When I started this series three years ago* I set myself some rules, most of which I have since broken. Hey, what else are rules for? This visit to The Reliance Bar and Dining Room has prompted me into abandoning all of them and just doing what the heck I like.
Two of the no-nos were that I wouldn’t do pubs and that I would always order from the lunch menu which, whilst they made sense at the time, are meaningless now because of the ever-changing face of the eating scene in Leeds.
Reliance has been on both my ‘to do’ list and bucket list for some time now as I pass it on the bus every time I enter the City, so today I decided to get off and give it a go. The lunch menu looks stupendous, with a range of dishes to die for as well as equally impressive daily specials. What they are really famous for, however, is the home-cured charcuterie which changes on a regular basis. This being the case, I took a seat and, there being a choice of three meats, I had a portion of each at the very reasonable price of £3.25 an item. I also had a glass of house red, a 2017 Allamanda Sangiovese at £4.85 for the glass. As the sun was out and the temperature in the 20s, a lighter red with the cold platter seemed just the thing and so it proved to be – robust enough to handle the meat but not cloying. My mind was wandering and I thought that I could have easily been in a small bar in a Milanese piazza or a Sicilian osteria, an image quickly shattered by a procession of double-decker buses plying their trade up and down North Street. Hey ho.
Annoyingly, the wine was quickly delivered so I had to stare at it longingly until the food arrived, needing as I do to take photographs of the whole ensemble. Just watch now, my copy editor will put the food and drink pictures on the article separately! Fortunately, the food was not far behind and appeared with a generous helping of focaccia and olive oil for dipping. I must say that the portions of meat were more than adequate and the addition of a few silverskin onions and cornichons were a nice touch to add a bit of bite.
The meats were Fennel Salami, Chilli and Black Pepper Salami and Bresaola and all were excellent. The balance of the meat and flavouring in the salamis were spot on, with the fennel providing a lovely liquorice tang to the one and the chilli and black pepper a quiet kick to the other. These were so obviously homemade, and done so with care and love, as there was none of the chewiness which you get with even the best shop bought salami. The bresaola was equally impressive and once again had wonderful texture, the meat being al dente to the point of seeming as though it had been roasted rather than cured. For £14.70 this was a veritable feast rather than a lunch, an experience enhanced by the excellent service and friendliness of the staff.
I am just left with one dilemma now. How do I explain to my friends that I have been to one of the best pubs in town and not ordered a pint of cask and the black pudding? A prime example of a reputation which has taken a lifetime to build and a moment to destroy.
* Actually, it was four years ago last Sunday, Stan. How time flies when you’re enjoying yourself!
Stan writes Let’s Do Lunch for Leeds Living. He also reviews special events for food and drink, which sometimes takes him beyond Leeds. He has also developed an interest in writing on culture, most frequently dramatic and musical theatre.