Any serious foodie will already know about Rare in Leeds, having sampled their fantastic array of mouth-watering meat based delights, including their bespoke steak boards which allow the diner to not only choose the cut of meat but also the breed. My first foray into the ‘uncommon excellence’ of Rare was on a ‘beef and bourbon’ night which shone the spotlight on my favourite meat coupled with my favourite tipple (in fact, look back far enough on this blog and you’ll find it, reviewed by Diane). A roaring success, apart from my misgivings about a piece of sweetened beef on top of a cake, I was excited about going back to sample the new Rareties menu.
An evening meal in Rare usually takes one on a tour into the subterranean dining room which, while beautiful and tastefully furnished, focuses around a large stuffed cow in the middle of the room – nothing like eating a steak, being guilt tripped by the shiny eyes of a stuffed bovine (I do love dark humour and this addition is an amusing reminder of where your delicious mouthful is coming from). The Rareties menu, however, is offering the customer a less formal affair, available to be enjoyed in the bar area with a small plate ethos which allows more choice along with a value for money price tag. But don’t be fooled – this bar menu does not mean anaemic potato wedges and deep fried nonsense – the Rare M.O of bringing the customer something unique and top quality is at the heart of this new venture and it really is something spectacular.
Using local rare breed producers, the Rareties menu is offering an experience that is unparalleled in Leeds at the moment. Our first plate was Longhorn beef on toast, which is priced at £4.50. The portion was big enough for my friend and I to both have two slices and every mouthful was better than the last. Not only was the beef succulently tender, but the accompaniments to the beef worked perfectly. The sourdough bread was a wonderful base for the rare cooked meat, which was topped with piquant capers, girolles and pickled shallots. Topped with a crispy, salty sliver of guinea fowl skin, this plate was a showstopper on its own, offering an insight in to what was to come on the Rareties menu (so much so that I’ll definitely be back in for this dish, on my own – forget sharing!).
Our next plates were the Mangalitza Hotdog on homemade brioche bun (£6) and the Hambleton Ale fed Dexter slider (£4.50). Both of these dishes showcase Rare’s dedication to using unique producers for the best flavour, and you are excused if you just read Mangalitza and thought ‘What the hell is that?’ because I was exactly the same. Luckily, the friendly owner of Rare told us all about the fall and rise of the plucky Mangalitza pig so get ready for this tasty history lesson people!
In the 1830’s, Arch Duke Joseph Anton Johann of the Austro-Hungarian Empire created the breed of the Mangalitza pig for the Habsberg Royal Family, resulting in its delicious meat and fat being highly prized all over Europe by the end of the century. This curly-haired pig takes a long time to mature and is smaller than other breeds, meaning that after World War Two and the change in consumerism and animal husbandry, the majestic Mangalitza pig became too expensive to rear and by the 1980’s, this curly-coated porker was nearly extinct. But don’t fear farmyard fans – you don’t get rid of the Mangalitza that easily! With the efforts of a geneticist called Peter Roth, this succulent squealer has now been saved, and Rare get their meat from Otterburn-Mangalitza, a specialist breeding programme in Helmsley, North Yorkshire. Anyway, enough of the history lesson – let’s get to the taste! Oh my…the taste! It is a mix between beef and pork – rich, incredibly tasty and so moreish. The hot dog bun was slightly crumbly and didn’t hold together very well but the quality of the meat counteracted any failings of the bread and was probably one of the best sausages I’ve ever eaten ( and I come from Lincolnshire, so that’s quite an achievement!).
The slider was also a wonderful little burger, piled high with a medium rare Dexter beef patty which is fed with Hambleton Ale, resulting in a wonderfully rich flavour which is complemented well with a soft brioche bun and a spiky Dijon mayonnaise. It was a great little snack which would be perfectly complemented by a bottle of Hambleton Ale, also stocked by Rare.
We were also presented with a side plate of ‘Carol’s Pink Fir potatoes with a smoked roe dip’. I don’t know who Carole is but she can cook some damn fine potatoes. Perfectly boiled and seasoned, their waxy texture made them a perfect snack, and whilst I’m never a fan of fish based dips, my friend loved the smoked roe mayonnaise so we’ll call that a success.
Not only does Rare excel in the fine food department, but they sure know how to mix a damn fine cocktail. I asked the friendly waiter for a suggestion of a drink to enjoy, as the choice was just too much for me. He suggested a Portfolio, which consisted of Colonel Fox gin, Fonsecca crusted port, thyme liqueur, tonic and a sprig of thyme for good measure. Its herbal tones worked perfectly with the gin and really worked well with everything I ate. My friend went for a Hedgerow, a gorgeous concoction of Aylesbury Duck vodka, elderflower liqueur, greengage liqueur and topped with fresh raspberries and blackberries. My friend was very happy with this choice and I have to admit, I got cocktail envy. It looked beautiful and tasted even better – a wonderful mixture which I would happily suffer a hangover from.
We were also given a taste of some of the desserts on offer, with a lemon meringue tart presented to us with three types of meringue. After quizzing the waiter, we found out that the soft, flame charred meringues on top of the tart were Swiss-style, whereas the long cylinder was a French style lemon meringue, along with a crisp sliver of the same meringue, studded with lemon and thyme. We both loved the meringue which had a zesty zing to it but were a little disappointed by the actual tart which lacked any real lemon taste. The pastry was perfect but without a strong citrus filling, it lacked the impact that its presentation gave.
With our coffees, we were also given a toasty paper bag which was opened to a plume of spicy steam, revealing two freshly made donuts. They were soft and crisp on the outside and were liberally covered in star anise flavoured sugar – a perfect side to dip in our coffee.
I can see exactly why Rare have launched their Rareties menu, especially due to the amount of eateries that have opened in Leeds. The small plate culture has blossomed in Leeds and Rare really has got something unique to offer. With relaxed surroundings, friendly staff and some of the best produce you will ever eat, the Rareties menu is well worth a try.
All photos by Lucy Reynolds
163 Lower Briggate
0113 246 7013