Ham and Friends, Leeds – Restaurant Review
Ham and Friends, Grand Arcade, Leeds
by Kerryn Duckworth
At the end of the pedestrianised Merrion Street sits the sister eatery of Friends of Ham, the aptly titled Ham and Friends; a kitchen, food hall and wine bar all in one. They aim to provide the best artisan and locally-sourced produce in a relaxed and welcoming environment.
With outside tables on Merrion Street it’s tempting on this warm June evening to sit outside and make the most of the probably limited summer. However we head inside and up the stairs to the main food hall and dining area.
What welcomes us is a bright and airy room, high ceilings, white walls and exposed brickwork with original features of the Grande Arcade highlighted. There are large windows and skylights allow views upwards and out over Vicar Lane and Merrion Street. It’s ideal for people watching from above.
We sit at the bar and pass the time with a High Wire Pale Ale (£4.50) served in their own branded Ham and Friends beer glass; a nice touch. The room is clean and enticing and walls are adorned with artwork for sale. My friend orders a glass of Wagram Zweigelt Rose (£3.75 per 125ml). A waiter advises us that we can, in fact, purchase a bottle of wine from the shop and pay a fixed £10 corkage allowing further choice alongside the extensive wine list.
“Perfect sharing plate”
We are seated by the windows at neat tables and in comfy chairs. Our server Kelly talks us through the menu; there is options for snacks, light bites and bigger meals. It’s clear she has detailed knowledge of the menu and a passion for the food. Based on her recommendations, we try the Crispy Chicken Skins (£4). Served topped with a creamy leek remoulade with a lemon tang these are crispy and tasty and I’m left wanting more and more – however, there is other food to try.
It wouldn’t be a trip to Ham and Friends without a Charcuterie Board (£12). It shows the quality meats that Friends of Ham originally became known for at their New Station Street venue. Three meats accompany some nice baked sourdough bread with pickled beetroot and carrots that leave my taste buds tingling. All that this plate needs is some tangy balsamic vinegar to accompany the rich olive oil, but it is the perfect sharing plate to either start a meal or nibble on in the sunshine outside.
With a pause between the meat board and mains, the dining area starts to fill up on this pleasant Thursday evening. Young couples arrive, older friends and families take to the seats. A group enter the bar ordering wine and beers. It appears this is a great place for an upmarket but relaxed after-work tipple.
“Cheesy goodness and rich garlic”
Our mains arrive and they do not disappoint. I choose the Pigs Cheek Blanquette, Butter Beans, Jerusalem Artichokes, Pickled Shitakes (£15), a dish filled with meat that crumbles under the knife and fork, and a creamy sauce that oozes with flavour from the accompaniments. Despite this dish being rich and creamy, it’s light and fresh and the sauce leaves you wanting more and more after each mouthful.
My friend chooses the Hafod Cheddar Dumplings, Caramelised Cauliflower, Mustard Garlic and Hazelnut (£12). Little gnocchi style dumplings rich with cheesy goodness and rich garlic tastes running through. It’s clear that the kitchen treats all its ingredients with the respect they deserve.
Without overloading too much on the carbs, we choose two side dishes; Shaved Fennel, Dill, Orange, Extra Virgin Olive Oil (£4) and Purple Sprouting Broccolo, Pickled Chilli, Preserved Lemon (£4). Each is delicious in its own right. As a lover of fennel, the rich aniseed flavour cuts through the creamy sauce on my plate and the food disappears very quickly.
“Packed with unique ideas”
With bellies fit to bursting from the rich and delicious food we have consumed, unfortunately we cannot fit in a dessert. However the four choices looks appealing in equal measures with summer ingredients on offer. I’m sure they would make those with a sweet tooth very happy.
One final walk around the room shows how unique this eatery is with the venue also housing George and Joseph; the Chapel Allerton founded cheese mongers, the Yorkshire Wine School and a deli counter and shop selling gifts and homewares from local suppliers.
Whilst the food menu at Ham and Friends is not extensive, it is packed with unique ideas, modern cooking and fresh ingredients. It is also rich with taste bud tingling flavours.
As the Friends of Ham brand continues to grow, it is safe to say it remains loyal to its local following of customers and suppliers. It continues to demonstrate and highlight the amazing and talented local Artisan suppliers that Yorkshire has to offer.
Ham & Friends, Grand Arcade, Leeds, LS1 6PG
Tues-Thur 11am – 11pm
Fri-Sat 11am – midnight
images: Victoria Harley