Restaurant review: Rare, Lower Briggate, Leeds

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Little did I know, I’d be staring at the back end of a cow for the entirety of my evening meal.

It was an unexpected yet welcome change to Oliver’s usual eating out routine.

The huge taxidermy cow standing proud inside an enormous glass case draws your eye immediately as you walk down the dark wooden staircase from the ground-floor bar area into the restaurant below.

Rare in Leeds city centre has only been open a month but its owners (who are apparently also behind Roast bar in the city centre and other popular venues) clearly know what they are doing.

Originally a vintage shop that’s nestled between Smokestack and Fibre on Lower Briggate, the decor has been updated significantly and is classy, modern and simple yet confident.

Let’s face it, you’ve got to be self-assured to plonk a cow in the middle of the dining area.

My companion and I are ushered to a table that’s quite close to a couple – and very close to the cow.

We sit in awe at the huge animal for a while before finally having a look at the menu.

Looking over the incredibly succinct list of dishes, it becomes clear that the aforementioned cow is a shrine dedicated to the feast you are about to embark on.

With the evening menu, there’s only a choice of three starters, a handful of mains and three desserts.

My dining partner says she believes a small menu is a good sign – and she’s right.

But before we’ve properly skimmed the menu, two tiny little dishes arrive with two chipolata sausages in, as a complimentary starter.

They get the tastebuds tingling and are a great way to kick-start the meal.

We give the potted smoked duck a miss and go for the Yorkshire pudding to start, which comes with either a Yorkshire blue cheese sauce or beef, onion and porter gravy.

I opt for the cheese sauce, which comes served in a separate white jug next to a side salad, which helps give the dish a bit of a lift.

The two huge Yorkshire puddings look too much to handle as the waiter brings them my way but they are light and not as stodgy as I’d originally feared.

For a reasonable £4, it’s a fairly satisfying starter but lacks some of the wow factor that I was hoping for.

My companion goes for the spicy Tamworth pork belly ribs, served with red cabbage and beetroot pickle, for £7.50.

They are tasty and have a kick but prove slightly too fatty for my liking.

However my companion seems to enjoy them though and seems pleased.

The main course was definitely the star of the show, though.

There’s a choice of a burger, corn-fed chicken, sausages, Yorkshire game pie and a warm butternut squash tart, which range from around £10 to £14.

But, looking at the cow for inspiration, we both knew that we were here for one thing, and one thing only – steak.

There was a smaller-sized steak on offer but we were both after something more substantial.

We chose the 1kg Longhorn Porterhouse steak, which is seasoned with oak smoked sea salt and costs £60.

It sounds like a lot of money but it’s for two people to share and includes two sides as well.

And surely it seems wise to put your faith in a restaurant that has a huge cow on display?

We choose triple-cooked chips and wholegrain mustard and celeriac coleslaw (which are both usually £3.50 each).

We are assured by the incredibly attentive and friendly waitress that we’ve made the right choice and that they’ve sourced the knives, which they’ve nicknamed machetes, from Brazil.

We can’t wait to see the huge steak but when it arrives it’s served on just a white plate.

The presentation was slightly disappointing but the size of it was overwhelming enough that it still built up a sense of excitement between us.

We both reach across the table to saw off some meat before silence falls.

My companion and I are now in some kind of steak-based heaven.

We ordered the steak medium and it was perfect.

It was juicy, full of flavour with a hint of salt and melted in the mouth.

The chips were the perfect accompaniment but despite the coleslaw being tasty, there was a lot of it left and we couldn’t bring ourselves to finish it.

We need about half an hour to get over the impressive amount of meat we’ve just devoured before we can bring ourselves to look at the dessert menu.

There’s only three options, and neither of us are fans of the bread and butter pudding dessert, so I choose sticky toffee pudding, served with apple ice cream and toffee sauce.

Priced at £6, you do get a lot for your money.

The pudding is sticky and sweet without being too heavy.

The apple ice cream was a bit of a let-down however and lacked flavour, with just the tiniest hint of apple battling against the toffee texture.

My companion decides to try the house ice cream, which the waitress tells us comes in either vanilla, salted caramel or horseradish flavour, and is all home-made.

Choosing to swerve the horseradish flavour, her few scoops of ice cream come served in a tall sundae glass.

Presentation again was a little lacking and the flavours were on the bland side again.

A shame, because of the impressive main course.

After dinner we try out the bar’s Prosecco #1 and Prosecco #2 cocktails at £8 each, which are so perfectly presented and tasty that Oliver feels a little let down that the same attention wasn’t paid to the ice cream.

Nonetheless, nothing can detract from the meaty feast we’ve just experienced.

Without the quite pricy cocktails, the bill comes to a very reasonable £85, and we both agree we’ll be back for more.

Factfile

Address: Lamberts Yard, 163, Lower Briggate, Leeds. LS1 6LY.

Opening times: Lunch from 12pm to 4pm on Sat and Sun. Dinner from 6pm to 10pm, Mon–Sun.

Tel: 0113 246 7013.

Web: eatdrinkrare.com.

Star Rating

Food ****

Value ****

Atmosphere ****

Service *****

Salmone Alla Griglia. PIC: Tony Johnson

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