Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Hotspots in the Spa

The thing about travel writing is that when you're back at home, saving the pennies to go off again, material can run a bit thin. So, I've decided to post an insight into what exactly home is to me, as for my international readers, it is considered travelling. It also coincides with a special visit we had last weekend from Her Majesty the Queen, who popped over to open up our Justice Centre (not quite as awesome as it sounds - another phrase for new posh police station).

I live in Leamington Spa, a town where the residents are experts at practising the art of leisure. There are so many bars, restaurants, pubs and cafes that we find ourselves endlessly torn as to our location of choice. If there's one thing to be said about Leamingtonians, it's that we know how to relax.

If eating's your game and you need a break from shopping on a busy Saturday, head down Regent to find Corleone's. This tiny, and therfore perpetually busy, French cafe serves some incredibly well priced lunch grub, from paninis to crepes, victorian lemonade and coffee from their huge roaster. If they're full (quite likely at the weekends) stroll round the corner down Regent's Court and find Bar Angeli to find an almost identical menu.

If you're a local and haven't discovered it yet (it took me a good ten years to do so), make sure you divulge in Country Bumpkins, a delicatessen on Warwick Street. From the outside, it's easy to miss the fact that they have a sandwich bar at the back of the store, and yes I also missed all the signage displaying this for a long time. Create your own bread rolls or baguettes from en endless list, with some killer specials regularly changed. My favourite is a roasted red pepper houmous baguette will all the trimmings and a sticky toffee slice for pud.

If you're more of a night owl and looking to shake things up on a Saturday night, you have a few options. Designed by Lawrence Llwellyn-Bowen (clearly a reason to go...) the multi-million pound refurb of a bingo hall on Spencer Street has become what we know and love as The Assembly. Hosting acts such as BRMC, KT Tunstall, Newton Faulkner and dozens more, it has become an indie venue in a town no one's heard of that seems to attract some pretty glam characters. They put on Cortina Nights on weekends when no acts are playing; a delightful mix of music from all eras to boogie on down to, attended by people of all ages. You'll also find Dolly Parton's charming caravan in the backstage area, surrounded by a picket fence. If you've had a few too many, avoid it. It can make you lose your grip on reality.

If you're in a more uptown crowd, MooBar is always good for Saturday night swingers looking to get their groove on with some funk and soul. With a late license until 2am and no entry fee, it's where all the cheap non-clubbers go to keep their party flowing. (Yes, I am one of them.) Drinks can be expensive; don't ask for a double anything as you'll seriously be out of pocket. I always used to say that Moo seems to be where all the beautiful people go; so if you're looking for a date, try your luck there.

Leamington Spa's well-known resident...

I'm torn between two top quality places to eat in the evenings, both of which I can't afford at the best of times. But if you feel like loosening those purse strings, find Wilde's Wine Bar on the Parade, located at the top of town below street level, and Rhubarb on Warwick Street. Both are, once again, small and always crammed. But, I think that only bodes well as to their quality. They provide intimate and romantic settings for consuming delicious food. Rhubarb is also a quaint spot in the day to sit with a glass of wine and the paper.

Leamington Spa has also been, for the past few years, the home of comedian Russell Howard. A good night out with a Russell sighting included always provides good bant. I myself haven't had too much contact with him, other than storming round a corner in Tesco and nearly knocking him out. Several friends have had more interesting experiences, including watching him shamelessly steal a joke on Mock the Week without citation, and allegedly pushing my friend Ali down the stairs in The Assembly. Russell, she's still waiting for your apology.


  1. That Justice centre is a bit more than a police station! Its a full set of courts from Crown down to civil, probation... in fact its the entire justice system in one building.

    As for eating I'll vouch for Corleone too, but French? Its surely Italian/Sicilian, where do you think the name comes from? Fat Birds (over the road) is another fantastic cafe and is about to get a refit and an upstairs so you might actually be able to get a seat in there soon. While we were on Italy there's an amazing little Italian you should try just south of the river called Momenti. Possibly my favourite restaurant in town. Don't tell everyone though as I'll never be able to get a table.

    The place is swimming with brilliant cafes and restaurants, but I'm getting on a bit now so I can't comment on what makes a good night spot :)

  2. I have sadly not been in Leamington for too long since Canada to know that much about the Justice centre, but that's interesting to know Gary, thanks!

    I also did hesitate when calling Corleone's French or Italian, they should probably adjust all the references to France everywhere if they want to stick to the Italian/Sicilian theme. Whatever it is, I'm glad you enjoy it too, fab food.

    Not heard of Momenti which is exciting, thanks for the tip. I'll keep it as hush hush as possible, but it is on the internet now...

    Mant thanks for the comment too Gary, much appreciated.