Saturday night was a bit of a departure from the norm for me. I love eating out but generally prefer street food or casual bar settings to the ceremony of formal restaurants, so I was almost surprised to find myself dressed in an LBP (little black playsuit) and heels, rocking up at upscale steak restaurant Rare to claim my booking. It probably goes without saying that I’m normally a ‘show up and hope there’s room’ kind of girl…
I’ve had my eye on Rare for a while but have kept postponing a visit, in large part due to a wish for it to be an occasion and in small part due to fear that it might not measure up to expectations. I have a love/hate relationship with steak whereby if it’s perfectly cooked it’s one of my favourite things in the world, but if even slightly overdone I find it tasteless and dull and have zero interest in even eating it. A big risk to take when steak is the priciest thing on most menus.
Before we took our seats we were introduced to the steak board, a huge chalk board detailing the special cuts available. The hostess talked us through each cut really well, and throughout the night I found all the staff to be helpful and knowledgeable about the menu. Rare has clearly invested a lot of effort in the level of service they provide; our waitress was friendly and attentive without being overbearing, and our food was served promptly with just the right break between courses.
For my starter I chose the Tamworth pork belly ribs, and honestly I think this might have been the highlight of my meal. The meat was so tender it practically fell off the bone, and the sweet sauce was perfectly offset by the red cabbage and beetroot pickle that accompanied it. My friend went for the black pudding hash brown, and though he said it was delicious I’m pretty sure he was jealous of my ribs. Needless to say I was unwilling to give away more than a mouthful…
Next came the main event. My friend opted for the 450g porterhouse from the steak board, while I went for the more reasonably-sized 300g rump steak on the standard menu. I needn’t have worried about the quality; the waitress listened indulgently as I detailed my wish for a steak that was ‘the rare side of medium rare’ and I got exactly what I asked for. Browned and slightly crispy on the outside but pink all the way through the middle, the meat sliced easily and was juicy, tender and full of flavour.
We accompanied our steaks with a side of chips and an avocado, papaya and mango salad. The chips were delicious but it was the salad that I really fell for; I struggle with meat-dominated meals so a side salad is essential, and the fruit provided a refreshing respite from my steak. Unfortunately my meal got the best of me and I had to call it a night with just a few mouthfuls to go; I laid down my knife and fork cursing my tiny stomach.
I had worried that I’d be unnerved by the stuffed cow occupying the centre of the restaurant, but I loved the understated décor, exposed brick and candlelit ambience of the basement space (although my friend, who got the seat facing the cow, did comment that it was looking at him). Our two starters, two mains and two sides plus a pot of peppercorn sauce and a beautiful bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon brought the bill to around £100; not the kind of expenditure you’d want every week but one I was happy to pay as a one-off for the quality of food and experience we had. My bank account won’t allow me to return any time soon, but my first visit definitely won’t be my last.