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Loft, St Albans

Muddy says: New to the Cathedral Quarter in St Albans, Loft on George Street is beautifully stylish, and Nick Male’s food is artistic, seasonal and delicious.

Loft is as urban and cool as the name suggests. This stylish restaurant is upstairs in a courtyard on George Street, in the Cathedral Quarter, the increasingly popular location for grown ups to go out for an evening. Loft is a destination in its own right for cocktails (with the most delicious bar snacks) but of course its main role is as a restaurant serving artistic, imaginative and beautiful food. The menu alone is a good read, and as you’d expect from any restaurant worth its sea salt, the focus is very much on seasonal and local.

Come Sunday lunchtime, Loft offers the highly desirable Family Feast. Artists take the kids off your hands with mask making and all sorts, and these activities take place in the bar, where pale pink velvet low bar stools make you think that surely you shouldn’t get the crayons out. You will be in the main restaurant area, with half an eye on the children as you select a glass of something rather special from a handwritten wine list. Wine suppliers write their own notes about one-off bottles in a book. It’s a nice touch. In addition, the Coravin system allows you to enjoy fine wine by the glass.

And then there’s the food. Tuna tartare, Aylesbury duck or onion squash ravioli? Just don’t expect the presentation to be predictable. Owner Nick Male is a naturally talented chef and an extremely interesting man. After working in food development for Harrods and the Conran group, he and his wife Louise (who you may see at times doing front of house) had their own place in Clerkenwell. The Larder was a restaurant, bakery and shop. Then, as with so many young families, Nick and Louise sought more work life balance, together with good schools and green spaces. The perfect location? St Albans.

We’re delighted that they have chosen to open their restaurant in George Street. Loft is surprising, relaxed, comfy and cool and all at the same time.

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The Urban Guide to the Countryside - Hertfordshire