I’ve had a personal rule for a few years now, that when I’m eating out (especially somewhere new) I’ll always eat the strangest, rarest thing I can on the menu. It’s a nice way of trying new things, and stopping one’s self from eating the same things all the time. This has lead me to eat some rather different things, from snails, to pigs trotter, to ox heart and soft shell crabs, to sea urchin. So imagine my delight to find that the great steak restaurant, Rare in Leeds, offers special tasting nights every couple of weeks that include not only nights dedicated to particular cuts of cow, but unusual animals as well. And to make things even more appealing, it’s £30 for 4 courses and drinks.
I’d been waiting to go to one of these nights since earlier this year when I first heard of them while in Canada, so I was very excited to go to their most recent night on Wednesday, Alpaca and Rum. Alpaca is most commonly known for its very soft wool; I had no knowledge of what it would be like to eat, what kind of dishes would be prepared for us, or why rum might be the drink to pair with the meat. It was a slight shock, then, to discover that the menu was mainly India/sub-continent inspired, and the rum was severed in cocktails. Given as our menu told us, that Alpaca has a taste between beef and lamb, the choice to use it in curried and spiced dishes seemed more obvious. And it was used very well.
This dish was probably my favourite. The Alpaca was incredibly well spiced and soft. It smelled smokey, with a hint of cumin. The flat bread was very light, and just the right size to hold the two cubes of kofta. There was a delightful crunch coming from one of the spices, which complimented the soft meat and bread very well.
Though this was the only non-Indian/sub-continent inspired dish, it still maintained the theme of strongly spiced meat.
The cocktail was a lovely, sweet mixture of white rum, rose liquor, lime & grenadine.
Chaat, with Aloo
This was a multifaceted dish that had several high points. The Alpaca meat was again very well spiced. The little potato cubes were on point and, along with the chickpeas, provided a nice mix of textures with the Alpaca. Possibly the highlight of this dish was actually the bun. It was an incredibly light and soft bun, and I was rather surprised at the quality of the bread. I knew they could cook meat well at Rare, but I was not expecting such great breads!
The biryani was probably the least good of the four courses. The rice was cooked well, however the pieces of Alpaca meat were inconsistent. Nearly all of the pieces on my plate were soft and easy to eat; Vi was less fortunate however. She complained that around half of her pieces were tough. I was a little disappointed to hear this, but I think it’s probably the nature of the animal, and I’m willing to cut the chefs some slack here. The lamb-like nature of the alpaca meat really stood out here, with both the colour and texture being very reminiscent.
Lemon Desi Tea
We had no idea what Desi Tea was. A quick google between courses told us that it is a spiced tea, which made us wonder whether we were getting two drinks as our desert. The cocktail this course was a rather strong white rum, white corcua and chocolate affair, which tasted great but was hard work to get through.
The Desi Tea ended up being a kind of ice cream. Lemon ice cream on top of a softer, slightly melted tea ice cream. While the two ice creams themselves had a nice flavour, together they were quite exquisite.