Rare

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It will be difficult to avoid inappropriate puns in this post. Rare is one of those over used pronouns that, in this day and age, gets done to death in marketing schpeak. Rare this, Rare that…But I will do my best.
Rare is a new place recently opened that we were invited along as a free blogger type gig (to get that out of the way) in the hope that if we enjoyed it, we would say nice things about them. When we started writing this blog, I never imagined that anyone would see any commercial advantage in my ramblings, but the world has changed, and continues to do so, and people do read good food blogs (me included) and listen to what they have to say.
Rare sits at the bottom of Leeds’ main shopping street, Briggate, on the edge of the gay quarter, which in turn is packed with great bars and nightclubs. So the location is good for the young crowd, as long as we oldies are allowed in, or at least know where it is. Ground floor is a very low lit bar, spacious and chilled and downstairs is the (even lower lit) restaurant. We were led downstairs into a cool basement dining room—a lot better than that sounds, trust me—intimate and hip without being pretentious. I have no idea how I make that value judgement, but there it is.
A stuffed longhorn cow takes centre stage, gazing wistfully into the near distance, through the gloom, perhaps wondering if his mates are going to be served up for dinner tonight or tomorrow. Either way, it’s a striking emblem and statement of intent.
Our taxidermist specimen offers clues too to the food on offer—steak, obviously—and chicken with pork for good measure. Lots of similarities with the menu at Tramshed, which is not a criticism as we loved it there. Simple is good: restaurants do seem to be adopting this both commercial and customer friendly strategy, which I welcome.
Everything was free tonight as they were trialling the kitchen and menu out but the one thing on the menu that attracted a £25 surcharge was the Longhorn steak for two. Of course, I couldn’t resist and thanks to my irresistible powers of persuasion, J couldn’t either.
Free range, rare breed pork ribs looked good for starters and they were soft and forgiving, a work of a long, slow roast. Spicy sausages were also a delightful mouthful and then the steak arrived. It had been trailed extensively by the attentive, first night staff, ‘it’s on its way!’ we were informed every 5 minutes. I hate it when you don’t know anything in a restaurant, sat for ages waiting for a main course that got lost in the system. No danger of that tonight.
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Then it arrived—a massive T-bone steak. A longhorn T-bone at that. It’s bulk straddled the plate with a challenging demeanor, daring us to come and have a go if we’re hard enough. Proper Leeds beef – or more precisely North Yorkshire beef, from Thirsk. It didn’t disappoint either, cooked to perfection for such a big cut, how did they get it so meltingly good in the short timeframe? Seasoned well on the outside, the medium rare inner contrasted pink and red tenderness with blackened grill frazzle.
I can’t remember what else we had, I think the triple cooked chips were the best I’ve ever had, but I can’t be sure. There will have been some sides or other (I remember some kind of beetroot coleslaw), but I can’t recall as it was irrelevant.
What I do know is that I think we just had the best steak ever in Leeds…a *rare* thing indeed (sorry).

Star Inn The City

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Lunch in York this week with an old friend was taken at Michelin-starred chef Andrew Purn’s new venture, Star Inn The City. It’s the city outpost of the famous North Yorkshire Star Inn at Harome. I don’t live in York but I understand the city has been abuzz with excitement in advance of the opening getting a table after it being open a few weeks was a bit tricky.

The lunchtime we were there it was very busy—and with 300 covers that takes some doing in a city the size of York. Of course there is a massive tourist crowd to tempt and an underserved local dining population, starved of real quality with only a handful of other contenders. Surprising for an affluent city like York. So if Andrew Purn and his team get this right, it’s a no brainer. Great food, excellent service, superb river front location? You got it!

On the day we lunched tree was a steady stream of lunching ladies and affluent older retired folk but i suggest this reflects the midday trade. The vibe was pleasant, if slightly disorganised at the arrivals desk (or whatever they call it). The staff are well drilled and we sat down at a superb table overlooking the River Ouse with pale winter sunlight filling the airy and modern glass construction.

I went for the market menu—to be fair all of the menu looked great—and for two courses it was a very impressive £14.99. I was certainly expecting the price point to be higher given the provenance of the chef and indeed the food. Prices rise steeply as you’d expect through the steaks but that’s to be expected these days.

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We both had the chicken terrine starter with bread served in a flat cap, which was an original ironic twist on our Yorkshire heritage which is sure to confound the hordes of Japanese who visit the city. Flavours and colours were bright and fresh.

I’d eyed up the calves liver earlier on the menu and it arrived in a generous slab, served with juniper infused kale and a spanking fired egg. Perfect lunch, on a plate. My fellow diner had the special Brill with belly pork on the side (don’t ask) but he declared it a triumph of alternative surf and turf.

Service was cheerful, efficient and best of all, fast. Wine is reasonably priced, although you could spend a few bob—as we flat cap wearing Northerners would say—on pricey plonk. No need I say as the basic wine is very competitively priced. The room was buzzing with contentment as we left and my lasting impression was one of leitmotif dining without pretence but delivered with consummate skill.

Star Inn The City (I still can’t make up my mind about the pun) will thrive in York I think , if the district dining community welcome it—which they seem to have already—and the tourists can find it tucked away user a bridge, in a park, by the river.