We don’t get enough Bank Holidays, that right there is a fact. So when they do come around (and we don’t have another one now until Christmas, by the way – how tragic is that?!) you have to make the most of them. So yesterday my friend Josh and I jumped in the car and headed towards a restaurant i’ve never been to before and yet think about often!
A little bit of back story needed here I think.
I initially went to (and dropped out of) the University of East Anglia in Norwich. On my final day in the city, after packing up my room in halls and before commencing the gruelling 4 hour drive back to Berkshire, my mum and I went to grab a spot of lunch. We went to The Waffle House and enjoyed a lunch so delicious it lead to us buying our own waffle iron so that we could attempt to make the dishes we’d eaten ourselves at home. We loved it so much, and yet I was never going to be returning to Norwich again. That was 6 years ago, and until recently, I never thought i’d get to enjoy the dishes of The Waffle House ever again.
Fast forward a few years, and during one of my waffle day-dreams, I decided to search the web for a London based equivalent that could satisfy my cravings, and low and behold, my search returned the best news I could ever ask for. Not only was there a waffle based restaurant not too far from London, it was in fact the sister restaurant to my Norwich original. I was finally going to be able to enjoy my dream-inducing waffle once again!
However my cravings were not to be immediately satisfied. Though not too far from London, getting to St Albans does require a bit of time (approximately 45 minute drive from Central London) and effort (finding someone with a car!) and so it wasn’t until yesterday, our wonderful August Bank Holiday, that those two factors were running in my favour, and so off we zoomed, out of the M25 bubble to the pretty little town (or City? It has a rather beautiful cathedral!) of St Albans in search of some waffles!
We arrived and were mildly horrified to find a queue worthy of a new restaurant opening in Soho. The Waffle House is based within a gorgeous 16th Century working watermill, and on a sunny afternoon as yesterday’s was, it is a glorious setting. They only accept reservations for the dinner service so during the day it is walk-ins only. The queue snaked out from the entrance of the mill, out over the small bridge and almost down to the road. While Josh was eager to abandon our quest, I wasn’t having any of it. 6 years waiting for these waffles, a bit of queuing would not stop me now.
We were seated within 15 minutes of joining the queue, outside with a beautiful view of the water that gently meandered by. A quick glance at the menu and I was thrilled to see the original waffle dish I had ordered on that fateful day in Norwich was still on the menu; The Avocado & Hummus waffle. I ordered it, along with a large mango milkshake. Josh went for a thick malted chocolate shake, the Ham Hock waffle from the specials board and we ordered a starter waffle to share; Garlic Butter with cheese cooked into the waffle.
The shakes arrived and we tried desperately to drink them with our straws, but they were thick, cold and creamy and our straws were no match. We took to glugging them back, giving ourselves thick, delicious moustaches in the process.
Our starter came soon after. It looked plain but the flavours were wonderful. The garlic butter wasn’t too strong, but gorgeously salty and smooth. The cheese was a lovely addition, but it was the waffle itself, crisp yet light, that really highlighted just why this place has people queuing for it! It was light enough that it could soak up the pool of melted butter on the plate, in addition to the small puddles of yellow which had made homes in the waffle squares. Move over Pizza Express Doughballs – this is the way to enjoy the buttery stuff now!
I had worried that we had over-ordered but the starter waffle shared between 2 wasn’t too filling at all, which is good as not long after, our mains arrived, and mine was a beast!
The Avocado & Hummus waffle is clearly a favourite as I saw many a table also enjoying it. With an ice-cream scoop of hummus plonked elegantly in the centre of the waffle and avocado beautifully fanned out across the top, the dish received a splash of colour from a generous drizzle of sweet chilli sauce, sun-dried and fresh tomatoes, olives, rocket and cress to make it a beautifully balanced dish. The hummus was creamy and smooth, the tomatoes sweet and the olives salty. Though it had many elements, it wasn’t a heavy plate for food. Once again the waffle was light as air (I chose a wholemeal waffle in an attempt at being slightly healthy!) with a lovely crisp texture that juxtaposed the smooth hummus well. It was as gorgeous as I remembered it being back in Norwich and my plate was scraped clean in no time at all.
Josh’s Ham Hock waffle also arrived piled high, with a generous serving of succulent pink ham hock topped with an inelegant slathering of creamy cheese sauce across the top, and some fresh slaw to the side. By no means a beautiful dish, but a tasty one it definitely was. The ham, cut roughly into chunks, was tender and soft, and the cheese was thick, falling into the crevices of the waffle. This dish was heavier and Josh was defeated with a few mouthfuls to go, meaning I could sneak a few extra pieces of ham to scoop up the last few dribbles of sweet chilli sauce on my plate.
We had left no room for dessert as our thick milkshakes had filled every last gap in our bellies, despite the sweet menu being extremely tempting. The woman at the table next to us had ordered the banana flapjack waffle made with sliced banana and crumbled organic oat flapjack, topped with rich, home-made butterscotch sauce and it looked divine, albeit, HUGE! So too was the Banoffee Waffle I saw on our way out, made with sliced banana smothered with a rich, home-made toffee sauce, topped with a small mountain of cream and sprinkled with flaked chocolate.
It is so easy to see why this restaurant is so popular. With a fantastic menu that showcases an array of wonderful flavour combinations both sweet and savoury, as well as a few dishes that discard the namesake ingredient all together, there is something for everyone. Your four legged friends can also accompany you (thats dogs, not cats, llamas or ponies) meaning this is the perfect place to enjoy a meal either pre or post a walk around the lovely lake just over the road.
I couldn’t have asked for more out of my Bank Holiday Monday, and I certainly won’t be leaving it another 6 years before I enjoy one of those waffles again! I don’t want to waffle on about it, but if you have a friend with wheels, force them to make the journey with you… and thank me later!