It’s always nice to return to your old stomping ground to enjoy new surprises. The Castle Leicester has re-opened under new management recently, so I was honour bound to check it out. I think that the Castle area of Leicester is unknown and overlooked by those living outside of the city. A veritable treasure trove of historic architectural gems, Castle View was a constant thoroughfare for me as I traipsed between Jewry Wall and Newarke Houses Museum as part of my old life.
The listed mid 18th century red brick cottages on Castle View have never been in use to my knowledge until right at the end of my time in Leicester. De Montfort University converted them into a pub, but couldn’t make the business work. It was only open for a short spell before the dustcovers were thrown back on once again. But now, under the care of the same owner as the White Hart in Loughborough, the shutters have been thrown back on these delightful chocolate box buildings once again.
Steps in the past
Memories weave like ghosts as I enter the dimly lit, but homely building. Stood behind the bar is none other than Russ. A staple of the Leicester pub scene for a couple of decades, his welcome will make anyone feel instantly at home whether you have known him for years or are a perfect stranger. For some reason he always seems to gravitate to the western side of the city. I first met him over endless pints of Oakham’s Bishop’s Farewell at the much-mourned Criterion. He went on to a stellar performance as a key part of the West End Brewery. It was good to see him back and I’m sure he will draw a solid crowd of locals to the Castle.
The refurbishment is lovely. Just lovely. Deep, warm colours make the low ceilinged rooms feel even closer and more intimate than they already are. It could well be that they are derived from a heritage palette. Vintage posters and a banner of the Royal Leicestershire Regiment adorn the walls. Dark wood and flickering candlelight are the flavour of the month throughout. It has that wonderful balance of home-from-home and traditional pub vibe that you might associate with a hostelry deep in the lonely countryside. Through the windows, I spot glimpses of the battle-scarred Newarke walls and St Mary de Castro, a reminder of the ancient heritage of the area.
You are now entering the Tardis
Yet despite these snug feels, the pub, overall, is surprisingly spacious. The upstairs has been refitted, giving double capacity. There is also a bijoux beer garden which may well exhibit moments of quiet sun-trappery in the summer months.
On the bar there is a small but perfectly formed selection of craft beers and cask ales. I got the impression that the choices are not particularly fast-moving at the moment. It seems that Timmy Taylor’s Landlord is currently on a permanent line at least, so that is what I took a half of. It was, as I would expect, perfectly conditioned. As anyone who drinks cask regularly will know this beer requires particular care to show at its best. And it is one of the most oft-awarded beers in the land over the past 50 years. Find it at its best and you have an excellent beer. I will be back for another the next time I find myself in Leicester, and want a break from the present to dwell just a little while in the cosy embrace of the past.