In celebrating Simon’s birthday, a special post from the UK Capital of Crisps, a great favourite of his based on recent posts.
I’ve declared a truce on Leicester as well, though I do get the hump with the big money “soccer” teams who look down on less successful, but proper football clubs like Manchester City. I know Alan will agree.
Not to rub it in, but I finished Leicestershire today (see gloriously pinked GBG extract above); the sense of relief is palpable. The county’s pubs range from solid to classic, but I’m starting to see the curse of limited opening hours hit the city centre.
Babelas is tucked away below the Universities, Queens Road seemingly the smart street for the middle-classes with a taste for tapas and prosecco rather than thalis and Pale ale. I’d never heard of it, and a succession of bars called (I kid you not) “Olives”, “Dos Hermanos”, “Sansomes” and “Cultura” have successfully avoided the Beer Guide. A shame; Dos Hermanos promises model galleons as well as the inevitable Tribute.
In contrast, Babelas is more modest, WhatPub promising a sophisticated continental ambience with cheese platters, antiques and academics. Which sounds like the Cambridge branch of Café Rouge with cask.
It’s fairly packed at 7pm, with a good cross-mix of civilised Leicester, about as far from the Ale Wagon as you could wish/dread.
Everyone needs a bar they can feel comfortable in, of course, even academics. This is a cheery place which at least avoids staff in uniforms who call you “Sir”.
If you’re expecting a slice of crafty craft, you may be disappointed;
As usual, I follow the herd and have the Citra, though Krombacher is the drink of choice for the trendies.
Excitingly, with no space downstairs, I brave the upstairs room with its inevitable group of Prosecco women and feuding couples.
No such luck. “Babelas” is latin for “incomprehensible East Midlands twaddle”, so I can only tell you that conversations concerned exclusively domestic issues (boilers and council tax). Actually, even Simon may struggle to catch the detail over the sound of indistinguishable ’90s trance, seemingly played through Johnnies onion skins.
There were only two small tables free, a single stool between both of them the evidence that folk had been moving furniture around. Still, I had that ringside seat, bizarrely roped off as if before a boxing contest. Perhaps that came later.
Apart from the boxing ring, the room resembled a small town café whose heating controls had broken down. After freezing at the Etihad in the afternoon, this felt like a sauna. The smart casual gents all had their shirts hanging out, which may have been related.
The overall effect of all this wasn’t unpleasant, I have to say. And the Citra, served in it’s own special Landlord glass, was possibly the best pint I’ve had in Leicester (NBSS 4). Another Leicester CAMRA winner.
Simon will love it when he gets there on his 48th birthday, after watching Leicester Tigers v Hull Tigers in League 2.