Bar review: Rare, Lower Briggate, Leeds

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Uncommon excellence is apparently common place at this sparkling city centre bar.

Rare, in the newly-refurbished Lambert’s Yard development between Smokestack and Fibre, is certainly a self-assured recent addition to the drinking and dining scene in Leeds.

Already raising eyebrows with an enormous stuffed cow plonked as a centrepiece in the basement restaurant, this new venture surprisingly comes from the same minds as created the slightly sterile Roast Cafe, in Whitehall Road.

Admittedly the venue’s ground-floor bar is slightly less in-your-face than its cattle clad eatery, featuring an earthy mix of both parquet and concrete flooring forming at the base of what is a vintage-inspired cocktail bar.

Rare’s groundfloor presence is pretty low key – so much so that on Barfly’s Saturday evening visit it was difficult to tell whether it was actually open before we walked in.

Its darkly-painted fascade and dim-lit interior don’t exactly catch the eye but as soon as you enter you’re welcomed by well-presented, attentive staff.

Inside, the venue is clad with brown-painted wood-panelled walls behind the light patterned, dark wood topped bar to the left opposite simple dark wood tables, chairs and a lengthy brown leather banquette to the right.

Dim spotlights dangle from an angular chandelier above, while candles on the tables add to the warm glow inside.

In the main, it is refreshingly simple but thankfully there are some of those quirky touches that, aside from the food, make the restaurant so endearing.

The bathroom sinks are half beer barrels, while the taps are like ale pumps – both fun touches.

Rare’s drinks menu is also somewhat stylised and brave.

A small but well thought out selection of four bottled beers and five draught beers and cider awaits, along with a unique list of seven £7-8 cocktails themed by spirit.

Given the venue’s eatery, there is unsurprisingly a lengthy 40-strong wine list spanning everything from champagnes and sparkling to white, red and rose wines.

We chose a couple of the enticing cocktails, with a sharp, refreshing blended scotch, cider vinegar, apple juice and whiskey barrel bitters Scotch and a strong cocchi rosa wine, gin, lemongrass syrup and citrus Cocchi.

We followed those up with a bottle of Hiver Honey Beer and a glass of Thistly Cross elderflower cider, which were fantastic but on the pricey side at £5 and £4.20 respectively.

The bill came to an expensive £24 but in all honesty, given the unusual drinks we didn’t feel hugely hard done by but that does reinforce the fact that Rare may well be a place to visit for a rare treat rather than a regular tipple.

It’s a subtle but exciting inner city bar, which seemingly hasn’t yet hit mainstream attention among bar goers given that it was almost empty when we stopped by.

It seems Rare has many of the ingredients needed to attract the crowds however, and its 3am closing time from Thursday to Saturday shows its night-time ambitions.

Also located so close to the likes of Smokestack, Fibre and the bars of Call Lane and Hirst’s Yard, Rare is well placed to become a go-to bar for those after a quality, albeit expensive, evening drink in the city centre.