to the raspberry and coconut slice which had caught my eye, so I opted for a slab of the orange and poppy seed sponge. The slice had a firm layer of pastry and ample raspberry jam topped with a coconut sponge, desiccated crumbs tumbled with every bite, it was a joyful mess to eat.
The orange sponge was flecked with poppy seeds giving each mouthful added texture. The freshness of orange was a welcome twist on the familiar combo of citrus and seed. The sponge was heavy but flavorful, mildly complimented by thin layer of zingy icing which could have been so much more indulgent; caterers are perhaps a little stingier with their stock than home bakers! Never the less the serving was substantial and gave me the energy I needed to get back out there and shop!
The question you have to ask yourself is, when was the last time you visited an emporium? If it’s not been recently, or at all, you must venture out to Three Wise Monkeys, my only advice is to cover your eyes if you don’t want to be tempted by the beautiful antiques on offer, cover your ears if you don’t want hear the stories behind the unique pieces of art and cover your mouth if you want to resist the delicious tea room!
Three Wise Monkeys, The Saddlery, Woodcock Hill, St Albans, AL4 9HJ
Tel: 07886 977420