Ok it’s about time I wrote something here. This time it’s something of a reflection on the city centre and the ever-onward march of the cocktail bar and of 45 West (makers of Burleigh’s Gin)  in particular.

I went out for a little tour of their distillery and gin school near Nanpantan, last week (these are regular events now  – see http://burleighsgin.com/tours).It’s on a gratifyingly boutique scale, with a centrepiece of a shiny 450 litre copper still “Messy Bessy” (below right). German made, it’s got a pleasing number of pipes, levers, columns and chambers, though really compared with wine, whisky or even beer, the manufacturing of gin seems fairly simple – buy alcohol and boil it up with some flavourings, put it an a bottle and bring in the branding consultants. If Toby Fairweather can do it, how hard can it be?

 

Ok, a little unfair, but the simplicity is the reason they can run gin schools in the same room where you can come and use a mini-still, select your botanicals from a rack of jars and leave with your own unique bottle at the end of the day.  You can’t do that at Talisker.

The school has been that successful that they’ve opened another in the heart of Leicester. Located in the corner of the new Market Square (that shop adjacent to the Knight and Garter and which used to sell posh furniture?), this has 24 mini-stills and a private bar area. They are hoping to crack the corporate market as well as riding the general wave of gin enthusiasm.

It is the company’s third venue in the St Martin’s area. There is their Bottle Shop and Bar (the one beneath The Case restaurant) launched partly as a market research base for their Burleigh’s products but which appears rammed with aspirational types every  weekend.  Then they also recently opened a champagne and fine wine bar in St Martin’s (opposite the entrance to  St Martin’s Tea and Coffee), and which I hear will shortly start to feature food from Martin Powdrill at Cured. I had one of his great platters at The Cookie on Wednesday this week before seeing the awesome David Thomas Broughton in the downstairs venue – a world class Leicester night out  – and I think that could be a very fruitful match for both of them.

bottlegardenSt Martin’s Square already has the delightfully intimate  33 Cank Street cocktail bar, and now has added  The Bottle Garden,  an urban garden-themed  “botanical style bar and café” coming from the people behind the Outerspace garden shops in Stoneygate and Wistow, again focused on premium spirits which has had a flying start (I’ve not been yet).

 

Just around the corner is yet another cool new cocktail bar The Gadabout. It is in the building that previously housed Taps bar and the Opera House restaurant – one of Leicester’s oldest and most characterful spaces – and is getting praise for great service.

Naturally the big Pubcos have cottoned on to this trend, with Stonegate having rebranded the Slug and Lettuce on Market Street as The Distillery – though fortunately as well as pitching for cocktail trade they also seem to retain a commitment to real ale and to craft beers, and it looks an ok place to catch the match with a bowl of wings or whatever.

Beer aficionados though will probably be heading back to St Martin’s where the latest, but probably not the last, new opening is The Tap in the Square (the unit that was previously The Deli in the Square). Initially a temporary venture, this is a collaboration between Leicester brewers Framework and Welford Road beer specialist Brewklopedia and their sister shop, 23 Wine and Whiskey on Granby Street. It has four taps – three Framework and one guest  – as well as other drinks supplied by the partners. An excellent bolthole during Xmas shopping.

I said probably not the last as I see Grillstock has gone into administration. I understand administrators want to sell it as a going concern  but obviously its future is in doubt. Sad to see to see any business in trouble and I liked the enthusiasm of the owners when I met them at the launch, but I just didn’t find the food good enough. Given the pace of change outlined in this blog post, I suspect someone will be eagerly eying up that site.

  • Update 7/12/17 – Grillstock is now out of administration. They have closed their London restaurant, but appear bullish about the future of their business which also has two restaurants in Bristol and one in Bath.

 

 

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