One of the joys of Vinspire is seeing my fellow bloggers doing well in their various roles within the industry, so I was absolutely delighted to hear at the end of last year that our lovely Adam Richardson was opening his second super cool drinking establishment, and couldn't wait to visit!
He already has a pub and restaurant - the marvellous White Horse in Welwyn, for which he won Britain's Best Landlord 2014 - and now he's upped his game yet again and opened a craft beer pub and smokehouse called Craft & Cleaver in St Albans, a neighbouring town just down the road in central/southwest Hertfordshire.
We went along to the preview night a couple of weeks ago (OF COURSE WE DID) and we were super-thrilled to see such a trendy, stylised and passionate restaurant in the middle of St Albans, which has a great reputation for beer (it's the home of CAMRA's HQ) but isn't such a hot spot for restaurants. The boy done good.
Thanks to a £350,000 refurb, Adam's given the place an industrial, American-themed, super-classy look, with a fantastic attention to detail in the decor that creates a really buzzing atmosphere, and makes going along for a meal (or even just a pint) feel such a proper occasion.
It's a venue that really knows what it's doing - the look and feel is matched beautifully with a menu of proper craft beers (think epic London breweries like Camden and Weird Beard, as well as American craft offerings from Flying Dog and others). It's the kind of beer list you could easily get lost in for an entire evening.
The wine list is also pleasingly diverse, with all the old favourites mingling alongside less classic options like beautiful fresh albarino and an incredible Lebanese red from Hochar.
And then there's the cocktails. Oh boy, the cocktails. Adam's taken classics and twisted a little bit of extra life out of them - think elderflower bramble, mango manhattan, hibiscus and rhubarb bellini, and a passionfruit margarita, which I can personally confirm was OUT OF THIS WORLD. And very generous on the booze.
Adam even does gin and tonic with flair - using the popular balloon glasses that are so big in gin-loving Spain right now, each of the gins is served with its own complementary garnishes and botanicals to enhance its individual flavours. And the measures are much kinder than you're probably used to...
If you're feeling peckish, this is probably the point where you should stop reading, or you might actually hurt with the need to eat some of the incredible dishes on Craft and Cleaver's menu.
Let's start with the burgers. Adam does burgers REALLY WELL - all the trendy mushroom, blue cheese, halloumi-type options, plus absolute belters like Holy Cow - a burger with beef brisket, bourbon bacon relish and blue cheese sauce - and Mother Clucker Waffle Burger - buttermilk fried chicken, maple syrup mustard sauce, rocket and bacon in a cheddar and spring onion waffle. Oh, mamma.
If that's got your mouth watering, wait 'til you hear about what's on offer from the smoker. Ribs, smoked duck legs, wild boar sausages, 12-hour smoked beef brisket and more (I had to stop, I was getting saliva all over my keyboard.)
Even the appetisers are epic - particularly the sweetcorn and halloumi fritters - and if you have room, there's the likes of key lime pie and caramel, orange and pecan brownie for dessert.
Once you've worked your way through the main menu, you'll literally have to come back the next available weekend to try brunch. Indulgent waffles, moreish muffins and a peanut butter milkshake that I hear is absolutely to die for. And, yes, there's the classic full English as well!
You can view the full menu on Craft and Cleaver's website.
I really can't stress how happy I am to see my pal Adam sharing his passion and flair for food and drink with the world - especially seeing as it's in Hertfordshire, and just down the road from my hungry belly.
From the looks of Craft and Cleaver's Facebook page, the restaurant gets booked up pretty quickly, especially at weekends - so it's obvious the other Herts restaurant fans are as in love with the place as I am - but do try and get a table as soon as you can. It's pretty darn special.