Food, glorious food! Yes readers, if you want to know how to fall in love with the West End, the secret lies in your taste buds and the many places to eat along ‘The Narb’. The way to a person’s heart is through their stomach and this is how I came to love the area. Face it what’s not to love about somewhere that boasts over a hundred businesses, serving wholesome grub from all corners of the world!
If like me you enjoy a good feed, you can enjoy sampling tasty treats from all parts of the globe here. I’ve been ordering meals and eating out since I bought my house here, over ten years ago. Back then, as it was a bit of a renovation project, I didn’t have a kitchen (seriously not even a microwave) and it was Narborough House Chinese that first fed me. Their BBQ spare ribs were, and still are the best thing to order for a Sunday night chill session. From that first takeaway to this very evening (thank you Istanbul’s midweek mezze) I’ve spent weeks, months, heck – years working my way down Narborough Road to Braunstone Gate, sampling a veritable feast of tasty treats.
Recently named the street of shopkeepers, there are a wealth of businesses here and you’ll find a bit of everything – no seriously, it has everything! And the people aren’t half bad either! The best neighbours I ever had are from these parts (Hi Andy). Since I first moved here, I haven’t looked back. Honestly, I can’t turn round that far, I’m always too full.
People from all walks of life, live and work here and that’s what makes it so flavoursome. Ok, it’s not quite the hipster hotspot that Clarendon Park is and it’s not full of fancy wine bars or delis, but it has just as much to offer.
I’ll also confess, recently the area has become in need of a little tidy-up and a transient population causes a good deal of rubbish, but what better place to make a change than at home. I’m talking literally! Do a good deed peeps and if you see an old mattress (I swear Narborough Road has its own breeding programme for these) call the council or email them and they’ll release it, free of charge back into the wild within a few days, where it belongs – aka The Leicester Tip. Help a neighbour out and make the streets a tidier place.
Anyway, back to the important part – the people that’ll keep you well fed, watered and happy (I may have just snuck in my favourite place to read in here as well, but everyone knows a good book always needs the right snacks, and where better to be than Narborough Road!)
As long as I can remember Little Tokyo has been on Braunstone Gate. It’s a small, simple restaurant serving decent Japanese food. Even if you’re not a connoisseur in sushi, a quick glance at the menu and you’ll see that there’s something for everyone.
Speaking to owner James Chong, he tells me that they’ve been serving sushi since 2005, “We like being on Braunstone Gate because it’s very international. You can meet a lot of people here from all over the world. For example, People from Ukraine, Italy, Poland; lots of intelligent people come into the restaurant. It’s fun to serve them and we do very nice sushi. Even though Braunstone Gate isn’t the happening place it was three years ago, as more people are going to the places in the Highcorss we still have some great regular customers.”
The Tin Drum Bookshop
The Tin Drum Bookshop on Narborough Road (the best and only bookshop) has been here since 1986. Owners Ian and Val Smalley moved from Canada to Leicester and he tells us that “We bought the shop from Mr Howard Parker, who at the time was a famous butcher on Narborough road. It was ideal! There are stables which provide us with plenty of storage and it was easy to turn it into a bookshop. We love being on Narborough Road because having a business here is like having a business in ALL parts of the world at once. You can go to hundreds of places without even leaving the house. I like the idea of universal contact and community, and here there’s an international community. The best bit is that we can demonstrate that this is possible. Our bookshop is the only bookshop in the area so of course, it has to be the best.”
Bitsy’s Emporium of Awesome
Charlotte Lavender of Bitsy’s Emporium Of Awesome has been adding magic and sparkle to a huge selection of cakes for over five years now. With her own bakery in a commercial kitchen in the Cultural Quarter, you can now pick up a slice of cake heaven at 9Bar on Narborough Road – not only a good place for a cake but a great place to get a glass of wine. She bakes for a whole host of famous people from Ed Sheehan to Billy Bragg and you can get a slice of heaven each week by taking a stroll to one of my favourite bars 9Bar. She tells us “I love making brownies for 9bar, each tray I make sells really quickly and it’s a lot of fun working with the owners in creating the new flavours! It’s also great being able to sit and have a drink and watch people really enjoying the food I’ve made! Any excuse to drink one of their amazing iced coffees, it’s so good to drink while chomping a brownie!”
It’s 11 o’clock on a Sunday morning and the only way you can even contemplate leaving the house is if it involves a great fry-up and a cuppa. For this, you’ll need to wander down Narborough Road to Cafe Twoten, who have been making fry-ups for over ten years now. Over time, this place has transformed into a bustling, modern and reasonably priced hang out (you can get a small breakfast for a mere £3.50). The service is friendly and unsurprisingly it’s always packed and despite the number of hangovers they must see at the weekend, never judgemental. The owner Lee Wylie, explains that “We absolutely love Narborough Road, with all of its diversities and everything it has to offer. Having an English restaurant, amongst all of the many cultures is a privilege and we value every customer that walks through our door. We have many regular customers from the local area and some of them even come daily. We have been here for 11 years now and it’s great to feel part of the community and provide the much loved English Breakfast.”
Photography by David Wilson Clarke.