A warm welcome at the Juice Pharm, St Albans
The Juice Pharm opened recently in St Albans and discovering it was a happy accident. It’s just off St Peter’s Street, opposite the Alban Arena. The Juice Pharm looks very different from other cafes in St Albans. For one, it feels urban. The design is dramatic, with dark wood floors and walls. The lighting creates a theatrical atmosphere, particularly at the counter and in the kitchen. And you may be struck by the warmth of the welcome.
This is Sarah. She and her partner Gray moved to St Albans four years ago and immediately went out to look for the kind of healthy, juicy places they liked. They couldn’t find what they were looking for. So they decided to open a juice bar themselves. And now everyone can enjoy intense juices and super smoothies at the Juice Pharm. Soon after they opened, Sarah started baking the kind of cakes she likes to eat and, hey presto, she’s suddenly running a cafe.
This cafe is full of goodness. I am lucky enough to enjoy eating absolutely anything and everything (apart from spam fritters) so I wasn’t particularly on the hunt for any of the ‘free-from’ options on the menu. But I know that it can be hard work if you’re constantly searching for things that you can eat and are always having to ask about ingredients. Rest assured, at the Juice Pharm, all the cakes on the menu are wheat and gluten free, dairy free, and vegan. Oh, and they’re made without refined or processed sugar. You’re in safe hands. Happy days.
Sarah has been a dancer since she was three. She won a scholarship and moved to London to study at London Studio Centre when she was sixteen. While she is very modest, I found out that she has danced with Darcey Bussell in Darcey Dances Hollywood. Soon to open upstairs is a studio for yoga, pilates and dance. On Sunday 26 February, there is an open day where you can sample some of the classes that will be on offer. And before the studio opens officially, you will be able to read a full review on the Muddy Herts site.
A light brunch. You can see that in addition to all the veggie heaven choices, you can still go for salmon and also cream cheese. I had rye toast, mushed, mashed or smashed avocado and chilli flakes. It was a delicious and energising start to the day. Sarah eats an avocado every day which perhaps accounts for her happy smile and shiny hair and eyes. She says that she’s been inspired by Deliciously Ella but now most of the things she bakes are her own recipes. Sweet potato brownies are on the menu, as are slices of pizza made with a base of crumbled cauliflower. Reassuringly, while Sarah explains that over the years she has done more and more research into nutrition – she primarily stopped eating refined sugar, gluten and dairy because eating this way gave her more energy for dancing – she is also in favour of ‘everything in moderation’. What I found particularly refreshing at the Juice Pharm is that while healthy eating is the way to go, nobody would disapprove if you started talking loudly about the succulent steak and bottle of Pinot that you enjoyed the night before.
Since the Juice Pharm opened, it has been full of people saying ‘At last! I can eat everything on the menu! Hallelujah!’ Someone with diabetes fell upon a cake made with medjool dates. Packed with iron and the most natural sweetener you can use for baking, I find out. What about maple syrup and coconut sugar, I ask? And what is coconut sugar? Maple syrup and coconut sugar are unrefined, so much better than processed sugar. And coconut sugar is the nectar of the coconut flower, dried. Everyone who works here is very knowledgable about the food served and are light and humorous with it.
I love beetroot and listed a few other things that I liked, rather than choosing something from the board. This juice had a zing and a kick of ginger. The Juice Pharm will accommodate anyone who wants to create their own concoction so it’s fine to go off menu.
Forget everything you think you know about cheesecake until you try this. It’s not too sweet, certainly not cloying and rather than leaving you feeling heavy and a bit queasy, this made me feel lighter and brighter. It was delicious. A raw, vegan cheesecake. Yes! Ingredients, just in case you are wondering, are as follows: pecans, medjool dates, coconut oil and maple syrup. Cashews soaked overnight to make them plump and juicy, coconut cream, vanilla bean paste and cinnamon, strawberries and coconut sugar.
It was one of those afternoons that is starting to get dark after it’s been dismal all day when I popped in for a hot chocolate. It’s the Juice Pharm’s signature hot chocolate made with maple syrup, raw cacao powder and topped with cacao nibs. It feels indulgently rich and velvety but again, without any of the heavy sweetness that makes your teeth ache. The cacao nibs give it some bite.
THE MUDDY VERDICT
Good for: Anyone looking for vegetarian, vegan, raw vegan, wheat free, gluten free and dairy free food, and cakes and puddings without a trace of processed or refined sugar. And even if you are free from allergies and intolerances, this is also the place for you if you want to eat lightly and healthily. There is more than enough space for buggies and Sarah says she loves the fact that lots of families have been coming in. Young children are made to feel very welcome. Breakfast, brunch, light lunches and super smoothies, juices and teas, coffees and hot chocolate.
Not for: Anyone dreaming of a big bowl of pasta or something meaty.
Open every day from 9am-5pm. Sun 26 Feb there is a taster day for some of the classes that are going to be on offer in the studio upstairs. Dance, yoga, pilates and meditation.
The Juice Pharm, 4 St Peter’s Street, St Albans, AL1 3LP