I love a good tasting menu. As an indecisive person who really loves food, eating out can pose a problem when selecting just one dish from a menu full of tempting things. What’s worse than that, is when my dining companions pick something more delicious than me and I am stuck with menu envy. Don’t you just hate that? A tasting menu removes all of that anxiety. Rather than having to pick and choose, you are presented with a stream of smaller courses, each more delicious than the last. It’s all very exciting.
Do you know what’s even better than a tasting menu, though? A tasting menu paired with matching cocktails. I was invited down to RARE for the first of their RARE Taste evenings – 4 taster courses which from the same beast paired with 4 drinks made from the same spirit to match, all for £30.
We were treated to a feast of Beef & Bourbon – and none of what was presented to us was what I was expecting. It was so, so much better. Each course was surprising, different, inventive and the drinks that accompanied them were incredibly delicious.
If I’m honest, I wasn’t a huge fan of the first course (it’s something about the texture of foam as food that I just can’t quite get my head around) but it was unusually presented in a little Kilner jar which let out a little cloud of smoke when opened. The ‘Cherry Lips’ bourbon that accompanied it though, was sweet and very moreish.
The second course, however, made up for any misgivings that I had from the first course. Little slices of rare beef, caramelised fennel and orange segments – a fresh flavour pairing that had even my very fussy boyfriend raving about fennel. The third was this gorgeous, perfectly cooked steak, paired with rocket and a creamy onion macaroni and cheese. I’m still dreaming about this dish weeks later. Plus, our bourbon came in a goblet and everyone loves a goblet.
The fourth course sort of threw me for six, if I’m honest. True to their promises, RARE served up four courses of beef – including pudding. The dessert was sweet-cured beef slices, served with date sponge pudding and bourbon set cream. It tasted very good; the texture, however, was very unusual and I had to get past the fact that it was beef to avoid being a bit squicked out. Beef as dessert? I’m glad I tried it, and it was surprisingly tasty, but I’m not sure that this is one that I’ll be rustling up in my own kitchen!
In the interest of honesty, you should know that I dined for free. However, if I had paid £30, I would have been just as made up about the meal that was presented to me. You can barely get four cocktails for £30 in Leeds city centre, so to be able to walk away satisfied and slightly tipsy for that price is an absolute steal, in my opinion. I am definitely planning to go back for a tequila night – since it’s my favourite spirit – and I am excited to see what else will come out of the kitchen. Foodies of Leeds, I’d watch this space if I were you.