Can it be that by chance, through the magic of twitter I came across a place, just round the corner from my house, that serves pudding, cakes, and all things that I crave with every fat cell in my body. Sweet delectable treats, coffee, milkshakes, cheeses?...
YES. It is true (I found out looking at their menu), 'BUT WAIT' I tell myself. I bet it is just like any other cake shop/cafe; opens early and closes even earlier, not catering for the masses of people (at least the ones I know) like me, who, after a nice home cooked dinner want something more; who want the pleasure of going out, to try something a little different, and in my case, to walk off their main meal (well just a touch at least). Well think again! The Pudding Stop is open from 9am to around 10pm, sometimes later, but only earlier on Sundays where it is open until a respectable 9:30pm.
At last I think to myself, I have moved somewhere where I don't have to pre think pudding. Don't have to regret not buying one in the supermarket earlier that day, in some vain attempt to convince myself that I am actually going to try and loose weight that evening. So, all this said; is it any good?
Well in a word; Yes. I liked it. It was around noon, and I wasn't hungry for lunch (good job, because the only savoury thing they serve is a rather tasty looking cheeseboard, which I will try at some point).
The simple but trendy decor is very London, which I like. It reminded me of the young fashionable places littering Soho at the moment like Gail's Bakery and Pizza Pilgrims. All the cakes are homemade, and their Chocolate Brownie seemed very popular with 3 people coming in to ask for them in the 40 minutes I sat there (I shall try that next time I think). The lighting was nice and muted, and the menu, although fairly small was exactly what any candy lover would adore. Good old fashioned puddings, some with a twist and others as they should be.
I was so enamoured with the look of the place that I even bought one of their 18 month aged Christmas Puddings which look fabulous in their rustic wrapping. Not cheap; £17 or thereabouts for the smaller pudding, but I just know it will be worth it judging by the ingredients which include Stout, Sherry, Whisky (you know, all the important stuff).
I chose from the daytime only options; toasted brioche with poached plums, yoghurt and honey (£3.75). I wanted something simple that would show to me the quality of the ingredients used and give me a hint into the care they have over presenting it. I also ordered a Cafetiere single origin coffee (£2.60).
The food was everything I wanted; thick fresh yoghurt, soft and gently toasted brioche that had no element of rubberiness or staleness as I have experienced in other similar simple puds. The plums were very nice, not too sweet with a hint of Christmas cheer in their aroma, and a perfectly nice honey, drizzled generously. I loved the way it was presented, with the contrast of colours and oozing nature of everything.
The coffee was a different matter though. I LOVE my coffee, and will in time review Hatch which serves up the best made coffee I have had so far in St Albans. When you serve artisan coffee beans to the public, they do tend to, in my experience expect an artisan coffee experience with that little extra care to get it perfect. The Pudding Stop uses Climpson and Sons coffee beans, an artisan company that supplies top quality single origin beans to shops around the UK. I have not personally heard of them before, but have it on good authority that their beans are very noteworthy.
I ordered a cafetiere because it is one of the best and most honest ways to taste coffee. I recently bought a fancy coffee grinder for my partner Chris. I am not as knowledgable about coffee as Chris, or as much of a huge tech fan/snob when it comes to making the perfect examples. However, I do know when what I taste is right and for me, the coffee was just not ideal in this case, although it was nicer than your average coffee shop blend for sure.
The length of time the coffee should be left in the cafetiere before plunging was not mentioned on the menu or by the really lovely waitress, but incidentally I knew that for a 2 cup cafetiere you should leave it for about 3-4 minutes depending on the strength you like. I felt that the grind size was perhaps too course because I was not getting the true notes of the coffee and it all seemed a little bit watery and insipid. This could have also meant the temperature might not have been correct, beans were old or not enough coffee was used for this blend. It is such a hard subject to get perfect and the number of coffee brewing competitions around the world shows us this quite clearly.
It is nice they served the coffee with milk but I feel that whenever you serve milk with coffee, it should be steamed and warm. When you steam milk to a certain temperature you bring out the warming sweeter notes, which compliment the coffee beautifully. Serving cold milk really does detract from the experience.
All this said on the subject of their coffee (which no restaurant I review will be immune to considering the boom in coffee culture in England), it was really rather lovely. I look forward greatly to trying their Christmas Pudding and might even have a few words to say about that after Christmas. I will be back to try their amazing sounding milkshakes, brownies, bread pudding and cheese board.
The price is less than what you would expect to pay for a nice pudding in a nice restaurant, so from that point of view it is competitive enough to attract the masses. YUM!
Food Rating: 7/10
Good For: Gluttons, Small or Large Groups, Pudding Maniacs, Sitting and Working, Watching the World Go By
The Pudding Stop