Service with a smile. That little added ingredient that can turn an ordinary dining experience into a pleasantly memorable one.
It was certainly the thing that struck us immediately when we popped into The Reliance in North Street for a spot of weekday lunch.
Within seconds of our arrival, a beaming waitress had popped over to give us the kind of warm, genuine welcome that made us immediately feel at home.
In fact homeliness is a key factor in what makes this bar and dining room a real winner.
The wooden interiors and furniture have a feel of the old school, but the group of laptop-wielding friends inhabiting a corner of the room - chatting and browsing the web as they ate and drank - showed this is a place with a very modern, ueber-cool, hipster appeal.
The bar area is fairly spacious, and leads into a dining room which has half a dozen tables and one extremely comfortable looking leather sofa which I was tempted to park myself on for the afternoon.
Even on a Wednesday lunchtime, the place was buzzing and almost full.
The Reliance prides itself on serving quality, seasonal food, and the menu includes a home-cured charcuterie meat range as well as a daily specials board.
On first sight, the menu might seem to have an air of the pretentious, but take a few moments to mull it over, and it’s clear that it is designed by people who love strong flavours and quality ingredients.
The toasted brioche with wild mushrooms and roast garlic butter looked tempting, as did the black pudding, bacon, potato and spinach with poached egg.
However I opted for the smoked salmon, watercress, creme fraiche and vollkornbrot (£6.50), an open sandwich served on a hearty piece of German rye bread. It was elegantly presented and the creme fraiche cut through the saltiness of the salmon beautifully. The bread, as German breads tend to be, was quite dense and therefore might not be to everyone’s taste, but I loved it.
My dining partner opted for the Erdinger beer battered haddock and twice cooked chips (£9.75) which came with tartare sauce and mushy peas in small side pots. She said the chips were tasty and filling, while the fish was light and succulent in the nicely crispy batter. The meal was a sizeable portion, which left no room for dessert.
We rounded off lunch with a coffee each, the rich smooth blend obviously coming from a quality bean. The total bill was a very reasonable £20.
It’s obvious that everyone involved with the The Reliance loves what they do, and that passion shines through.
Address: 76-78 North Street, Leeds