Take a break in Leicester!
City breaks are a great way to get-a-way from it all. Whether it’s a celebration, a chill-out opportunity for busy people or just an excuse to spend some time with a partner or close friend. They are also great way to indulge oneself with good food, a great hotel and plenty of me time.
The thing about a city or weekend break is you needn’t travel far and what’s more you really feel refreshed when you get back and ready to face the world.
Leicester is maybe not the place that springs to mind for a weekend break – but look closer. It’s a unique city with a superb range of visitor attractions and shopping that is second to none and its less than a 2 hour drive from Leeds down the motorway.
You can find out about King Richard III in Leicester, including information about him at the Visitor Centre and his reinternment in 2015. Like Sci-Fi then The National Space Centre, the UK’s largest attraction dedicated to space exploration and space science, is for you. It’s an amazing building filled with rockets, satellites, Martian surfaces and other mind-blowing artefacts.
The Great Central Railway is the UK’s only double track, mainline heritage railway. It’s the only place in the world where full size steam engines can be seen passing each other just as they did when steam ruled the world. Check out their special events ranging from war-time weekends, santa specials, beer festivals and steam galas.
If you like the arts then Leicester’s Curve Theatre is the place to go. Many of the theatre’s productions go out on tour – we have had several into Leeds – and this year you can see productions ranging from Sunset Blvd, The Railway Children to Hedda Gabler and Hairspray.
Leicester has a varied number of hotels but the independently owned, Belmont Hotel must certainly be the best boutique hotel in the city.
The exterior of the hotel has definite Georgian charm about it and part was once home to Ernest Grimston, described by historians as the greatest English artist-craftsman. The tranquillity of the hotel is something to savour standing by the side of St. Stephen’s Church and separated from the churchyard by a narrow-cobbled way gives this an added sense of being far away from the city centre, when in fact it’s only a short walk away.
First opening its doors in the 1930’s the hotel has, over the past few years, had a massive investment in its renovation to achieve its present modern elegance and amazing creature comforts.
As we drove passed an avenue of Georgian buildings we easily found The Belmont and were amazed at the residents parking area at the side of the hotel. The reception area was airy and had the bonus of lots of newspapers, comfy sofas and fresh flowers. Our check-in was easy and the reception staff couldn’t have been more helpful – not just to me but to others too. All had a great knowledge of the city which is always a boon.
Our suite had many things that are often forgotten in lots of hotel suites and rooms that I visit. The décor colour was cheery and up-to-the-minute in its colours of orange and grey. There was an abundance of comfy arm chairs, tables, a sinkable sofa and maps for the visitor to take away and use to enhance their visit to the town. I loved the thick curtains to keep it cosy in winter, cool in summer and most of all to keep out any noise.
I particularly liked the dressing room area as it had a large mirror with shelf for cosmetics and was well lit for making up in. A nice touch in the room was low level night lights which lit the way from the bedroom through the dressing room to the bathroom, which is great if you don’t want to turn the light on whilst your partner is still sleeping.
The Belmont has recently been awarded a two-star AA Rosette for its restaurant – and it’s easy to understand why. The Windows on the Walk, which overlooks the cobbled way and church, is rapidly becoming the place for discerning dinners in Leicester.
The dining room overlooks a glass terrace where one can enjoy a cocktail or aperitif or on a warm night sit outside at one of the many tables with their elegant garden furniture.
As we looked at the menu, we enjoyed a chef’s taster of shallots, lamb and sour-dough bread which really got the taste buds tingling.
For starters, I chose the poached salmon, which like every single dish of our meal, was beautifully presented. The salmon was not a tough sliver but a thick steak that melted in the mouth. The pea shoots, cucumber and horseradish added to the taste of the dish without enveloping it.
My partner chose the Goat’s Curt with heritage tomatoes, basil, olive, and goat’s whey, which was just one of the vegetarian and gluten free dishes on the menu. He remarked that it had been a long time since he had tasted such a soft blend of goat’s cheese that was strong, but like good champagne, had a real taste of decadence. The dressing was a pure delight and set off the flavour of the cheese.
To accompany our meal, we chose a Pinot Grigio Rose which came to our table well chilled and expertly poured by our two servers, who were attentive but discreet and couldn’t do enough to make our meal one to remember.
For main course, my partner chose the lamb which came with pickled apples, feta, broccoli, almond and mint and was again gluten free. The meat was succulent and tender and the unusual addition of pickled apples gave this an added dimension.
I chose the market fish of the day which was cod steak. It was thick and moist and came with lovage, and courgettes – I decided to forgo the mussels which were meant to accompany it. Cod is a difficult fish to cook but this came having been cooked just as it should be.
Having spent quite a time, as a travel writer, in the Caribbean I am just hooked on anything coconut so the coconut parfait with pineapple, lime and pineapple sorbet had to be my choice. I adored the blend and parfait although it was just that little bit too frozen to eat straight away.
My partner’s strawberries came on pistachio sponge and had the unusual touch of basil, such a contrast, which set off the flavour of the fruit and made it a totally delicious dessert.
Finishing our meal with a liquor coffee we sat out on the glass-windowed terrace and watched the world go by. We could have been a million miles away from the bustling city of Leicester.
The Belmont Hotel, 20 De Montfort Square, Leicester LE1 7GR. Tel: 0116 252 9603 or visit www.bemonthotel.co.uk.