'Comfortable and reliable' - bar review of The Reliance, North Street, Leeds

The Reliance, North Street, Leeds.The Reliance, North Street, Leeds.
The Reliance, North Street, Leeds.
Comfortable and reliable, the Reliance is one of the great survivors of the ever-changing city bar scene; it continues to combine quality beers with culinary magic in its interesting airy space a little offset from the city centre.

To survive here, it has to be doing something right. Well outside the Leeds’s pub heartland, even a little detached from the well-worn circuit of North Bar, Mojo and the Belgrave, the Reliance stands or falls by its own efforts, not because it’s simply a handy staging post on some popular pub crawl.

Its attractive frontage of tall windows curving around a street corner, sits 50 yards outside the inner ring road, not obviously passed by shoppers or pedestrians, not easily driven to unless you know precisely where you’re going.

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Perhaps because of its location, it caters to a slightly older, more discerning crowd: those who are seeking an alternative to the noise and clamour of the crowded bars, who have come for an evening’s simple pleasures of good beer and conversation. It has a cool feel of faded elegance to it, with its high ceilings, gnarled bare floorboards and simple colour scheme of creams, deep reds and greens.

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 too.

We have booked for a family gathering of seven, but by the time the date comes round, three have been laid low by a combination of bugs, hangovers and sympathy for the sufferers. No matter, the remaining four are rewarded for sticking with the plan, by some attentive service and quality fare.

We are shown through to a table in the rear, where huge industrial lights hang over a broad and echoing space. In front of the giant arched windows, a line of tables have been pushed together for a big family party; our arrival co-incides with the arrival of cake and candles and the singing of ‘happy birthday’.

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Once the celebrations have died down we are presented with a menu where niche ingredients such as baharat, dukkah and za’atar all feature. Blackboards list the changing specials and desserts.

But we each take a more prosaic route, with the Sunday roasts (£13.95) being the popular choice. Generous slices of lamb and beef are each served with crunchy carrots and parsnips, cabbage, potatoes, gravy – and an outsized Yorkshire pudding.

I have opted instead for something Lancastrian, semi-circular chunks of black pudding, tossed among a green salad with saute potatoes, slivers of bacon, and all splendidly topped by a runny poached egg (£7.95).

Though two of the party share a bottle of wine, the Reliance offers so fine a choice of beers that it would be a shame to let the opportunity pass. The five handpumps are given over to a changing list of guest ales, while the keg lines dispense a permanent range which includes Dutch pilsner Lindeboom, German lager Flensburger and Belgian framboise Bacchus. The

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Reliance was an early adopter of Rooster’s American-influenced ales, and they remain a staple here too, while a selection of Belgian-dominated bottled beers fleshes out the choice.

But I opt for something from closer to home.

Crisp and golden Virtuous is one of Kirkstall Brewery’s biggest sellers, and here this sessionable India Pale Ale acts as a refreshing foil to my black pudding. Mind you, at a daunting £5.25-a-pint, it ought to be delivering something special.