There have been some fantastic January restaurant offers across Leeds this new year. This has been a great way of tempting people out after a decadent Christmas and a good way to get to know the city’s newest arrivals to sample their wares and see if paying full price is worth doing!
One such place I found myself at last week was Rare – a meaty British bistro on Lower Briggate. Rare is situated in the gay quarter, right next door to Queen’s Court. If I recall rightly then this was once a vintage clothes shop. It’s barely recognisable now with a very modern and cosy make over – think lots of wood and candlelight. Upstairs is a welcoming bar and downstairs the main restaurant complete with life-size stuffed cow in a glass cabinet!
I’d had a quick gander at the menu earlier in the week. Mainly meat, it’s split into animal themes – beef, pork, game, chicken etc. It’s not the most extensive of menus but there was enough to tempt me. The starters were a mix of wings, ribs etc. It felt like an English version of the popular American BBQ restaurants. I went for the pork ribs whilst my dining partner went for the salt and vinegar wings. My ribs were ok. The pork ribs were really just slices of belly pork, which were a bit too fatty and chewy for my liking. The salad and beetroot chutney accompaniments were a nice relief from the slightly tough meat. The wings seemed to be enjoyed by my fellow diner but when I tried one I found the vinegar marinade overpowering, so much so that it made my eyes water!
For mains we went for the OTT 1kg porterhouse steak to share – it was 50% off after all. I expected a vulgar and humongous piece of meat to arrive but was slightly disappointed about what did arrive. A porterhouse is an oversized T-bone complete with tenderloin and top loin. The meat was quite juicy and full of flavour, but not the best steak I have ever had. We had sides of triple cooked chips and celeriac mustard slaw. The chips were good, probably my favourite part of the meal. The slaw was very mayonaissy and lacking in the flavour of celeriac or mustard.
I’d expected to be stuffed after my promised massive steak. As I wasn’t we both opted for dessert. The cinder toffee sticky toffee pudding sounded too good to be true and was a must. The cinder toffee was beautiful, full of honey flavour. The pudding didn’t quite hit the mark. A very moist sponge was coated in a bland sweet sauce that didn’t quite have the depth or richness required. Similarly the cox apple ice cream it came with was also a little bland.
So what did I like? Well the service was spot on. Everyone made us feel very welcome and looked after. We were regularly asked for feedback and were listened to. I wasn’t drinking but had no idea what uninspiring soft drink to go for. As a result the waitress offered to make me a mocktail off piste which was a lovely and thoughtful touch. What I also liked was the honesty that staff had about the menu. For example the game section was missing. When probed, staff revealed that this was because the chef had been experimenting with recipes but wasn’t happy enough to send the dishes out. I liked the fact that the kitchen was being experimental and critical – it’s a sign of a healthy and productive kitchen.
Would I go back? If the offer was on again then yes I would, to give the food a second chance. Had we been paying full price then our meal would have been over £100 and given that I wasn’t drinking that seemed very steep to me. As we were leaving I glanced at the bar menu which looked far more exciting – homemade pork scratchings, burgers etc. I also noted that they do meat and spirit pairing evenings on a Wednesday. The pork and tequila night caught my eye and so I shall try and return for that! I shall look forward to a drink or two and a nibble in the bar but I won’t be rushing back for a full sit down meal at this stage.