The Story of Rob Singleton

Coventry student almost killed in car crash opens a new cafe, news article in CoventryLive Read the review article here!

A former Coventry University student is toasting another new chapter in a life that so nearly ended in a horror car crash. Rob Singleton suffered a severed spine in an accident when he was a student in the city 12 years ago.

Rob spent nine months in the hospital going through rehabilitation as he recovered from injuries that would ultimately leave him in a wheelchair. But by no means is Rob ‘confined’, because mobility issues have done nothing to stop the entrepreneur’s direction of travel towards commercial success.

Rob Singleton and his business partner Gavin Leach Outside 44 Cafe

(Former Coventry University students Rob Singleton and Gavin Leach outside 44 Café Bar and Bistro, their latest business ventureChalmers News PR)

Originally destined for a career as a physiotherapist, Rob was forced to turn to another passion in his life. “I didn’t know how limited the job market would prove to be with me being disabled,” Rob said.

“I can’t sit at a desk for eight hours because I have a lot of pain in my shoulders. So I decided to take my future into my own hands and asked Gavin if he wanted to start a business with me.”

It was six years ago that Rob approached his old university friend Gavin Leach about launching a micro-brewery business, owing to their shared love of craft ale. Gavin gave up pharmaceuticals and Windmill Hill Brewery was born.

“Gavin was a huge support,” Rob added. “He had a good job and took a big risk stepping away from that to set up with me.” It was a vocational gamble that continues to pay off for them both.

Close friends and business partners Rob and Gavin

(Former Coventry University students Rob Singleton and Gavin Leach inside 44 Café Bar and Bistro, their latest business ventureChalmers News PR)

The brewery has gone from strength to strength since launching in Gavin’s garage. And now the pair has a new revenue stream to support the business with the opening of 44 Café Bar and Bistro in Leamington. They hope the Clarendon Street venue, formerly Casa Valle will enable them to reach even more customers. The cafe will focus on tapas, which Rob and Gavin say complements the enjoyment of their beers perfectly. Rob said: “When we make beers we make them with food in mind. Beers taste different with different foods, just like wine, and we wanted a place where we could showcase that. Food and drink is a really interesting world to be in. “Our food is inspired by the way we like to eat and drink. Tapas – small plates of food simply done but done well, with big flavour that lend themselves to be enjoyed with certain drinks. Topped with spicy beef and jalapenos, the thin based pizza was a real treat, and complimented the ale really well.
Meet the team at 44 Cafe Bistro Bar Leamington

(From left: bar manager Luke Hampson, chef Craig Munro, front of house Niamh Kelly and Storm Kelsey, Rob Singleton, head chef Lee Mallen and Gavin Leach – Image byChalmers News PR)

“Tapas is mainly enjoyed with lager and wine so we wanted to introduce some English craft ale as well and show people that the complex profiles of ale also complement the profiles of the food we have.

“We want 44 to complement the wider Leamington food and drink offering as a vibrant café in the daytime, Tapas bistro into the early evening and high-quality drinks spot for the evening crowd.”

It’s just the latest venture for Rob and Gavin, whose brewery now operates out of Victoria Business Centre in Neilston Street. In 2021, they opened The Barge and Quarterdeck, a popular 60-foot floating bar and pizza kitchen in Stratford’s canal basin.

And all the while their award-winning craft ales continue to pick up recognition. Some of their seasonal and limited-edition beers can be found on sale in an increasing number of independent shops and bars across South Warwickshire.

44 Café Bar and Bistro offer a set-price Sunday lunch, breakfast, and a daily Specials board, overseen by Head Chef Lee Mallen, from Birmingham, and formerly front-of-house manager at Revive in Warwick.

And with its welcoming and comfortable bar area, it is definitely worth stopping for a drink later in the night.

Inside 44 Cafe Bar Bistro Leamington

(Inside 44 Cafe Bar Bistro Leamington – Image byChalmers News PR)

While the bar, which serves all of Windmill Hill’s beers, continues to be under the expert care of Luke Hampson, who stayed on as front-of-house manager and mixologist after several years in the role. Gavin, from Leamington, juggles his businesses around being a dad of three. He said: “We take every aspect of this business seriously. We’re a big cocktail place, we’re a big craft beer place, and we take our wines very seriously too, so it’s the whole package. “Rob says I made a sacrifice for him, but the way I see it, he had the confidence in us and the belief we could achieve what we set out to. I gave up a role that would have seen me sit behind a desk all day generating paperwork, whereas now I get the chance to work with my passion and follow something from grain to glass. “To produce something from start to finish and see it enjoyed within a mile of where it was produced is amazing. It’s a great feeling when you see someone drink a pint of one of your beers and you think to yourself, I made that!”