We headed to relative newcomer, Rare, for Sunday dinner. After the meal, I briefly thought what my parents, card carrying members of the British carvery club appreciation society, would have said if I’d brought them. Mum would have started by asking “Why is there a large stuffed cow in the middle of the restaurant?” and I’d awkwardly point out it’s called Sue and it’s great they’re being bold and making a statement about their passion for their ingredients. She’d nod and they’d take their seats, Dad would immediately look for Carling on the menu, “What’s a schooner son?” I’d explain its two thirds of a pint and it seemed to be all the rage at the moment. He’d shake his head and I’d nod my head knowingly. “That’s 6 quid for a pint, no wonder it’s so expensive if they can afford to have a cow instead of tables.” I’d envy the stuffed dead cow.
There’s a lot to like about Rare. First the setting it’s relaxed trendy bar upstairs, new court yard festooned with bunting and sophisticated but cosy downstairs. The latter is where we dined, joined by the steely stare of Sue the cow. The service is relaxed and informal which I’m a fan of but the other diners on the day weren’t as impressed. The menu is short, something I’m also a supporter of, with 2 starters, some smaller lunch options and 4 roast dinners. The roasts were Tamworth Pork Belly, Roosters Ale glazed mini chicken, nut roast and Treacle cured Longhorn topside.
The sausages served to wet our appetites served with brown sauce were tasty indeed as we eagerly awaited the feast to come. However I must call to order another session of the beer liberation army, Rare sells a fine selection of craft beers including Jaipur and Ilkley Pale in schooners. There’s room here for a joke about Kylie being small and the only petite export I’d welcome from Australian. However I feel that detracts from other great Australian exports such as Zinc, Danni Minogue and Hugh Jackman’s sideburns. Unfortunately the drinks arrived at the same time as the starters, although we had ordered a couple of cocktails alongside beer and wine. We were equally unlucky on the night that the kitchen was out of pork belly, cauliflower cheese and horseradish.
The Cured Gressingham Duck Salad was a slight disappointment. The mix of sharp raisins, sweet nuts and aniseed rich fennel surprised but was simply too sweet. The thin slices of duck were lost. The goats cheese salad had earthy, sweetness from the beetroot and more sweetness from tomatoes. The soft goats cheese was very richly flavoured, so rich it was difficult to finish so I did the gentlemanly thing and helped out.
Unlike the duck, the meat was the star of the show when it came to the mains, proud atop an unpretentious plate of food. The Topside was rich and deep in flavour, cooked nice and rare and clearly left to rest. The generous portion melted in the mouth, full credit to sourcing such an impressive cut of meat. The Yorkshire pudding too, bold on the plate, crispy and full of braised red cabbage. The sweet carrot puree was a perfect accompaniment to the iron rich meat. However the roasties hidden beneath the meat were left soft despite good flavour and seasoning. It was a great roast dinner but it didn’t excite. The small chicken visually impressed, the succulent, tender bird again showing that these guys really know what they’re doing with meat. The chips were faultless with a soft fluffy interior and crisp coating, a great accompaniment to the beef sandwich.
For dessert we went for sticky toffee pudding over the eton mess or pancetta, brave after such a filling main and required at least one notch moving on the belt. The sponge was piping hot. I was rich, treacly and deep in flavour accompanied by crispy cinder toffee on the side. The pistachio ice cream didn’t quite reach the same level and lacked any oomph.
I feel good food is worth paying for and what was on show here were really quality ingredients cooked well. Nevertheless the stars of the show, the duck, goats cheese, beef and pistachio just didn’t have the right balance of supporting flavours in their dishes. If I had brought my Mum and Dad here, they wouldn’t have made it past the prices on the menu, and for the first time I would have to agree with them. I left wishing I hadn’t spent so much money.