It’s a rare night at the opera for the Jenkins family and we’re not alone in choosing the Reliance for a pre-aria dinner.
Like at the Wrens and one or two of the newer bars which have opened up around here in the past decade or so, this splendid alehouse and restaurant does a decent trade with operagoers before and after the performance.
The Reliance fare is neatly tailored for its slightly more discerning market.
Judging from the number of our well-dressed fellow diners who head out into the street in the half hour before curtain-up, it’s a lucrative market.
This corner of Leeds has really opened up for beer-lovers in recent years.
Though bars like Mojo, North and Sandinista have been here a while, new places like Social, Belgrave, Manahatta have given an extra interest to the city’s Northern Quarter.
The news that Brewdog is now moving into the beautiful, curve-fronted Crispin Lofts on the corner of North Street and New York Road will really cement this as a serious circuit.
It’s a far cry from when North Street was dominated by two great old pubs.
But the real ale haven of The Eagle is not the shining star it once was; the old Irish pub the White Stag was pulled down some years ago.
Both were a little too far out of the city to be part of the main circuit.
By contrast, the Reli’s attractive frontage of tall windows, sits just beyond the inner ring road.
Its location serves a second handy purpose. Being slightly detached, it doesn’t generally attract those intent on a wild pub crawl around these great bars.
Instead the Reli attracts a slightly older crowd, often those who will spend the whole evening there, well, unless they’re nipping off for some high culture at The Grand Theatre.
It has a cool feel of faded elegance to it, with its high ceilings, gnarled floorboards and simple colour scheme of creams, deep reds and greens. Flickering tea lights add to the intimacy.
Drinkers and diners share big, solid oak tables and chairs, while a room to the right of the main entrance has some comfy leather sofas.
A short flight of stairs beside the bar leads up to a dining room at the back, where you can watch your meals being prepared in the open-plan kitchen.
The Reliance’s newly-opened cinema shows interesting arty movies and is available for private hire.
The Reliance fare is neatly tailored for its slightly more discerning market, and that starts from the moment you pitch up at a bar bristling with great beers – an eclectic choice of keg and bottled ales augments an ever-changing selection of hand-pulled real ales.
I go for a pint of Knaresborough’s own sessionable and refreshing Rooster’s Yankee, which turns out to be an appropriate choice, and not just because it proves the perfect accompaniment to my hearty portion of sausage and mash (£10.25).
Standing next to me at the bar is brewery owner Ian Fozard, disguised by a rather natty new goatee. He’s heading for the opera too.
My wife teams her fish and chips (£10.75) with the excellent Freedom Four lager from Shropshire.
Beyond our comfort food favourites, the supper menu visits some more imaginative destinations such as Jerusalem artichoke and wild mushroom gnocchi (£10.95) or Skrei cod with saffron mash (£13.95).
Different menus operate at lunchtimes and on Sundays, while a pre-theatre menu offers two courses for £14.45. You can have three for £18.90, if you don’t mind snoring your way through Rigoletto.
Address: North lane, Leeds
Type: Quality restaurant and alehouse
Opening Hours: Noon-11pm Mon-Thurs; noon-midnight Fri-Sat; 11am-10.30pm Sun
Beers: Acorn’s Reliance Best (£2.90), plus changing selection of real ales from £3.10-pint including one from the Rooster’s range, also Freedom Four lager (£3.80), Ilkley Fortis (£3.80), Erdinger (£4.80), Anchor (£4.95), Bacchus Framboise (£3.20-half), and a changing choice of craft ciders. Great selection of bottled beers.
Wine: Good choice of quality wines from £2.45-glass and £14.25-bottle
Food: Changing menus, with food served until 10pm Mon-Wed, 10.30pm Thurs-Sat and 8.30pm Sun
Children: Welcomed but no special facilities
Disabled: Straightforward access but some split-level areas inside
Entertainment: Interesting background music plus occasional special events, including cinema nights plus a popular Sunday night quiz from 8pm
Functions: Areas available for private hire
Beer Garden: Some outdoor tables alongside North Street in summer
Parking: On-street and pay-and-display areas to rear of pub
Telephone: 0113 295 6060