As this is our first issue we thought we’d introduce everyone – whether you’re a new or returning student, or just a long time resident looking for some inspiration – to the bits of Leicester that we’ve fallen in love with over the years.
This is by no means a definitive list (please don’t be offended if we’ve missed you), but some ideas for you to take a risk and discover something new. Venture beyond the campus and try some of the many amazing things this city has to offer. You won’t regret it.
FOR LIVE MUSIC
There’s a wealth of small venues in Leicester. THE COOKIE, FIREBUG, THE MUSICIAN, THE DONKEY and THE SOUNDHOUSE all routinely host new and undiscovered acts throughout the year. Foals, Frank Turner, Wolf Alice and Royal Blood have all come through these bastions of talent over the years and some real gems visit on a regular basis. For bigger shows from the likes of The Last Shadow Puppets, Biffy Clyro, Less than Jake, Mystery Jets and more, check the listings at DE MONTFORT HALL and O2 ACADEMY LEICESTER.
FOR FESTIVAL VIBES
Although it’s indoors, HANDMADE FESTIVAL in April kicks the summer off with three days of music and art at O2 Academy Leicester – previous headliners include We Are Scientists, Deaf Havana and Slaves but there is a tonne of new artists to discover too. Although more family oriented, if you like your music a bit more outdoors-y SIMON SAYS in July is curated by many of the city’s music venues and takes place in both DE MONTFORT HALL and its gardens, well worth the ridiculously affordable ticket price to sit in the sun. The aforementioned LEICESTER COMEDY FESTIVAL takes over the city in February and is the place to see big name acts that might otherwise skip over Leicester.
THE PHOENIX CINEMA is Leicester’s independent cinema, offering a mixture of newer mainstream and independent movies as well as cult classics. MIDLANDS MOVIES hosts regular ‘secret cinema’ type screenings around the city, going all out to make unique experiences, so it’s worth giving them a follow on Facebook or Twitter for more unusual events.
The multi-million-pound CURVE THEATRE is a unique and impressive landmark in Leicester’s cultural quarter with a diverse programme all year round. THE LITTLE THEATRE and Y THEATRE both host unique smaller and local productions, and UPSTAIRS AT THE WESTERN is great for discovering new acts and ideas. ATTENBOROUGH ARTS CENTRE up near the University of Leicester is great for performance art, touring acts and new writing.
When LEICESTER COMEDY FESTIVAL hits the city in February – the second biggest of its kind in Europe after Edinburgh Fringe – for almost three weeks you are absolutely spoilt for choice with countless shows every night. Throughout the year though, THE COOKIE and FIREBUG are your place to find regular touring acts, with bigger names headlining DE MONTFORT HALL and CURVE. It’s worth following LEICESTER FRIDGE on Facebook and Twitter as their collection of many independent nights at the likes of MANHATTAN 34, CRITERION and THE EXCHANGE are the place to find the best new and rising talent.
FOR SOMETHING DIFFERENT
There are several nomadic nights that move around venues bringing their own specific flavor of eclectic entertainment wherever they land. HOUSE OF VERSE, ANERKI and FRIED RICE JAM all bring together brilliant creative collaborations and immersive cultural experiences. UPSTAIRS AT THE WESTERN regularly hosts a spoken word night by FIND THE RIGHT WORDS, as well as in-house and touring productions, comedy, music and workshops throughout the year.
DUFFY’S is an Irish sports bar which shows most major sports events. THE QUEEN OF BRADGATE also shows key events throughout the year.
THE ATTIC upstairs at The Cookie is great for delicately constructed concoctions and the best gin in town, whilst MANHATTAN 34’s cocktail experts can help you find the perfect drink. The classy CANK STREET off St Martins Square will give you the ultimate cocktail experience, or if you’re on a budget FIREBUG has a great selection of well-priced classics.
FOR A BEER GARDEN
Savour the sun while it lasts! THE ORANGE TREE and THE RUTLAND AND DERBY ARMS have some of the best city centre beer gardens, with plenty of seats and heaters. THE OLD HORSE on Victoria Park has masses of outdoor space both in front and behind the pub, as well as a couple of owls. No kidding. CAFE BRUXELLES is also worth a mention for its garden’s fantastic graffiti murals and extensive selection of Belgian beers.
FOR CRAFT BEER
Relatively new to Leicester, but a national staple for craft beers is BREWDOG. Yes, we know technically it’s a chain, but it makes such a big thing about not being ‘your typical chain’ that we’ll give it a pass this once. THE WESTERN near Bede Park, THE CRITERION, QUEEN OF BRADGATE, THE GLOBE and THE OLD HORSE offer a good range of local beers. THE KING’S HEAD on King’s Street offers some lesser-known craft beer and TAPS, close to the Cathedral, has beer taps on the tables so you can pull your own pints as desired.
FOR SUNDAY ROASTS
THE FONT has long been a contender for the best roast in the city, with three courses that ticks all the boxes. THE ORANGE TREE and the LANSDOWNE both have great offerings, as does THE GLOBE. THE KITCHEN at The Cookie has just launched bottomless prosecco with their three course lunch, which could well be a game changer.
ST MARTINS is the undisputed king of coffee shops in Leicester at the moment, and finding a table on a busy lunch time can be a challenge. Their coffee is served in many of the city’s coffee shops and bars if you’ve got that craving. Across the city centre you’ll find BRU, whose coffee is backed up by some killer deserts, and BREAD AND HONEY if you’re after a quick takeaway caffeine hit. THE COFFEE COUNTER is a new artisan coffee shop, and if you can handle the hipster, their cold brew is something else! BREAD AND HONEY also offer the much sought-after Monmouth Coffee. Heading up London Road, 6 DEGREES is run entirely by volunteers, and you can read about them elsewhere in this issue of Great Central. 96 DEGREES is the place to go on Braunstone Gate.
CAFÉ TWO TEN on Narborough Road does great value for money breakfasts, with traditional offerings and a life-changing Eggs Florentine. The quaint MRS BRIDGES in the lanes is also great, as well as being one of the oldest tearooms in Leicester. On Queens Road beyond Victoria Park, JONES’ is notorious for a high-quality Full English, as is the city centre’s COSY CLUB and THE KITCHEN, which is part of THE COOKIE. BAR DOS HERMANOS has an extensive weekend brunch menu, and be sure to check out their unusual international breakfast options.
CROQUES is a long standing staple of Leicester’s lunch circuit – perfect for grabbing a quick bite, but tough to squeeze in with queues at conventional lunch times. MRS BRIDGES has more classic options as well as some killer sandwiches. In the cultural quarter, GRAYS at LCB DEPOT makes one of the best burgers in the city, as well as some delicious lighter bites. BREAD AND HONEY is the place to go for takeaway soups and sandwiches, close to the end of New Walk. Newly opened, DELILAH is an up-market lunch stop – maybe one to take your folks to when they visit. DELI FLAVOUR in Silver Arcade is hidden away, but worth the effort to find for great vegan/vegetarian options and a host of old school video games.
FOR VEGETARIANS & VEGANS
Being a pretty enlightened city, most of our independent bars and restaurants have good vegetarian menu options. As well as the aforementioned SHIVALLI and MIRCH, THE GOOD EARTH and CURRANT AFFAIRS in the city centre are Meccas if you’re meat-free, and THE WORLD PEACE CAFÉ close to the Cathedral also has an entirely vegetarian menu. THE QUEEN OF BRADGATE and BODEGA in St Martins Square both have select vegan menus with mouth-watering dishes.
THE CURRY HOUSE on London Road was the Great Central team’s staple erm… curry house for a long time, but there are so many options worth trying. BOMBAY BITES has several locations where you can pick up a speedy curry box for a few pounds, and MIRCH on market street has a great vegetarian lunchtime buffet. Sticking with the veggie theme, SHIVALLI is great for vegans, with an extensive buffet. KAYAL near the railway station is a little different, with south indian cuisine, but its Thali’s are amazing value. Thai Esarn has the best Thai curries in the city, with plenty of veggie options.
We can say with some confidence that THE CRITERION makes the best pizzas in the world. Don’t be fooled by its ‘70s exterior and shabby vibes, its food is really exceptional. Beyond the many ubiquitous chain restaurants PETER PIZZERIA is genuinely unique – both in terms of décor and it’s choice of toppings. DON LEONE on Queens Road is more conventional, but no less delicious. THE EXCHANGE serves a speedy pizza if you’re in the Cultural Quarter, and on a Monday you can flip a coin for a free one.
Leicester really excels here. CRAFTY BURGER within the St Martins Coffee shop is the kind of burger place that you need to book weeks in advance, but is worth the effort – check it out on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays. MEATCURE and GRILLSTOCK both have great ranges of meat based delights, and are both worth saving yourself for. GRAYS in the cultural quarter is only open in the day, but has their own unique take on the ‘perfect burger’.
Leicester has seen a huge explosion of dessert places in recent years, open well into the night. London Road is a hotbed for them with both HEAVENLY DESSERTS and MADISON’S vying for trade close to Leicester University. Back in town, BRU, WHIPEE GELATO and GELATO VILLAGE each have their own very different atmospheres.
FOR AN ALTERNATIVE NIGHT OUT
MOSH has long been the staple of student rock and indie nights in Leicester, and its behemoth status means it’ll probably be there for years to come. FAN CLUB is another long standing alternative super club, with a whole host of niche, and not so niche nights throughout the week. FEEDBACK takes over the upstairs of Firebug twice a month for serious rock fans and PLUG takes over the same venue a handful of times each year, with it’s own unique take on the silent disco. BASEMENT’s small hidden nightclub is a weekend staple if you can squeeze past the queue, offering excellent soul, funk and hip-hop throughout the week.
It’s slim pickings for record stores within Leicester. ROCKABOOM in Malcolm Arcade is our main indie record store, and the focus of most of the Record Store Day happenings. The LOROS RECORD STORE on Queens Road can be a source of second hand gems, as is BEAT ROUTE in Malcolm Arcade and the many record stores that take over stalls on the market throughout the week. ST MARTINS SQUARE regularly hosts record fairs that are worth going along to, with live music and stalls bringing the square to life on a Saturday.