A couple of weeks ago I posted about our annual tradition amongst our Leeds friends, to celebrate the festive period with a Christmas meal somewhere in the city. The Reliance was our venue of choice, coming out top in a great list of independents.
With a reputation of producing well-cooked food, served in simple and unfussy surroundings, it’s all about the quality of the food and also the service here! It’s no secret that I love the place, it’s been a venue we’ve frequented on and off for over a decade, so I couldn’t think of a better place to enjoy this annual event with our friends!
With a 1pm table booked and three courses coming our way, the other half and I arrived a little early to see a few of our old friends already there. The staff had reserved the private dining room for us, which I was so happy about! It looked lovely with sprigs of holly decorating the table, and customary Christmas crackers just waiting to be pulled. It was probably a stroke of genius unbeknownst to them that we ate in a separate room, as being a decent sized group with lots of boisterous individuals, there tends to be lots of loud laughter, chatter, stories and merriment during these get-togethers.
Being the organiser of our annual gathering, I’ve always found it a tad stressful as the big things usually come down to me, even down to remembering what people have ordered! Our Christmas lunch started off with one of us being mightily late, still at the bus stop when I spoke to them, with my stress levels increasing thankfully the staff were lovely and accommodating as ever. The rest of us sat down to start eating as the last member of our group hadn’t ordered a starter, and the kitchen could hold back the main courses until they arrived.
I was brought beetroot & gin cured salmon with horseradish cream, others the sweet potato and parmesan soup or a ham hock terrine. I can only speak for my salmon and it looked pretty as a picture on the plate. Perfectly cured, silky and delicious, with a horseradish cream being the ideal companion for the fish. Extra bread was brought out, the wine flowed and positive comments flew around the room, which I can only take as an indication of the success of the meal so far.
The staff were completely wonderful again, this time letting us have a little breather before the second course, allowing our friend to arrive in time for the mains. Of the five choices from the menu; confit duck and beef featherblade bourguignon were the most popular, whereas I loved the sound of the wellington. It’s not something you really see that often, I haven’t eaten one since our wedding six years ago, a beef wellington that day; this time it was filled with wild mushrooms and spinach.
When brought to the table it looked like a pasty, no problem as I love them! Being a massive savoury fan pastry is something I have a huge affinity for, this was golden, crisp and buttery – right up my street. Generously filled and deliciously satisfying with woody mushrooms and spinach. For me the sign of a great vegetarian dish is when I don’t miss the meat, here I didn’t miss it at all!! Plenty of potatoes and kale were available for sharing and they brought extra chips, which we hadn’t even ordered. All plates were thoroughly polished off and there were no complaints from anyone!
So with the meal in full swing – cards opened, crackers had been pulled, hats were worn and bad jokes were told, our final course came soon after. All four dessert choices had been picked, I’d gone for poached pears wanting something light. Poached till soft, they needed just the smallest amount of effort to cut through them, and had taken on the flavour from the mulling spices. A light cream cheese, crunch from an oaty crumble base, and some of the poaching liquor adding extra moisture completed the dish.
Not only was the food highly enjoyable, the service was impeccable and I was so grateful for the staff’s helpfulness and flexibility!! The Reliance was definitely the best choice for our Christmas lunch this year, it was so good I wouldn’t be surprised if we’ll be doing the same again in twelve months time! My best mate and I even agreed, saying ‘this was THE best Christmas meal the Leeds lot have ever had together!!’
Are you visiting one of the city’s fantastic restaurants for a Christmas meal this year, which one?