Previously part of the Australian chain, this now independent coffee shop is situated in the front of the Old Town Hall in the city centre. Serving a range of teas, coffee, cakes and snacks in a faux colonial style setting. Outdoor seating available.
One of the nicest buildings in St Albans turned into a terrible, terrible example of a cafe. Lifeless, soulless and appauling coffee. [Mar 13]
What happened to the Strawberries??
Today we had the unfortunate experience of entering, for the first and last time, your Cafeteria in St. Albans. We ordered two strawberry milkshakes, which at a price of £2.65p, each we considered extortionate. However we duly awaited there arrival at our table and upon receipt commented on there insipid appearance suggesting that we had a vanilla ones by mistake instead of the strawberry as there was no semblance of colour in it whatsoever. The waiter stated that they were strawberry but we insisted that they were completely tasteless. Realising that it was proving futile to continue further in the Cafeteria we left totally mystified. Finally we would state that you could learn a lot by visiting MacDonald's who produce wonderful milk shakes at a half of your price. [Aug 10]
Overall, a great place for coffee
I come to this cafe frequently. The coffee is the best tasting coffee in St Albans (I LOVE my coffee!). The selection of paninis and cakes is good. Expensive, but worth it. I have to say, I have never had bad service here. The only downsides are:- only one toilet for ladies (incl baby changing facilities), so often a queue. It can be tricky to move about inside with prams etc and there is limited choice, food-wise for little children. The upsides:- good selection of food and drink for adults; water easily available (jugs and glasses separate from the counter), the fact it ISN'T a andquot;Cafe Costa-Bucksandquot; chain; the staff are always friendly, great outdoor seating, nice atmosphere and beautiful interior, not to mention excellent location. [Aug 10]
Popped in on a weekday mid-afternoon for a quick cup of tea. A regular tea bag (or two) in a cup or a ceramic pot would have been perfect. What arrived was a glass contraption, with loose tea sat on the botton inside, but no plunger or means of stirring the leaves to infuse the tea. After several minutes of pondering the problem of how to get the contents of this artistic creation up to drinking strength (without burning myself), my companion returned the gadget to the staff who took it apart, stirred the leaves, and put it back together again. A suggestion - keep it simple, it's just a cuppa?!* [Feb 10]
Worse service than usual
On the few occasions I've been here, I've experienced shockingly slow service but today's visit took the (chargeable) biscuit. We queued for the requisite age to order and then sat down and chatted for a while, awaiting our drinks. The waiter brought our drinks and spilled mine all over himself, our friend and her shopping. To be fair, two of his colleagues were immediately on hand with rolls of kitchen paper to wipe up the mess (could this be a common occurence?) The waiter apologised and fresh drinks were brought. However, at this stage, our friend realised that she had forgotten to order a ginger biscuit. Now, given that she had just spent the best part of 5 minutes wiping hot chocolate off her Christmas shopping, you would have thought that the waiter would have given her a biscuit on the house. What he actually said was and said 'that's £1.25'. I suggested that he might reconsider, to no avail. I don't know what the waiter training involves at this café but you would think carrying drinks without spilling them over customers would be a prerequisite. Accidents can happen but it's how you handle them that matters. This guy didn't seem to have been taught any basic customer service. It's a shame because the hot chocolate is quite good. [Dec 09]
The Most Unchildfriendly Cafe in St Albans
Having frequented this lovely cafe for many months after the birth of my first child, I was extremely disappointed today when a member of staff/ manager told me and my friends (who also have young children) in a very rude and patronising manner that we would have to do a better job of keeping the floors cleaner in future. I was insensed given that just a couple of weeks ago when my daughter spilled a cup of coffee on the floor, I asked for a cloth and at 7 months pregnant was on my hands and knees mopping the floor without ONE offer of help from any of the staff. Having introduced most of my friends to this cafe and having been a regular for over a year, i'm sorry to say that I will be withdrawing my custom and will be encouraging my friends to do the same. Such a shame! A cafe with so much potential. [Sep 09]
Regular visit and surprised by bad reviews!
Myself and my family love this place, since its opening we have visited on regular ocassions and have only experience bad service on one occassion. On the whole I think the service is very quick and friendly. The thing I love most about Merchant Tea and Coffee is the fact that they bring everything to your table (drinks included) and this is very helpful when you are on your own with two small children! Yes you could say it is a little expensive but probably not more that a starbucks or costa and the cakes are georgeous! The doughnuts are very popular with my 2 year old. The only other comment I would make is that they should offer more child friendly food i.e. perhaps childrens sized sandwiches or lunchboxes and box drinks. Another thing I like very much is the iced water freely available, as it can be a pain having to ask for this in other coffee outlets. [Jun 09]
Cake and Coffee? You'll be lucky!
I've been to the merchant tea and coffee company a few times. The service has never been that quick but the location is enticing on a sunny day but my experience last week meant I'm never giving them my custom again. We chose our table outside in a sunny spot, ready to watch the world go by. My partner popped inside to order 2 coffees and 2 pieces of cake and came back out with a number on a stick. And we waited content to watch the world go by for a few minutes. And we waited.... And we waited.... And we waited.... 10 minutes later I went inside and there were our pieces of cake sat on the counter. We were told the coffees would be ready any minute so I carried the cake outside. We ate it. And we waited.... And we waited.... After 20 minutes (seriously - I'm not exaggerating!) we went in and asked for the money back for our coffees. The cake was lovely but they never got round to making the coffees in all that time. I don't mind waiting a while but this was just ridiculous. [Mar 09]
good cakes but dodgy interior
What on earth were they thinking? A fake 'colonial' cafe is hardly pc is it? This space had such potential with the high ceilings and huge windows. It could have been flooded with light. Instead, they have painted it a dodgy pink colour with wafting fans and fake rattan chairs. I think it is very popular with tour groups which is fine, and probably ideal for coach drop-offs. Something a bit funkier would have been very welcome in this amazing building. Coffee and cakes very nice though! [Mar 09]
Not fans of the fans
Setting and location ensure that this is usually packed. Giant fans give an oddly colonial feel. A good range of teas and friendly service, though challenged at times in our experience. Open very early in the morning, presumably to tempt us to drop in before the commute to London. [Oct 08]