Described by one local business owner as “the Primrose Hill of Leicester,” Stoneygate is a rather refined area of town two miles south of the city centre. The collection of shops and eateries on Allandale Road and Francis Street has long been beloved of yummy mummies and middle-class locals, but is often overlooked by the rest of the city.
At first glance, this cluster of shabby chic purveyors, beauty salons and high-end showrooms holds narrow appeal. However, things are changing. A handful of suspiciously on-trend bars and restaurants has opened up over the last couple of years, supplementing the existing independent businesses. As a result, Stoneygate is undergoing a renaissance; shaking off its fusty image and emerging from the shadows as something altogether more interesting.
“What I love about Stoneygate is the people,” says Steve Tabbernor from The Real Ale Classroom. “They’re friendly, helpful and generally all get along.” The Real Ale Classroom is Leicester’s first micropub and has been hugely successful since opening in 2016, including winning CAMRA’s Leicester Pub of the Year last year. Steve says, “Our business has definitely benefited from being here as there is no local pub for a square mile or so and we specialise in independent breweries and distilleries that you can’t find in mainstream pubs, at an affordable price.”
The Real Ale Classroom isn’t the only new business attracting loyal locals and an increasing number of visitors from further afield. On the other side of Allandale Road, Marabel is a restaurant and wine bar which specialises in cicchetti. These small Italian dishes are served tapas-style, which makes them perfect for sharing with friends or to nibble on while you enjoy a glass of wine from the extensive drinks menu. Marabel’s sister venue, Toast Inn, is around the corner on Francis Street. This bar’s talented mixologists serve sensational cocktails complete with hand-picked botanicals and a touch of theatre. There’s also a rapidly expanding food menu.
Our next foodie stop is Allandale Road’s Anatolia, a family-owned restaurant serving home-cooked Mediterranean cuisine in a cosy, informal environment. The owners hail from Turkey and their best dishes are the kebabs, meatballs and falafels that showcase the intense flavours of the Middle East. With its excellent value and authentic dishes, this little restaurant is a bona fide hidden gem and well worth a trip to Stoneygate in itself.
We’ll come back to food shortly. In the meantime, Stoneygate has long been a hub for high-end grooming and beauty businesses, so if you’re looking to treat yourself to a spot of pampering, there are plenty of opportunities.
L’Homme Gentleman’s Grooming Lounge opened on Allandale Road last year and offers haircuts, beard trims and shaves with the highest quality products and the kind of service you’d expect in an exclusive gentleman’s club. This place oozes cool, from the leather chairs and nostalgic playlists to the well-stocked complimentary bar. Owner Andreas Ioannou has no doubt that L’Homme’s location has contributed to its success.
“Allandale Road in Stoneygate is an amazing street,” Andreas says. “It has a close-knit community vibe, it’s very vibrant and everyone is friendly and very welcoming, which has played a big part in the success of L’Homme in such a short space of time.”
Another noteworthy destination for a little self-indulgence is Amelia Nour. This opulent apothecary stocks cult beauty and wellbeing brands with a focus on organic, cruelty free and vegan products. As well as stocking up on luxury skincare and beauty supplies, there’s the opportunity to learn from wellbeing experts and join workshops and masterclasses. Owner Meesha Kanadia describes the boutique’s location as being just as unique as her business, and adds, “We have held various masterclasses with celebrities and workshops, making it a place of educating our customers about all things clean and non-toxic beauty.”
After all that cleansing and de-stressing, you’re probably ready for a coffee, and you have plenty of options. Newly-opened coffee house Cue is a relaxing place to enjoy a cuppa, and has a menu of fresh and healthy dishes if you’re also in the market for a nibble. The same can be said of Deli Flavour, which you can find at the crossroads of Allandale Road and Francis Street. As well as enjoying a drink and a bite to eat, you can take home extra treats from an array of speciality meats, locally-made preserves and artisan ciders and beers. Meanwhile, if you fancy something sweet to accompany your brew, Baker St Cakes on Francis Street has got that covered. This macaroon and cake boutique offers a bewildering range of cupcakes and macaroons to satisfy the sweetest of teeth.
“I thoroughly recommend meeting a friend for coffee and macaroons before enjoying a wander around Francis Street and Allandale Road, where you can find perfect gifts, accessories, fashion and jewellery for every occasion,” suggests Samantha Gibbs, owner of Nest on Francis Street.
We’re way ahead of you Samantha…
To Nest then, where you’ll find a carefully curated collection of cards, gifts and wedding paraphernalia, as well as toys, games and cuddly critters for the little ones. The range of personalised jewellery and gifts is particularly impressive and, along with the speedy service, makes Nest an excellent destination for picking up a last-minute birthday or Christmas present.
Allandale Road and Francis Street, nestled alongside some of the most affluent residential addresses in the city, are never going to be exactly edgy. However, their recent resurgence, kick-started by the arrival of some stylish new independent businesses, makes a trip increasingly worthwhile. Pay this rising star a visit and experience its considerable charms for yourself.
Photography by Matthew Cawrey