I was feeling vaguely celebratory as it was my Birthday so three courses were always likely to be ordered. While the three of us perused the menu some good quality bread, butter and olives were brought to the table. The Reliance 10th anniversary celebration beer on draught was also very good.
To start with I opted for the mussels only to be informed a few minutes later that there were none. Slightly strange this, as a chap on the next table who arrived at least half an hour after us was later spotted slurping a great big bowl full of them. I did consider chinning him and stealing them, but I don't like to cause a fuss. No matter, game terrine wrapped in reliance home cured bacon, cumberland sauce and sourdough toast it was then.
Apologies for the poor quality of the photo's on this post. The room was fairly dark and using a flash can be a bit rude and intrusive for other diners. The terrine was a little disappointing, it was pleasant enough but not very gamey. I would have guessed it was a coarse porky pate if I hadn't known otherwise. It was also served a bit too cold. The cumberland sauce tasted exactly like marmalade, and was a nice tart, bitter foil to the meatiness. The sourdough toast was fine and cut from a decent bit of bread.
Shoulder of mutton
For my main course I opted for Roast shoulder of mutton with a haggis, swede & potato cake & lamb reduction. This was the best main of the three, the mutton was tender and deeply flavoured, like lamb but somehow stronger and earthier. The lamb reduction (gravy) didn't quite match up to the meat for depth of flavour, I'm not sure why they didn't serve a mutton reduction (gravy) with mutton. The potato cake was sweet, meaty, nicely caramelised at the edges and worked well with the meat. The other main courses were less successful. A rump steak was cooked as requested and full of flavour, but it was a very sinewy, chewy piece of meat for the price, even for rump. A special of pork cheeks were the opposite, slow cooked to lovely soft, fibrous strands but tasting rather bland.
Rum and ginger cake
And finally pudding. Just the one to share between us, a rum and ginger cake with pouring cream. What appeared wasn't really what I was expecting. The description suggested something dark and treacley looking, whereas this was a pale, plain looking slice of cake. It was doused in rum, but I couldn't detect any ginger in there at all. A thicker pouring cream would also have been better, as this was very much single cream and made the whole thing a touch soggy.
Overall this was a pleasant meal, with one particular high point (my mutton main course). Some of the other dishes were a bit hit and miss though, and it didn't really live up to my high expectations. Our bill came to £63 for 2 starters, 3 mains, 1 dessert and 3 beers, but before service (which was fine). It's not cheap but probably par for the course for a gastropub sort of menu. I would definitely return, but probably for a weekend brunch and papers session rather than an evening meal. If they still do unlimited toast I'm there tomorrow...
76-78 North Street