For years and years, I’ve shared reviews of the restaurants, shops and endless other places that I’ve visited around the world. And it suddenly struck me that I’ve rarely shone the spotlight on the businesses local to me that I love to support.
The COVID-19 pandemic really changed up how I spend my time and money. No longer commuting to London daily, I rarely spend any time in the city. In turn, this means visiting and discovering far fewer London foodie hotspots and dramatically reducing how many ‘my life depends on this’ takeout coffees and lunchtime books I buy. In fact, I’ve found a very sweet spot spending more time in my hometown and its surrounding areas, supporting more local businesses and even leaning into a different pace of life.
Chia Naturally Healthy
By far my most talked-about favourite spot, Chia Naturally Healthy is a plant-based café that I probably spend an unhealthy amount of time at. They serve a delicious range of coffees, mylkshakes and superfood smoothies, along with bakes and cakes, sandwiches, a Buddha bowl bar, and menu of hot food. Their breakfasts are absolutely amazing, but the main menu is great too – I love their mushrooms on toast, nachos, pancakes, and falafel bowls.
Tucked away inside Stevenage’s indoor market, Leavened Bakery specialise in sourdough bread baked on-site. Their flavours are always delicious – get the miso and black sesame – and they sell out incredibly quickly, especially at weekends. You can also pick up other sweet treats, like croissants and cinnamon buns, and grab delicious coffee too. The perfect way to start Saturday errands.
I’ve been buying books from David’s Bookshop since I was a teenager. Established in 1963, they’re now proudly Hertfordshire’s largest independent bookshop, and sell new, remainder and secondhand books. I’ve always found they go above and beyond to find the book you’re after, and they even regularly host book club, live music and author events.
Bunty Bakes It All
My girl Amelia has been making and selling delicious cakes for a few years now. Bunty Bakes It All specialise in creative occasion cakes and there’s really no limit on what Amelia can rustle up. As an honorary taster, I can confirm they’re totally worth the hype. You’ll need to order in advance, but Amelia’s bakes are truly out of this world.
El Bar de Tapas
Another local favourite of mine is El Bar de Tapas, a tapas restaurant in Stevenage Old Town. Family-run, the menu has slowly expanded and is honestly so tasty. There are a few vegan options too, and I could happily feast on their padron peppers all night. Plus, their gin selection is always great!
The Pudding Stop
For delicious sweet treats, you can’t go wrong with The Pudding Stop in St. Albans. Situated just behind town, it’s easy to get to from whichever lunch, dinner or shopping spot you’ve picked, and you’ll be rewarded with some of the best doughnuts ever. They’ve since opened another storefront in Harpenden, and offer delivery bake-at-home puddings and letterbox brownies.
Spice Rouge is my favourite place for Indian food. Be it for a mid-week takeaway with my best friend or for my annual birthday dinner, I always come back to Spice Rouge. Of course I can only comment on their vegan and veggie options (just let the waiter know you’re vegan!), but their vegetable side dishes make an excellent mini tapas, and their Sunday curry buffet is truly something to behold.
The Waffle House
I remember my mind being completely blown when a friend told me about The Waffle House in St. Albans. An entire establishment devoted to waffles. Yes, you read that correctly. The Waffle House is a bustling restaurant that offer tasty sweet and savoury waffles, excellent hot drinks, and a sweet trickling stream outside. I believe the menu changes from time to time, but they’ve never let me down. (Brb, just messaging the group chat to request a The Waffle House visit soon…)
Are you a fellow Hertfordshire local? Share your favourite independents in the comments below. And, let me know if you decide to visit any of these joints!