St. Albans Market is as traditional as you can get and possibly the nation’s favourite market. The majority of the traders have been trading there for more than 20 years. They are successful because they take pride in providing only the highest quality of produce, selected and bought by the traders themselves and consequently, the same customers return week after week. Here’s our guide to navigating St. Albans Traditional Street Market.
The St. Albans Traditional Street Market holds an exciting place in the history of Britain, dating as far back as the 9th century. St. Albans was desirable because it was conveniently placed on the old Roman road of Watling Street, which still exists today. In the midst of the 16th century, St. Albans was the main focal point for many travellers from both the North and South who used it as a mutual meeting place to conduct their business and meet new people. It was known then as the Roman City of Verulamium. When royalty such as the first Duchess of Marlborough – a favourite of Queen Anne’s – visited, she brought business to the locals to cater for her cohorts who needed a place to eat and rest. As a result of this, some city dwellers decided to reside permanently in St. Albans, simply because it offered prosperity and prestige.
Today, St. Albans has become a historic market town and is a desirable place to live within the London commuter belt. Its market is unique because of its diversity; the usual colourful hustle and bustle of the Saturday market hosts 161 stalls, while on Wednesday there are 135 stalls. Another unique feature is that the council has expanded the market with a special farmers’ market every other Sunday and an opportunity for French farmers to participate every four months.
For those who love experimenting with cooking different fish dishes, St Albans Market is a must visit. At the Poulters’ Fish stall you are in for a treat with with a wonderful display of fresh fish. The fish at this stall is hand selected by owner Darren — you can choose whatever whets your appetite on the day. A fish diet is a very healthy option at an affordable price and cheaper here than at most supermarkets — you will not be disappointed when you take home your catch of the day. There is a sea of choice, from salmon, large sea bass, swordfish and red mullet, to mussels and cockles, juicy cod and haddock. What’s even more special at this stall is the personal service you receive. Darren and his staff are only too happy to chat to you and explain the difference between the various types of fish and suggest something suitable to try for your next dish. His best selling fish are salmon, sea bass and red mullet – all displayed with artistic flair and attention to detail. For Darren, fresh food is in as much demand today as it has always been and he’s proud of his reputation.
The plethora of olives on display in a variety of colours will intoxicate you – enticing you to follow the scent towards the stall. The colour of olives varies depending on which country they originate from. The Olive stall sells 16 different types of olive: Spanish manzanilla and Gordal, stuffed olives, Greek olives with feta, Italian, Moroccan, French pitted or pimento-stuffed and garlic. Ask to try a few olives before buying. Olives have a very distinctive taste, some are very bitter and chilli-hot – ask for advice first because they are expensive, being imported. If olives are not for you, you will find a diversity of bottles of pure olive oils for cooking and dressing your salads – which can make very useful gifts. You are spoilt for choice with so many coloured bottles: chilli, lemon, herbs, garlic, or rosemary. It doesn’t stop there – there is also a range of saucisson, from flavoured salamis to cured meats for healthy snacks or aperitifs.
There’s something very charming about Carmen, the owner of Carmen’s Kitchen. You will be stopped in your tracks by the pleasantly lingering smell of Carmen’s cooking. As she lifts a lid off one of the cooking pots, you will be enticed by the delicious waft of Caribbean scents. Whether you love Caribbean food or not you have to stop. You are sure to be greeted warmly with a big smile from Carmen herself. Her carefully chosen selection of dishes are authentic, fresh and cooked at the stall. Carmen’s cooking ranges from curried mutton, jerk chicken and BBQ chicken to sandwiches, a green side salad and a not-to-be-missed fried plantain — very Caribbean. Her servings are generous and served in tin foil packed with meat and optional sides.
A daily diet of bread and cakes has always played an important part in keeping the costs down during economic downturns. With the recent introduction of a local farmers’ market held every other Sunday, Redbournbury Mill has helped to cut costs during the recession and economic crisis in 2008 and subsequent years. They supply home-produced breads and cakes on demand, and trust us you don’t want to miss out. Today, the bakery is producing a range of hand crafted breads to cater for a wide range of dietary requirements – all baked from their own organic flour at their mill. This range includes unbleached white, brown, wholemeal, malted, spelt and rye loaves as well as sun-dried tomato, onion, garlic and rosemary focaccia, sea salt focaccia, date and walnut and sunflower seed. The Mill also bake their own mouthwatering British plain and fruit scones, delicious tea cakes, and rustic rolls and soft baps.