The Allandale Road and Francis Street shopping area has long been one of Leicester’s go-to destinations for cutesy independent gift shops, high-end grooming and a generally more refined retail experience. The opening of three exciting new drinkeries means it now also holds its own as an after dark destination. Fancy a pie with your artisan pint? A spot of cicchetti with your cheeseboard? How about an assortment of antipasti to accompany your Aperol aperitif? You get the idea. Read on for a speedy round-up of this on-trend trio.
The Real Ale Classroom
The city’s first micropub opened on Allandale Road in November 2015 and won CAMRA’s Leicester Pub of the Year just two years later. The founders, two former teachers, have combined their love of education with a passion for real ale in this new venture that aims to educate customers about the joys of traditionally brewed beer. This pint-sized pub is the perfect little hideaway to while away an evening sampling a few artisan brews and comparing tasting notes with the knowledgable bar staff.
Don’t worry if you’re not that into ale – there’s also a great range of beers, ciders, wines and spirits and although the atmosphere is inevitably a bit testosterone-heavy, the whole place is welcoming and relaxed. Clearly the concept is a recipe for success – a second Real Ale Classroom recently opened in Lutterworth.
Drink recommendation: The real ale menu changes frequently so just pick something from the blackboard that tickles your fancy and dive right in.
Foodie favourite: It’s got to be the Leeson’s Melton Mowbray pork pie, served with a hefty bowl of chunky chutney.
This is the place for you if you like a bit of live music with your tipple – despite its teeny size, the Real Ale Classroom frequently hosts local musicians.
Give it a miss if you’re up for a raucous night out. The atmosphere here is studiously laid-back.
Right across the road from the Real Ale Classroom, in the building formerly occupied by Mason and Brooke, is Marabel. This restaurant and wine bar opened earlier this year and the star of the show is the extensive cicchetti menu. Cicchetti is essentially the Italian version of tapas – small dishes that you can order as many of as you like – either just a few to accompany your drinks or a few dozen to share with friends for an informal and sociable dinner.
Visitors to Marabel’s bar area can choose from the full cicchetti menu, as well as a well-stocked wine cellar. This makes it a great option for a light lunch or a pre-dinner drink and nibble. The friendly staff are on-hand to offer recommendations and the whole place has a pleasantly laid-back continental vibe.
Drink recommendation: To accompany a few light cicchetti at the bar, you can’t go wrong with a glass of Bartolomeo Breganze Prosecco. It’s the soft, creamy number famously used to make the original Bellini cocktail in Harry’s Bar.
Foodie favourite: The crispy fried gnocchi, served with a fiery tomato dip and Parmesan, are delicious little morsels.
This is the place for you if you’re a wine-lover looking to an enjoy your preferred tipple in a suitably sophisticated atmosphere accompanied by a perfectly-matched nibble or two.
Give it a miss if you’re possessive over your food – cicchetti is an inherently sociable dining experience and sharing is pretty much compulsory.
If you thought the Real Ale Classroom was cosy, Toast Inn takes snug to a whole new level. With its open fire, low ceilings and candlelit ambience, it’s an intimate little cocoon of a bar – the perfect nook for snuggling up and enjoying at least one of the 38 gins or 26 bespoke cocktails on offer. The food menu is short but well worth exploring – as well as nomtastic antipasti boards, there are generously-sized bowls of nibbles available and a couple of dessert options for those with a sweet tooth.
In an alternate universe, where human hibernation is both socially acceptable and financially viable, I’m moving into Toast Inn in October and hunkering down there until spring, surviving on a diet of heritage gins and shavings of melt-in-the-mouth Serrano ham. Needless to say, this is my favourite of Stoneygate’s impressive new additions, and I recommend you pay it a visit sharpish.
Drink recommendation: The Toast-Inn by the Fire is made with Goslings 151 proof Bermuda rum, sugar syrup, lime juice, ginger beer and – FIRE – pure theatre in a glass. Toasty.
Foodie favourite: Tuck into a meat and cheese antipasti board and you won’t go hungry – the portions are generous and great value at £14 for two to share.
This is the place for you if you have embraced the Scandinavian concept of hygge and love all things snug, cosy and rustic.
Give it a miss if you’re claustrophobic. A panic attack would really ruin the ambience.
Stoneygate’s new crop of bars are an impressive trio. Put a date in your diary to head on over there soon – that Bartolomeo Breganze won’t drink itself you know.