Cafe culture that’s actually *good* for you
I’ve been a fan of the Bhaker House in Chiswell Green for a while now. And there’s lots to be a fan of — which is all the more surprising given how tiny it is. Tucked away in a little row of shops, the Bhaker House is easy to miss if you’re whizzing past on your way into St Albans, but once you know it’s there you’ll never be able to drive by without stopping.
Jenny Kaur, who owns and runs the Bhaker House, is so full of energy and welcome that she’s the perfect ad for the place. But that’s truer than you’d know. Jenny is deeply committed to making the food there healthy and ‘clean’ — as good for you as it is delicious — and she’s incorporated the lessons from her own healthy eating journey into the menu there. Seriously, this woman lost five and a half stone eating the same food that she sells in the cafe. Seriously. And the thing is, it’s all delicious. I can’t honestly think of anything I’ve had there that I’ve not enjoyed.
The Bhaker House looks, when you walk in, like a coffee shop. Espresso machine behind the counter, home-baked cakes under glass domes in a row, cold drinks in the chiller. (Love the ‘Bruce Bogtrotter’ chocolate cake, myself…)
But there’s loads more going on than you might suspect. Jenny’s mum (who runs the post office next door) cooks the most amazing Indian food for the cafe. She popped in while we were there, and was telling us about the family’s spice mix that her mother used to grind up for her, and which her sister still does. It’s proper, home-cooked, running-in-the family food — and it’s amazing. Dhrooti was positively inhaling the spiced rice — grinning that it was like the rice her mother used to make — and I could have licked the bowl that the smoky aubergine curry came in (if I wasn’t so polite).
I’ve taken some of Jenny’s Indian food home before and heated it up later, and it makes for a brilliant, easy and healthy meal. (And of course I didn’t pretend that I’d made it myself…) Honestly, if I lived closer I think I’d never cook again.
We also tried a couple of Jenny’s sandwiches — roast chicken with avocado and rocket, and egg with avocado and spinach, both on locally-baked rosemary foccacia.
There’s something lovely, too, about knowing that the food there is good for you. Even the cakes, which are lush, are made with as little sugar as possible and an eye to the whole ‘clean eating’ philosophy. Imagine that — cake you can feel smug about scoffing!
Seriously. Stop off on your way to St Albans. You won’t regret it — especially if you try one of the date and banana smoothies which is as sweet and creamy as a milkshake… or a slab of chocolate cake… or the yellow dahl… or the poached egg and avocado… or… oh, just have whatever you like. You’ll be back, I just know it.