10:30 am November 1, 2021
On a rainy Friday night we escaped for St Albans’ last opening, Al Farid on Holywell Hill. With colorful Moroccan lanterns all over the ceiling and a warm, welcoming atmosphere, this was the perfect place to brighten up an English autumn.
Al Farid (the name is inspired by the Arab poet, Umar ibn ‘Al Farid’) is owned by Reza Habibi, who also owns a restaurant in Exeter, which has been very popular for 20 years. St Albans has a very similar atmosphere, especially in the Cathedral Quarter, so it was a good choice to recreate the success of the Exeter restaurant.
The interior is very different from the restaurant previously there – when you walk in you see a cozy space, filled with cushions and artwork, and there are two more dining areas on either side of a new one. central bar and a large space upstairs, ideal for groups.
Our table was very decorated, with inlaid wood inlays, which I rather liked – not sure I had complimented restaurant tables before! It’s a long menu, covering meze and main courses, with plenty of choices for vegetarians and vegans, as well as plenty of lamb, as is usual for a Moroccan restaurant.
It was great to see so many interesting dishes that I had never seen locally like teenagers which are packages of figs and goat cheese, beet falafel and a seven vegetable tagine.
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We chose the meze menu, as we wanted to try a lot, and at £ 33 for six choices (or £ 48 with a bottle of house wine), this makes it an easy option for groups. Loved the beetroot falafel – lovely color inside, subtle flavor and super fresh.
Babaganoush is a real favorite so I had to have it too, and it was tender and full of flavor. The homemade fish cakes were also good, with delicate spices.
Steve enjoyed the Izmir kofta, the cinnamon-flavored lamb meatballs, and the grilled Moroccan sausages. The tabbouleh was good, with a lot of herbs. I’ve had better flatbreads elsewhere, but that’s the only negative. My glass of homemade red merlot was okay (£ 5.25) and went very well with the food.
Tagines are a specialty and the family next to us had ordered a range including chicken with apricots and rose water which they recommended. They also cook a tagine of duck, beef, shrimp, squid and lamb, priced at around £ 16-17. I don’t know how genuine some of these are, but they are clearly in demand. We had a nice halva for the pud. Rose tea, cardamom coffee, and fresh mint tea are also available.
Lunch is great value, with two courses at £ 11.95 (Mon-Sat 12pm-4pm) and they’ve just released a Christmas menu, which I think will be hugely popular, with three courses for £ 30. I like the short menu – it includes a mushroom pastilla, beetroot falafels, adas soup (lentils, chickpeas and tomato) and fish patties for starters, and four main courses, including seven. Vegetable tagines, duck tagine with Persian rice, lamb tagine and chicken kebabs, so something for everyone.
Have a Kissed by Rose cocktail or a Moroccan Mo-Tea-To first, and it sounds like a good night out. Our bill was just under £ 70 for two people.