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Let's Do Lunch! at Rare

27 October 2015
Let's Do Lunch! at Rare
Isn’t it always the case that some of the best times you have in life are the ones which just happen without warning? This week’s review is a case in point. It crossed my mind that I had not sampled lunch in an Indian restaurant and it seemed like an opportune time as I was not meeting anyone in the afternoon, so curry breath would not be a problem, except to the other bus passengers, and even then it would be masked by the other nefarious odours created by my fellow travellers. Ah! the combined fragrance of unwashed shirts and Red Bull. As it turned out I need not have been concerned as the place I had in mind was filled to the rafters so I decided to search for an alternative. I headed to the area round the Corn Exchange where every other building seems to be an eating house. So it was that I found myself in Lower Briggate looking at a menu in the window of Rare, a restaurant specialising in meat dishes.

When I entered the restaurant the only other customers were a party of about a dozen who seemed to be holding an office celebration. I made my way to an empty table and took a seat. Although the main courses were being delivered to the party, the waitress came straight across and provided me with the menu between journeys. This gave me time to peruse the options, of which there were many. As it would have been easy to get carried away and order a full dinner style meal I stuck to the lunch items displayed on a blackboard behind the bar. The themes for lunch change from time to time and the current one is eggs. I chose the intriguing sounding Steak Benedict at £11.00. When it arrived my first thought was that there was not much on the plate for eleven quid but once I began eating I realised that it was worth every penny.

Let's Do Lunch! at Rare - Article 1

The dish comprised two round sourdough toast bases on which was arranged thin strips of rare bavette, or flank as it is also known. Atop this was a helping of horseradish Béarnaise sauce and an egg. I was informed that absolutely everything is made at the restaurant including the sourdough bread and the sauce. The toast was not overdone which is vital for sourdough as it goes rock hard rather than crispy if browned too much. The beef was beautifully tender and the sauce a creamy delight. I must say that I didn’t pick up on horseradish but that didn't matter as there was enough flavour already, including a very slight Chinese background hint which I believe came from allspice. The masterpiece though was the egg and I can honestly say that I have never had one prepared in this way before. It was a duck egg which had been poached, rolled in crumbs to give a thin coating, and then deep fried for a few seconds to make it crisp on the outside whilst the yolk was still golden and runny. The chef must have better timing than Rolex. A garnish of watercress completed the dish which was one of the best plates I have tasted in many a long day. I had a glass of house red to accompany the meal and, unusually, I was given a choice of two. I chose the Syrah at £4.60 for 175ml, very palatable for a standard red.

I decided to have a dessert for two reasons; firstly I wanted to see if they were of as high a standard as the main course, and secondly, because I could! I chose the sticky toffee pudding (£6.00) to see what twist the chef could come up with on that old faithful. I was not disappointed. The pudding was rich but light as a feather and presented on a sliver of biscuit. It was accompanied by a drizzle of toffee sauce, not too sweet and a scoop of tea flavoured ice cream. Another triumph. A black americano at £2.00 finished the lunchtime perfectly.

The meal was wonderful but the staff were more so. I was served initially by a young lady who could not have been better. When I went to ‘wash my hands’ I noticed some tables and chairs outside and when I returned I asked her if they were part of the restaurant as well. She said that they were and insisted on showing me the room downstairs which is a really large space and reserved for evening meals. There is a blackboard detailing the meat cuts available on that particular day as well as a stuffed cow called Sue - no idea! The waitress had come to the end of her shift whilst I was having my coffee but she still found time to call at my table on her way out to ask if everything had been OK. The young man who took my payment was just as enthusiastic about the establishment and was happy to spend some time explaining the ethos of the place. I must end by saying that there are vegetarian options on the menu but the emphasis is firmly on meat.

Although the name of the restaurant is ‘Rare’ I believe it should be called ‘Unique’.

Mange toutes,

Stan Graham

Stan is a freelance food journalist who writes 'Let's do Lunch!' restaurant reviews for Leeds Living's eat/drink section.