Review

Hendricks Gin and Tonic Afternoon Tea

The Grand Hotel York Hendricks Gin and Tonic Afternoon Tea

In general I’m not much of a Traditional Afternoon Tea person. I know it must seem blasphemous, and don’t get me wrong, I think they’re fun and all, it’s just always been more about the occasion and the company for me rather than the food. If, like me, you don’t have much of a sweet tooth, things can get a bit samey. Once the sandwiches are done with, game over. An afternoon tea done a little differently though… that’s something to get excited about.

On Sunday, nine of us met in the bar at the Cedar Court Grand in York to celebrate Jen’s birthday. Poised and ready for a last, festive blow-out before real life set back in, we were all on our best behaviour as the tinkly piano music played and the front of house staff took our coats. Indoor voices at the ready, we were lead into the dining room.

The Grand Hotel York Hendricks Gin and Tonic Afternoon Tea

From the off, the service was good. Attentive and very thoughtful, but relaxed enough to give you breathing room. Our dietary requirements had been requested when we booked, and in hushed tones they were confirmed and our preferences noted. We had one nut allergy within the group and one pregnancy, both were accommodated for without a second thought. Chairs were pulled, napkins draped across laps and we were left to peruse the menu at our leisure. 

Hendricks Gin & Tonic Afternoon Tea

Finger Sandwiches
Cucumber & dill on white bread
Egg mayonnaise & watercress on malted bread
Roasted turkey & apricot chutney on white bread
Smoked salmon with soft cheese & chive on malted bread
Ham and English Mustard on white bread

Christmas pudding Cheesecake, Mulled Syrup

Chestnut Cupcake, Pine Frosting

Tea loaf with Rum Butter

Chocolate & Satsuma Delice

Fig Cone, Spiced Bread Meringue

Two Mini Scones: Cranberry & Plain
Masham Clotted Cream
Selection of Preserves

The Grand Hotel York Hendricks Gin and Tonic Afternoon Tea

There were a couple of different choices on the menu. I can’t remember exactly what they were called, but there was a classic afternoon tea – the full menu and your choice of tea, the Sparkle afternoon tea – the full menu with a glass of Prosecco and your choice of tea, or the Hendricks Gin & Tonic afternoon tea – the full menu, with you guessed it, a cheeky gin and tonic on the side plus your choice of tea. No need to say what I went for. I like a hard spirit in the afternoon. The tea selection was classic but varied – everything from the usual black leaves like Earl Grey, Assam and Darjeeling to herbal choices like Ginger and Lemon, and Peppermint. Nothing to forge new ground, but a solid selection nonetheless. Enough to keep a tea enthusiast happy.

The Grand Hotel York Hendricks Gin and Tonic Afternoon Tea

My G&T came in a Hendrick’s branded tea pot, complete with matching cup and saucer. For the whole two hour stint it stayed cold and refreshing, and the pot gave me at least four cupfuls to sip as we ate. To be honest, I’d quite like one at my desk. On brand, the Hendricks was served with a slice of crunchy cucumber. It felt strangely decadent and refined at the same time, to be getting tipsy while nibbling sandwiches with the crusts off, but I was so into it. In fact, it was just the twist on an afternoon tea I needed. Alcohol makes things more interesting, who knew?

For a festive themed menu, and in such a traditional setting, I was really impressed by the creativity with which each sweet was devised. Distinctively Christmassy but with few of the usual cranberry cliches, there wasn’t a mince pie or a marzipan holly leaf in sight. The Christmas Cake Cheesecake was rich and boozy, and the cupcake a refreshing take on an overdone trend. The flavours were unusual enough to get us all talking and the decadent Chocolate & Satsuma Delice and delicate Fig Cone were balanced nicely by traditional, tasty sandwiches, scones baked to perfection (crunchy on the outside, fluffy on the inside) and tea loaf to make any granny proud. 

The Grand Hotel York Hendricks Gin and Tonic Afternoon Tea

To finish it all off, the surroundings were divine. Not so much the dining room, which was pretty but a bit bland, as the bar, hallways and even the loos. The interiors were rich and opulent without being flashy. It felt posh, but comfortable. I could seriously spend some time in front of a roaring fire in that bar, curled up in a jewel purple armchair with a mystery novel and a pair of fluffy socks on. The bathrooms are marble, with Molton Brown hand wash and cream, the stuff daydreams are made of.  The hotel is a 5-star and I understand why. It only left me wanting to sneak off to explore. For my next visit, I think I’ll try the spa!

For £29.50, I’d say the afternoon tea was good value. We were there for a good two and a half hours, never felt rushed and we left stuffed to the brim full of treats. We erupted out onto the forecourt rosy cheeked and laughing – a great afternoon of catching up and communal indulgence had by all.  I’d recommend The Grand to anyone looking for a good way to celebrate an occasion, or even just to treat themselves. The Afternoon Tea is a great way to entertain visiting family, spoil a birthday girl or treat a bride to be, and it’d be a great place to stay – conveniently located next to the station and easily walkable to and from town.

The Grand Hotel York Hendricks Gin and Tonic Afternoon Tea

The Cedar Court Grand Hotel & Spa Station Rise, York, North Yorkshire YO1 6GD | 01904 380038

The Greedy Pig

The Greedy Pig

Ox Tongue Rueben

To call something a “hidden gem”, to me, seems outrageously patronising. An assumption that you’re (YOU, that’s right!) too ignorant or uncool to know about it, or worse, that somehow the owners aren’t doing it right, that they’re not putting themselves out there. “Hidden gem” is not a phrase I ever intend to use to describe a place, but it seems to be the way many of Leeds’ food-loving types describe The Greedy Pig. Similar to Cafe Moor in the market until their successful stint in Trinity Kitchen, if you know then you know – smug faced and full bellied as you walk back to the office from your lunch break.

For me, The Greedy Pig is not a hidden gem. It’s very much out there, ready and waiting, clear as day. It’s something I’m keen to shout about as loud as I can. Just a gem, if you will. Of course, it’s true that sometimes for some, things just slip under the radar. That’s why I’m here, see – to help spread the word. And, if you’re not a regular, you’d be justified in saying that you never gave The Greedy Pig a second glance. It’s a little off the beaten track (North Street, just along from The Reliance) and I don’t think I’d offend anyone by saying that it seems little more than a greasy spoon cafe. There’s nothing wrong with that of course, but give it a try and you’ll find there’s so much more on offer than breakfast and tea you can stand your spoon up in. A veritable treasure trove of nose-to-tail cooking, step beyond the (excellent) fry ups and stacks of American pancakes to find brisket burgers, tongue tacos, pressed sandwiches and ruebens to melt your face off.

What these guys do is labour intensive. They’re smoking their bacon, brining meat, simmering pans on the hob for hours, packing pies, rolling scotch eggs and baking an array of sweets. The service is always friendly and relaxed, it’s probably my favourite laid back brunch/lunch spot – somewhere Matt and I go on my way into the office, to catch up after he’s been on the road for a busy weekend. Sometimes they do events too, selling their deli items and nose-to-tail tapas. Next up, they want to start opening in the evenings. To do that, they need to fund an accessible toilet for their customers. So they’re running a Pie, Mash and Gravy night, tonight, to raise money. I’m going along, paying a fiver (excellent value, as always) and getting a rich, meaty pie and all the accompaniments in exchange – and hopefully in a few months I’ll be able to go in the evening again.

My main reason for writing this post, is not just for The Greedy Pig – a business I love and would like to show my support for – but to encourage all of you, no matter where you’re based, to show your favourite cafe, restaurant, shop or coffee spot some love. From someone who runs one, albeit not customer facing, life can be tough out there for an independent business, and just knowing it’s there and thinking that’s nice isn’t enough. Use it, visit, speak to the owners, recommend it to others. These amazing spots won’t be there if they don’t make enough money, so go in, eat well, pay for it, and tell everyone you know. 

The Greedy Pig, Leeds

Beef & Blue Burger with Twice Fried Chips

The Greedy Pig

Veggie Breakfast with Spicy Corn Bread

The Greedy Pig

American Pancakes with Greedy Pig Smoked Bacon

The Greedy Pig

If you’re in central Leeds tonight then go on, make the trip. The menu goes as follows (please note: despite all the offal on the menu, vegetarians aren’t ignored at The Greedy Pig):

1) Celariac, Barley & Shiitake.
2) Beef, Stout & Lentil.
3) Butternut, Chickpea & Spinach 
4) Rabbit, Fennel & Ham Hock.

The Greedy Pig 58 North St Leeds LS2 7PN | @the_greedy_pig @thegreedypigkitchen

Little Tipples

Little Tipples

Subscription services are pretty commonplace these days. There’s Birchbox, The Foodie’s Larder, hell, there’s even a box for your cat. Personally, I like it. I like that you don’t even have to go out to try new things. Stuff comes right to you, and it’s good stuff too, usually curated by someone in the know. The idea of trying different products at a much lower cost than if I were to buy them separately really appeals to me, especially when it comes to food and drink. So when  I was offered the chance to try Little Tipples, miniature measures to taste & savour, I got excited. Rum through my letter box? Don’t mind if I do.

Little Tipples

Little Tipples, as I understand it, runs on two aims. The first is to provide you with quality, varied spirits to drink at home at your pleasure. The second is to develop your palate and teach you a bit about what you’re drinking. Each month you’ll receive two 50ml bottles. Once you unpack them, the idea is that you log on, enter the codes marked on the front and read the tasting notes while you try them. After you’ve tasted them, both neat and with your favourite mixer, you click the reveal button to see which rums you’ve been supping on. You record your prefences, type up your comments and save them to your profile. That way you can revisit your thoughts whenever you like. If you wish, you can go ahead and purchase a full size bottle of any of the rums you’ve tried directly from the website.

The website itself provides a number of good resources to help you on your rum tasting journey. Not only is there a dummy-proof tasting method to walk you through your experience, but there are cocktail recipes to help you make the most of your minis. A leaderboard keeps you abreast of which rum other users rate, so you can anticipate next month’s delivery.

Subscriptions from Little Tipples come in at £10 a month including delivery straight to your door. The boxes are small enough to slip right through your letter box so no need to worry about those pesky “Sorry we missed you” slips. There are no long term commitments and your subscription is available to cancel at any time. You can also earn referral points if someone signs up because you sent them. You can put your points towards a full sized bottle from the leaderboard.

To be quite honest, I have very little to be critical about here. I think the price is good, the rums are varied enough that you wouldn’t get bored, and I think the fact you can log in and see what you liked from the start of your subscription is very useful (like those little tasting notebooks big fat men on real ale trails carry in their pockets, but digital). My only criticism would be that it’s limited to rum, but the word on the street is that whisky and gin are on their way. In conclusion, I wholeheartedly love this. Sure, it’s a bit of an indulgence, hardly a monthly necessity when you’re working out your budget, but it’s fun, informative and a nice thing. And we all like nice things, right?

Little Tipples

After I tasted what was in my bottles, I preferred the white rum (Banks 5 Island) neat and the dark rum (Pussers Blue Label) mixed, I thought it was only right to make a cocktail to celebrate. Rum is my favourite spirit and a Dark n Stormy probably my favourite cocktail, so I rustled one up. Little Tipples have their recipe listed on their blog, and it’s pretty darn perfect. Though a Dark n Stormy should be a long drink, I was taking it steady so I kept the measures small this time. I didn’t want to drown out the rum with too much ginger. For a traditional drink use a double shot. I also had no lime so used a lemon instead, but this is by no means a substitution I’d endorse. Sure, it’s better than nowt, but lime is the ideal complement to the spice of the ginger. The deep caramel flavour of Pussers Blue Label matched perfectly in this but if you’re making it at home with what you have, a spiced rum like Morgans or Sailor Jerry would work well too. This is how I made mine.

Dark n Stormy makes one cocktail

25ml Dark Rum
250ml Ginger Beer (I used Old Jamaica)
Wedge of Lime
3 Ice Cubes

Pour the ginger beer into a tumbler over your ice. Top up with rum. Take your wedge of lime and squeeze it lightly into your drink, then drop it in. Mix and enjoy.

Little Tipples £10 inc. delivery per month available to cancel at any time | @LittleTipples

Disclaimer: I was sent my first box for free to try. My thoughts on this product are unbiased and honest. I only endorse products I feel strongly about and this is one of them! I will be paying full price for an ongoing subscription.;

Filmore & Union, Leeds

Filmore & Union, Leeds

I can’t lie, health conscious food is not something I usually look for when I’m dining out. Meals out are generally a treat, something I don’t eat at home and, let’s face it, preferably something fried. I know I know, that’s not the right attitude. But sadly, a carb lover never changes her spots. However, being a diabetic, my choices are often limited, so I appreciate that something of a food haven exists for those with dietary requirements, and that a diet-savvy alternative is there for those who want to dine out without fearing the calorie intake.

About two weeks ago I had lunch at Filmore & Union in the Victoria Quarter, Leeds City Centre. It’s kind of an odd spot. A cluster of tables sectioned off in the middle of a shopping centre, albeit a beautiful and upmarket one, the design of the place is modern and rustic. It’s gorgeous but it’s not an obvious lunch choice, especially on such a cold and blustery day in January. Arriving with hands bundled in pockets, I was pleased to see patio heaters belting out waves of warmth, with an army of fluffy throws on the backs of chairs, perfect for covering chilly knees. Obviously this kind of venue will flourish in the summer, but I snuggled up and within 5 minutes I’d already forgotten the draft. The environment was relaxed, some customers sipping on tea, others tucking in for 2 courses. The restaurant manages to be airy, open and light but without being loud. Holding a conversation across a table was easy, unlike a lot of shopping centre eateries, and the presence of other diners and wait staff was unobtrusive.

Filmore & Union, Leeds

Filmore & Union, Leeds

We started with juices. Just the menu itself is a pretty good read, packed full of seasonal information and health tips plus information on the brand’s philosophy. Eat Clean, Eat Pure is the idea. To your smoothie or juice, you can add loads of healthy boosters including chia seeds, echinacea and vanilla whey protein powder, depending on what you’re in the market for. I opted for the Joluxe Immune Booster (£3.75)  juice. It’s made up of blended yellow pepper, carrot, ginger and orange. I topped it off with an Aloe Vera shot (£2) for an added kick up the immune system’s backside. Aloe Vera is a super healer, they say, great for digestion.

Now I’m not big on fruit, I’m a naturally savoury person, so I was interested in trying something vegetable heavy. The juice was zingy, tangy, it seriously sang inside my mouth. I genuinely felt shaken up after I drank it, more alert and productive for the few hours that followed. Plus it left none of the sticky aftertaste I dislike from packaged juices. The best thing about it was purely how orange it was, a great change from the dull greens and browns I usually associate with juices and smoothies. Lauren’s smoothie, Super Antioxidant (£4.95) was packed with strawberries, blueberries, cranberries, apple, mint leaves and coconut water. Jen went for the Raw Choco Fix (also £4.95), made from almond milk, raw cacao, raw cashews, banana and agave syrup. It was weirdly chocolate bar like, but with none of the sickly, cloying characteristics. Healthy and indulgent at the same time! None of the three drinks we tried were overly sweet or filling, which contrasts with the juice bar experiences I’ve had before. They felt clean, simple and fresh.

Filmore & Union, Leeds

For my main I went for an Open Steak Bagel with Sweet Onions, Tomato Salsa and Tzatziki (£12.95). The steak was cooked perfectly, pink in the middle and with a charred crust. There was barely a chew to it and loads of fresh, juicy crunch from the salsa. I was pleased with the generous portions, wrongly thinking eating healthy meant eating small, the bagel came piled high. On the whole, I enjoyed it, my only criticism is that the dish was a little sweet. The sweet potato and caraway chips promised a bit of spice but I couldn’t taste the caraway and I didn’t really think they were necessary, they left a sweet aftertaste I could’ve done without, with no crunch or heat to balance them. The salsa, onions and tzatziki were all very good, but without something spicy or sharp to cut through it the bagel fell just short of full marks. I’d have preferred it with a small side salad or slaw, and maybe a slick  of wholegrain mustard on its lid. My second choice would’ve been what Lauren ate, the Asian Smoked Salmon & Sweet Potato Fishcakes (£10.95). Again a generous portion, two round fishcakes sat atop curly kale and orange segments, with pomegranates and almonds dotted in. The dish was an absolute beauty.

The ingredients in all our mains were clearly so fresh, their colours jumped off the white background. Obviously nothing had been sitting around, there wasn’t a wilted leaf or past-best vegetable in sight. They looked, shock horror, like they’d been pulled right from the ground. Imagine that! The 100% Fresh, 100% Natural produce is a huge part of what Filmore & Union are offering and for me that’s a massive plus. They make a point to source their ingredients from the local area, so there’s every chance your lunch has come from ground to plate within hours.

Filmore & Union, Leeds

Filmore & Union, Leeds

We finished off with dessert, of course. I have never seen so many beautiful but virtuous looking cakes in one place at one time. The counter was overflowing with platters and cake stands offering everything from a gluten free lemon & polenta cake to a vegan chocolate and blackberry cake. It looked good. Like, the kind of good where there’s absolutely no guilt to come from ordering a pudding. It feels like it’s actually the right thing to do. The whole menu obviously caters fantastically for those with dietary requirements and the cakes really don’t disappoint, with more range than I’ve ever seen before. I opted for a Banana, Oat and Flaxseed Muffin (£3.75). There are a lot of oats in my diet for their low GI credentials (again, the diabetic thing), keeping blood sugars level without the peaks and troughs that simple carbs can bring, something that the whole F&U menu boasts. The muffin was a good way to round off the meal, it was fluffy, and came with a deep, nutty texture you don’t find in mass-products desserts in chain coffee shops and cafes. I loved it and I will go back for it again, maybe to take out for breakfast on my way to work. The other desserts our table ordered looked scrumptious, without fail. Even the giant Granola Bar (£3.95) got me salivating. It was so interesting to see a sweet menu really come alive with unusual ingredients, not a nasty in sight. Plus, every dessert comes with a little pot of natural yoghurt and a few berries. A lovely little touch, as if your halo could shine any brighter.

Filmore & Union, Leeds

It was lovely to go back to work without the hangover from a too-large lunch. So many times I’ve come a cropper to grabbing something too heavy in my lunch hour, giving me a headache and having me snoozing at my desk all afternoon long, to-do list forgotten. It’s good to know that you can eat a great meal and leave with a spring in your step, without the threat of the inevitable sugar come down. I’d really recommend Filmore & Union to those looking for not just low cal or carb, but a nourishing, nutritious option for lunchtimes, breakfasts or early evenings. For me, it’s probably best as a brunch spot. They have a great bagel menu, plus muesli, porridge, granola and more. They have a good range of teas and organic coffees, and I’ve already waxed lyrical about the healing power of the juices. It’s also an ideal fit for its environment. The Victoria Quarter is beautiful, with a huge sky light, amazing architecture and luxury stores. F&U is a great pitstop to rest your aching feet, or a great place to drop off anyone who’s holding you back. Got a husband dragging his feet? A nagging teenager? Leave them here, there’s free wifi. The prices are, I think, slightly high. So just bear that in mind when you’re adding extra shots to your smoothie.

I think it’s also important to add that the staff were incredibly knowledgeable about the menu. They answered all our questions, made some great recommendations and really had me feeling like I was in safe hands. If you’re gluten free or vegan, lactose intolerant or allergic to anything, you can really put your confidence in this lot and you won’t leave unhappy.

If you eat clean or you’re trying to be good, you’re going to love this place. If you’re partial to a chicken nugget… maybe not, but give it a go, it might change your life! I haven’t been converted, I’m afraid I’m too devoted to burgers, but I am interested in trying more. Open to eat in and take out Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday 8am-7pm, Thursday 8am – 8pm, Sunday 9am-6pm.

Filmore & Union Restaurant and Express Bar Victoria Quarter Leeds LS1 6AZ | @FilmoreandUnion

Disclaimer: The Victoria Quarter invited me down to try Filmore & Union free of charge. That has had no effect whatsoever on my opinion. All honesty here, friends.

 

Original Fry Up Material: Burger Edition

Original Fry Up Material

Last week, friends, I ate three burgers in six days. Let me tell you about it.

Original Fry Up Material turned up at the December changeover of Trinity Kitchen. They’re currently mid-way through a double stint, which means they’re here until February 23rd. Obviously, their main shtick is breakfast. In their own words “ace all-day and on-the-go breakfasts inspired by our respect for the great British fry up with a little soul and celebration of brunch culture from across the pond” (KERB). I’ll tell you now, I’m yet to taste the AM offerings. But I do have a date lined up next week, so don’t panic. I’ll report back.

Original Fry Up Material

So OFM also serve burgers. There are four on offer. The Cheesy and The Veggie come in at £6. The Sweetsmoke and The Bacon Blue, more specialist if you will, come in a little pricier at £7.50. I’ve had a Sweetsmoke, and the Bacon Blue…twice. I’m a devil for that blue, let me tell ya. Late last year, I touched on my criteria for a winning burger in my review of RARE. Let’s not beat around the bush here. Both the texture and taste of the Bacon Blue were eye-rollingly, heart-singingly perfect. I am genuinely salivating just thinking about it. I don’t take perfection lightly – burgers are some srs bznz, after all, and everyone is different. I have friends, for example, who turn a bit pale at the idea of a burger being pink in the middle. Some folk may look for a bit more structure. Some prefer a crustier bun. You get my point. That’s cool. But for me… man. This is it.

Original Fry Up Material SweetSmoke Burger

Original Fry Up Material Bacon Blue Burger

Everything is buttery soft, with gloriously caramalised edges to add a bit of chew without having to do any real work. The bun is a pillowy brioche with a gleaming, glazed dome that collapses in your hands as you chomp. The meat is packed loosely and it’s juicy. Pink, but not in a scary way. So juicy, in fact, that it’s hard to get through the whole burger without it disintegrating in your hands. On our first visit, my friend ate the second half of hers with a knife and fork. She is quite a classy lady, but still, this was necessity not choice. Juice ran down our chins, melted cheese dripped down our fingers, we all shut up.

I love this burger. So much. I thought it might be a fluke, so I went back. You know, just to test. IT WAS THE SAME, GUYS.

Original Fry Up Material

I think the Bacon Blue is the best burger I have ever eaten. The Sweetsmoke is good, but a little sickly for me. Still 10x better than 90% of the other burgers I’ve eaten, though. The title of my best burger is perhaps contested by a small joint in Seattle called Lil’ Woody’s. Classic burgers, served on their lonesome without meal deals and pointless garnishes, just wrapped in wax coated paper and served in a red plastic basket. One of the best single mouthfuls I ate during our 3 week long gastronomic adventure across the Atlantic last September. OFM’s offering is not dissimilar in attitude. The only side on the menu is chips. As much as I love onion rings, fried pickles and all that jazz (and trust me, I really do) that simple choice signifies that they have their priorities where they should be, with the burgers. I’ve heard complaints that the chips are too salty. For me they’re just fine, delicious in fact, but I’m a chronic over-seasoner. If you’re touchy about your salt, ask them to go easy. It’s also worth noting that the produce used to make everything on OFM’s menu while they’re in Leeds is 100% self-sourced from Yorkshire. There’s also an OFM “FryPA” on offer for all those after a craft beer, made in partnership with The Great Yorkshire Brewery. What more could you ask for? Well… the staff dress like quirky butchers. Just sayin’.

Original Fry Up Material

Original Fry Up Material

Now, coming in at a similar price to local competitors Reds True Barbecue and Nation of Shopkeepers, I do think OFM is a little expensive. £10 for a burger with chips is a restaurant price for a meal in a place which is no doubt cool, but still undeniably a food court. Having said that, I understand that something is only worth what people are willing to pay for it. And I am definitely willing to pay for it. I spent £22.50 on burgers last week alone, which is retrospectively maybe a little bonkers. It does prove though that I think they’re worth the buck. There are ways to cut corners, chips are £2.50 but the portion is huge. My friends and I fell into the trap on our first visit of buying a portion each but you can happily share.

In short, get your wallets out and grab ’em quick. These burgers are only here for another month and if, like me, you plan to get at least five in before they go, you’re going to have to get a move on.

Original Fry Up Material Trinity Kitchen Trinity Leeds Albion Street Leeds LS1 5AT | @OFMLondon

RARE, Leeds

Rare3

Uncommon Excellence is what RARE is all about. I’ll be honest, I’m not really sure what that means. My guess is that Rare think they’re something special, a little something out of the ordinary, if you will. They class themselves as refined, but not fine dining. They want to offer the people of Leeds something we can’t get elsewhere in the city. Apparently that includes comfortable surroundings, value for money, generous portions and knowledgable, enthusiastic staff.

The dinner menu is simple. A whole chicken for two, pork belly, lamb sausages, game pie and a burger. The crowning glory is one mammoth porterhouse steak to share between two. For £60. That’s £60, folks. I’ll come back to that later.

I was invited down to RARE for the second of its two preview nights. Between the three of us, we ended up ordering one steak and one burger. On top of that we shared the full range of starters (three of them) and a lot of sides. Oh and we finished off with both puddings. Why not, eh? All in the name of research. Let me run you through it.

Rare4Spicy Tamworth Pork Belly Ribs £7.50 served with red cabbage and beetroot pickle
Rare6Potted Smoked Duck £6 served with grilled sour dough toasts and date, fig and apple chutney
Rare5Yorkshire Pudding £4 served with beef, onion and porter gravy

My favourite of the starter line up was the Potted Duck. I’m a sucker for any meat-based spread and this was good, with a thick layer of duck fat sealing in the meat, crisp sourdough and spicy chutney. As always with paté there wasn’t enough bread, so I opted to fork the rest of the stuff straight out of the jar into my mouth. The duck itself could have been chunkier, the consistency was straddling rough and smooth a bit uncomfortably, committing to neither, but the flavour was good and I would definitely go back for more. The Yorkshires were crispy and fluffy, just as they should be. We opted for gravy and as we were sharing we ended up ripping and dunking. The gravy itself was a touch on the bitter side for me and went cold pretty quickly in its little ramekin. I wish we’d opted for the “warm Yorkshire blue cheese sauce” instead. Finally, I’m ashamed to say that the pork ribs were none of my business. I’m not the biggest fan of fatty pork cuts (sacrilege, I know!) but they smelled great, glistened with meaty juices and I’m informed by my friend Nicola (a self-confessed pork fanatic), they were very satisfying with the red cabbage and beetroot pickle providing a sharp, tangy accompaniment to cut through the fat.

Rare1010 oz Longhorn Beef Burger £13.50 minced in house and served with baby gem lettuce, heritage tomatoes, dill pickle, red onion rings, swaledale cheese, beetroot and horseradish relish, triple cooked chips, wholegrain mustard and celeriac coleslaw

My perfect beef burger consists of a big, juicy patty, the kind that’s pink in the middle and oozes clear juices all down your chin when you bite into it. I like toppings. Cheese is always good. A bit of lettuce is a must. I like something a bit different, a sauce or a relish, but the right quantities are very important. The RARE burger ticks a lot of these boxes. The textures are near perfect. The bun was of a crusty, chewy persuasion that some burger snobs may look down on for taking up valuable stomach space, but I loved it. My only complaint was that the beetroot and horseradish relish, though it was nicely sweet and crunchy, overpowered the rest of the flavours so that the layers of tomatoes, pickles, onions and cheese were just textures in my mouth instead of distinct tastes. Having said that, I’d probably order it again.

Rare91Kg Longhorn Porterhouse Steak £60 seasoned with oak smoked sea salt, to share

The steak arrived a little more on the medium side than the medium rare we’d asked for but the meat was still tender. Porterhouse is a notoriously difficult cut to grill evenly, made up of the strip steak and the fillet which cook at different speeds. If you ask me, that’s quite a big risk to take for £60 of your hard earned cash. Considering the rest of the mains are reasonably priced (the next expensive dish on the menu is the chicken to share for £24) it seems strange for RARE to position themselves side by side price-wise with some of Britain’s best steak restaurants. At Hawksmoor in London, for example, the porterhouse comes in at £7 per 100g and foodies go to great lengths to get there. With Crafthouse just around the corner offering cuts from renowned butcher Ginger Pig at similar prices, even in Leeds the bar is set high. And whilst purists might sniff at anything more than a bit of salt and pepper with their slab, at £60 I don’t think it’s too much to ask for a few sauces to choose from. By the time you order a couple of sides, you’re talking £35 a head before drinks even come into it. The restaurant claims to offer both “uncommon excellence” and “rare value”, but as a showpiece main course the steak provides neither.

Let’s talk sides. DELICIOUS CHIPS. These chips are really good. They’re just the right thickness, neither chunky nor skinny. They’re like chip shop chips and they’re triple fried too. Swooooon. I could eat them all day, forever. They’re crispy and fluffy because as I understand it, this is what the triple frying method is all about. I’m into it. They’re £3.50, order lots. Root veg and onions rings were nice extras but offered nothing different of note. Honestly, it’s all about the chips.

Rare12Sticky Cinder Toffee Pudding £6 with Cox ice cream and toffee sauce

Rare11Marmalade Bread & Butter Pudding £6 served with vanilla custard

The two puddings on offer are exactly the choices you’d expect to find accompanying the traditional English comfort food at RARE. While both the sticky toffee and bread & butter puddings went down a treat, I can’t help but feel that they were somewhat of an after thought. The cinder toffee leant a lovely burnt flavour, a good match for this time of year and I respect the decision to go with an apple icecream when a vanilla would have done just fine. It’s icy tartness cut through the stickiness of the pudding excellently. The bread and butter came with a gloriously frothy custard that came slathered over the pudding rather messily – I’d have preferred a little jug, but I guess that’s nitpicking. Overall the sweets were good, definitely nothing to turn your nose up at, but I can’t help but think of several other eateries within walking distance who could serve you a more satisfying version.

The wine we had to accompany our meal was a Syrah which cost £17.95. It was good, clearly high quality and a great match for the big meaty dishes on offer, but with the next choice for red at over £20, it would have been nice to see a few more affordable options. Other restaurants I’ve been to around Leeds (Dish & Shears Yard, for example) certainly have a wider choice under the £20 mark, so I was a little disappointed with the selection.

Let’s not forget, this place is a bar too. You’re led downstairs to eat,  into a den-like room with exposed brickwork, rope lighting and a massive stuffed cow called Sue. It’s a lovely atmosphere to eat in, and that means that upstairs is dedicated purely to drinks. The bar menu looks pretty damn promising. Sticking to wine on the night, I didn’t try any of the bar’s cocktails but just a quick skim of the menu made me promise myself I’d go back soon. I’m very much looking forward to this place as an addition to the nightlife scene, somewhere a little different to go to avoid the scrum (RARE have promised to limit standing room which should make for a more comfortable Saturday night atmosphere than the usual Call Lane haunts) and maybe grab a late bite from the Supper Menu.

If you live in Leeds, this place is a reliable shout for indulgent food cooked well. Whilst the quality is high, excitement isn’t. If you’re looking for something out of the ordinary, RARE isn’t it. Nothing about this place screams uncommon excellence to me, but that doesn’t mean it’s without merit. You’ll no doubt leave rubbing your belly and feeling satisfied, just the way I did. Choose well and it can be good value for money. It’s just a shame about their mission statement.

RARE Lamberts Yard 163 Lower Briggate Leeds LS1 6LY | 0113 246 7013 | @eatdrinkrare

Disclaimer: RARE invited me down to try their food menu free of charge.