CoffeeBeer >> Pint Pleasures >> Previous Beer Columns >> 3 More Leicester Pubs


Previous Pint Pleasures - March 8, 2009

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The Globe, 43 Silver Street, Leicester, Leicestershire

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O'Neill's, 16-20 Loseby Lane, Leicester, Leicestershire

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The Gynsills, Leicester Road, Glenfield, Leicestershire

As everyone who hasn't been hiding away in a cave and living on lichen knows, these are difficult financial times. People are losing their jobs at the rate of 2500 per day in the UK, and those who have jobs often have to re-apply to keep the jobs they already have. And many businesses are either laying off a large number of their staff or closing altogether. Pubs are suffering as well, which is the saddest part of all of this. After all, a good local pub provides a social venue not only for enjoying oneself and celebrating but also for consoling oneself when things are tough. But pubs are currently closing at the rate of 6 per day.

So what characteristics distinguish the pubs that are surviving? There are several strategies a pub can use to keep their regular customers coming in while attracting new customers. Recently I was in Leicester for the weekend, and the three pubs I visited demonstrate three different strategies.

The Globe, located on a busy pedestrian corner of the Lanes, is a classic traditional pub dating from the 18th century featuring a round wooden bar in the centre surrounded by several different rooms and alcoves. The day we visited there were cask ales from Everards Brewery including Tiger Best, Original, and Beacon, as well as two guest ales. So what's the survival strategy here? It's simply to be a good pub with an inviting atmosphere and a variety of well-kept ales. And it doesn't hurt to be on a busy pedestrian corner, either.

As we were in an Everards-heavy location in Leicester we decided to try one of the Globe's guest ales, Mr. Tod (4.2%, Fox Brewery, Leeds, W Yorkshire). This is a golden ale, very smooth at the beginning, with a bitter aftertaste created by the hoppiness, perhaps Fuggles-inspired. It's definitely not a Czech madly-hopping-Balkan-dance style of hoppiness, but more a Morris-y hop, a dance weaving in and out and around the mouth creating a gradual roundness, occasionally hopping in place and tapping sticks. I could even taste the red and green accents. My drinking partner Andrew tasted the red which he commented might be some sort of autumn hops but he didn't expand on that notion, as he was preoccupied with rubbing his tongue all around his teeth and the sides of his mouth as if his tongue were an Egyptian belly dancer swaying among the Morris dancers. The bitterness grew and grew, strengthening the Morris dance connection. The crops had been germinated and fertilised and the little baby bitters were maturing and having families of their own. It was a heart-warming performance.

As the Fox Brewery handpump was directly next to the Everards Tiger handpump, we noticed a Leicester sports connection, as the Foxes are Leicester's football team and the Tigers are their rugby union team. Someone once said that football is a game for gentlemen played by hooligans, and rugby is a game for hooligans played by gentlemen. So does that mean that the sparky Everards Tiger is a gentleman's brew and the lovely Mr Tod is a hooligan's brew? I should think not, as they are plenty of lagers to fit the latter description.

Earlier in the afternoon we had a pint of Tiger Best (4.3% ABV, Everards Brewery Ltd., Narborough, Leicestershire) at the pub kitty corner from the Globe, O'Neill's. This pub demonstrates another strategy for survival: that of the theme pub, which is usually part of a chain and usually Irish, offering a large menu of affordable food, live music nights, sports on several big-screen TVs, and decor consisting of banners and signs and slogans galore. This O'Neill's -- the first O'Neill's I've been to -- is a vast cavern of interconnected rooms. The walls are decorated with Tigers rugby shirts and Irish recipes. On this particular Saturday afternoon it was very busy with most of the customers eating burgers and all creating a massive din. The nearby shopping area and malls were also packed to the gills with shoppers, and surprisingly most of them had full shopping bags. You'd have thought it was Christmas Eve and there was no credit crunch. Perhaps Leicester is a spending money haven. Or perhaps it just has irresistible shops.

We left and returned to O'Neill's a couple of hours later to have a meal and to see a band, arriving after the end of the televised rugby match featuring the London Irish v the Leicester Tigers in order to avoid the massive crush (literally) of O'Neill's rugby fans. It's hard to estimate just how many customers were in the pub, but I know it was a massive throng, enough to earn the pub an astonishing profit for the day. Unfortunately, even though this O'Neill's serves food until 9:30pm, they had already stopped serving on this particular night. Whether this was because they had a new evening chef who couldn't start tonight or because the day chef had been in a very bad mood is debatable. Needless to say we went around the corner for a restaurant meal, returning to O'Neill's in time for the band's second set. The place was still throbbing with revellers and the air was hot and steamy. We had 2 more rounds of Tiger Best, which were good but not really CAMRA-pub quality; but we were out for a night of live music and, well, I do like cats so drinking Tiger seemed like a good idea. But by the second round Andrew's pint was completely headless whereas my head was nitro-thick, immovable, and strangely yellow. (The head on my pint, that is. My own head was definitely not yellow.)

On Sunday at lunchtime we visited a pub which falls into a third category of profit strategy: the large family-friendly food pub with a large menu of basic and affordable dishes and meal offers, a large car park, and a location convenient to either a motorway or a major artery. The Gynsills, a former manor house located northwest of central Leicester near Junction 21 of the M1 in a quiet green setting, fits this description. The pub is connected to a Premier Inn which offers accommodation. On this sunny Sunday the pub was well populated with various family groups, most which seemed to include small children. As Andrew and I had come out for lunch with Andrew's son, his girlfriend, and their new baby, this is why we had decided on this pub. Even though baby ended up being dropped off at eager-to-babysit sister's on the way, we were still allowed into the pub sans child.

The decor at the massive Gynsills is pretty much like every other pub of this kind, and the menu is pretty standard as well, with a 2-Meals-for-£10 deal as well as an optional Sunday Roast menu. I'm afraid the foot is pretty bland and unchallenging, if that's the sort of thing you're happy with. Taking a quick survey using a scale of 1 for Poor and 5 for Excellent, we found our 4 meals hovered between 2 and 3.5.

My pint of Broadside (4.5% ABV, Adnams Brewery, Southwold, Suffolk) was also fairly average. It was pleasant enough in that it was my first pint of Broadside in years, but it was just average, which is what I honestly expected. Obviously a large family pub like this can't be expected to be able to turn over a lot of cask ale.

One good thing about the Gynsills is its pleasant country setting, with a nice view out toward the 850-acre Bradgate Park, which features not only the house where Lady Jane Grey was born but also the Old John Tower, a 2-room mug-shaped folly built in 1784. I suppose that sounds like a good day out in Leicester for a family: load all those children into the car, drive out to Bradgate Park, and then have several meal deals at the Gynsills. But it's not the type of pub that really pulls somebody like me inside.

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(Last updated 3 November 2012)