Leicester’s handsome new Knight cuts a dash

The idea for Leicester’s newest and most impressive restaurant/bar was born three years ago over a pub lunch. Sam Hagger, director of The Beautiful Pubs Collective and the man behind The Forge in Glenfield and The Rutland & Derby in Leicester, was chatting to members of the Everards Brewery team. The conversation moved on to Leicester and how the city was rapidly changing for the better. The subject turned to Molly O’Grady’s, a large but tired old boozer on Hotel Street near Leicester Market. Sam pointed out that it was in a brilliant location but needed a new lease of life. Three years after that conversation, Sam and Everards have spent six months and £1.4 million rejuvenating the old pub. And how.

The Knight & Garter is a sumptuous bar and restaurant. If you ever visited Molly O’Grady’s you will hardly believe your eyes. The Knight & Garter fits perfectly into one of London’s prime redevelopment spots such as King’s Cross.

Much of this is down to Sam Hagger, whose passion for hospitality is surpassed only by his perfectionism. To give you an inkling, he even held a four-hour consultation with loo specialists Tork so as to get the best possible toilet paper and dispense system for his new place. Sam – with Everards’ support – has driven this project, and it shows. He’s used knowledge gained from two decades of hands-on work in pubs and bars to create his dream venue. The result is outstanding, from the gleaming copper-topped bar edged with cushioned leather (“we want to encourage people to chill out at the bar,” says Sam) to the LED lighting in the spacious restaurant to the parquet wood wall panels. The open kitchen adds energy, the bar with its copper accoutrements catches the eye, and the gleaming rectangular wall tiles supply sophistication. There’s even a cellar bar that will soon double as an art gallery (to feature work by local artist Kirsteen Thomson). No expense has been spared and Sam has pursued his dream relentlessly.

When we visited the Knight & Garter on opening day, Sam – who loves to travel – told us that inspiration comes from all over Europe, from the bars of Munich and hotels of London to the tapas restaurants of Barcelona. The menu reflects these influences, offering a fine range of bar snacks and small plates alongside a honed list of mains. Sit at the bar, sip a Vermouth (you can choose from four beautiful vermouths by Regal Rogue, each containing a range of native Australian aromatics) and order a roast porchetta sandwich or croque monsieur. Alternatively quaff some unfiltered, unpasteurised Budvar Kräusened – the only place you can get this smooth, naturally hazy lager on draught in Leicester – and enjoy a few small plates: the wild mushroom & mozzarella arancini maybe, or the Cape Malay chicken skewers or the Cromer crab (supplied by Nottingham Seafood) with avocado and toasts. There’s a fine array of cocktails, too, made with carefully selected spirits. “We spent a long time choosing the spirits,” says Sam. “We want every product we sell to have a story behind it, like the Konik’s Tale Vodka, which is made by a chap called Pleurat Shabani who literally handles the entire production process himself, from growing and harvesting the grains to distilling the final spirit.

Much thought has also gone into the main courses, especially the steaks, which are sourced from Owen Taylor in Derbyshire in the bespoke form of Picanha steaks and on-the-bone sirloins.

Visiting The Knight & Gartner is a lovely experience. But so, too, is working there, because the team areas have also been thoughtfully created. “We didn’t want a building that was wonderful for customers but terrible for the people who worked here,” says Sam. “In so many bars you see team members hiding away in the corners trying to grab five minutes to eat a meal. They don’t get a proper break.” To avoid such scenarios, Sam has created a team room so people can fully relax during their breaks. The same care that’s gone into the menus, interior design and drinks list has gone into the Knight & Garter’s working systems.

That pub chat between Everards and Beautiful Pubs’ Sam Hagger back in 2014 has certainly born fruit. And thanks to Sam’s perfectionism and passion, combined with Everards’ trust and confidence in their partner, the result is stunning.

Matt Wright
The author:

Matt lives in Leicestershire with his wife, two kids and dog. He is passionate about British pubs, slow food and home brewing. He founded Great Food Club (originally as Great Food Magazine) in 2010 after being inspired by local producers near his home town of Melton Mowbray - Britain's 'Rural Capital of Food'.