From the moment I meet Knight and Garter’s Sam Hagger I can tell he’s something of a perfectionist. As we wander around his new pub It’s apparent in everything – from the outside of the building which for years contained Molly O’Grady’s, a pub slowly slipping in to disrepair, to the bar, restaurant and even the staff room – he points out little details that few would pause to consider.
Seeing the plans for a new public square to replace Leicester’s indoor market and walking past the now vacant Molly’s every day, he could see the potential in what had for some time become a forgotten little corner of the city centre. “In business people like to wait for people to go first” Sam explains “but I didn’t want to follow the crowd, I wanted to be the first one in”.
Working with Everard’s, a £1.4 million refurbishment followed. Just bringing the outside back to life took three and half months, hand cleaning the tiles to satisfy conservation regulations, repairing the crystal glass windows and reinvigorating unique features like the intimidating green copper gargoyles. A conscious decision was made to move the entrance from Hotel Street on to Market Place South to further tie it in to the square, and the addition of a terrace finally completed it’s transition from backstreet bar to a cornerstone of the areas redevelopment.
Inside the pub is unrecognisable from before. Copper fixtures – including a giant beer kettle atop the bar – mustard tiling and period features make for a spectacular bar area. The attention to detail hasn’t stopped here – not even the radiators are safe. “I’m a big fan of the redevelopment of Kings Cross” explains Sam. “I spent a lot of time down there whilst we were evolving this. We bought a lot of that influence down to here. We wanted to bring the old with new, with some industrial elements, and bring back some of the original features – either refurbished or replaced like-for-like.”
The details aren’t just cosmetic. Knight and Garter is hoping to be the first pub in the city with a sustainable restaurant accreditation – “It’s partly the things you buy – the locality of your food, your drinks and how you look after the environment with your recycling” says Sam “but one thing they’ve not looked at before is the overall build”. Consequently the choice of materials from the toilet rolls to the fabric on the seats is all carefully considered.
Pushing through a bookcase door you emerge in the restaurant – and the atmosphere immediately changes. While the bar is airy and bright in some rare afternoon sunshine, this half of the Knight and Garter is more intimate and delicately lit. The definition is important to Sam. “Wherever you walk in the building, the atmosphere changes. The flooring changes, the music changes – but there are common elements throughout.”
With their own blend of coffee, initially their own herd of cattle, beers that are unique to them in the city, it’s hard to keep track of the details that have been considered. Sam sums his approach up rather neatly. “All these things going on in the background… we don’t necessairily shout about them. For us they’re givens.”
Knight and Garter is open now on Market Place South.