In what feels like a lifetime ago, Andy and I lived in the beautiful city of Leeds. Since moving back to Australia we’ve managed to return to the UK on a semi-regular basis – helped in no small part by the excuse that is taking a small child to see its grandparents – and we have always made time to top in Leeds. This time around it felt like a flying visit, fewer than five days in a neat little flat in Burley. Of course, it wasn’t enough time to catch up with everyone and one old friend found his allocated slot wedged in between our checkout time and our drive across to Cumbria.
This meant brunch.
Brunch is meal we don’t enjoy often enough. The occasions when all three of us are up, awake and functioning in time for anything before lunch are few and far between – but on holiday things are always different and in this case we made it to the Reliance well ahead of 11am opening*. I’d called in advance to make a booking as the suggestion on the internet was that brunches can be a bit busy but on the morning we were there we would have snagged a table easily.
The Reliance is some kind of hybrid between bar, café and restaurant. Although it’s in a somewhat out of the way corner of town (parking on a Sunday is easy though!) this hasn’t dampened the enthusiasm of Leeds’ eaters and drinkers and The Reliance is fast becoming a stalwart on the scene. My old blog tells me that my own first forays there were back in 2006 – so an impressive effort for an independent bar.
We settled down and the small child immediately asked “where’s my food?” (clearly the early morning Weetabix had worn off by this point). For him, smoked salmon and scrambled eggs on sourdough and a babycino. For me, the warm salad of black pudding, bacon, potatoes and spinach, topped with a poached egg and for Andy a full English. My friend was waylaid by car troubles, but when he did arrive, he opted for a bacon bap.
While waiting we listened to the chorus of “where’s my food?” while enjoying coffees and reading the newspaper. Sitting in pubs and reading papers (ones that have actual content) is definitely one of the things we both miss about England. The variety of quality newspapers available far tops anything that Mr Murdoch offers the Australian reader. The food arrived and we tucked in.
My salad was pretty good indeed – although not flawless. There was definitely an argument for some of the potatoes being slightly underdone and the salad was dressed a little unevenly, meaning that some mouthfuls were too heavy on the Balsamic vinegar (in general, I find this an overused ingredient). However, the combination of ingredients was spot on with a great mix of textures and flavours: the bursts of saltiness from the bacon, the smoothness of the egg, the slight spiciness of the black pudding. While not perfect, definitely something I’d order again.
The full English got a big tick (the mushrooms which were donated to me were good!) and while I didn’t get to try the scrambled eggs (ahem) the sourdough toast was delicious. The bacon bap also looked good (I’m not sure how you can go wrong sticking bacon in a bap … but I guess it’s always possible, and to be difficult my friend did specify that he wanted the bacon well done!).
I’m pretty sure that the small child would comment that the babycino was perhaps not up to standard – it was predominantly milk rather than froth, which did cause a raised eyebrow.
But while England as a whole may have a long way to go in the babycino stakes … anywhere that can dish up a solid breakfast with the Sunday papers deserves its loyal and enduring clientele. The Reliance remains somewhere that exemplifies many of the best things about the Leeds bar scene.
* during winter it looks like the kitchen is opening at noon and they head straight into lunch, rather than brunch
The Reliance (the-reliance.co.uk)
76-78 North Street
phone: 0113 295 6060