Friends of Ham describes itself as a ‘bar and charcuterie.’ I was just relieved to find that it is not the fan club of some third rate actor. Whilst bar and charcuterie does indeed sum up the concept, it is much more than that. As well as a menu boasting cured meats and cheeses from all over Europe, there is a large range of international draught beers available along with an interesting wine list including a range of sherry. The dominant influence on the ham is Spanish whereas the cheeses are mainly English. There are options for diners; larger plates from the specials section of the menu, sharing boards of meat, cheeses or a mixture of both and finally a small plate section which can be either from the tapas type section or mixed and matched cheeses and meats. The waitress appeared promptly with the menu which was bound in soft leather; obviously nothing is wasted here. From the specials I chose Cecina de Leon, hazelnuts and pickled beetroot with sourdough croutes and horseradish at £6.00. I asked whether the portion would be large enough in itself to comprise lunch and was told that whilst the plate was fairly large, she would recommend the bread and olive oil (£1.75) to accompany it. To wash it all down I chose the Romanian Pinot Noir, I told you the wine list was interesting, at £4.90 per 175ml glass.
On arrival the bowl of olives turned out to be more of a bucket so I began to make inroads. Among them was the odd slice of mushroom and onion, a nice touch. The salad was presented on a wooden board and was absolutely delicious. There was a very generous amount of roast chicken which came in lumps torn rather than carved from the bird. The other components were several types of leaves, red onion, spring onion, cubes of butternut squash, small cherry tomatoes and the eponymous quinoa. The dressing was fresh tasting and brought all of the other flavours together.
I should have left it there but the devil noticed a delicious looking blueberry cheesecake in the chiller cabinet and pointed out that I had hardly taken in any calories so far so I had every right to sample it. In fact, he went on to say that I owed it to my readers to give it a try. How could I possibly let you down my friends, especially as I may need you as character witnesses when my case comes to court. I ordered a piece (£2.50) along with a £2.30 black Americano. The cheesecake was just as delicious as the rest of the meal with a compressed biscuit base which was so dense that it seemed like pastry. The coffee was large but was not watered down as some of this size can be. I would go so far as to say it was just about perfect. The total bill for a wonderful lunch came to £14.80.
The meat arrived sliced wafer thin as you would expect and was absolutely delicious. It was just right: chewy without being tough. The hazelnuts added a creamy taste and obviously a bit of a crunch which complemented the acidic taste of the pickled beetroot. Good as this was, the star of the show had to be the bread. I can’t ever recall having such a delicious example of the baker’s art. The slices were thick cut and soft with a chewy crust rather than a solid one. They had also been pre-drizzled with oil which enhanced the taste even more. In the small bowl of dipping oil was just a touch of balsamic vinegar, enough to taste but not enough to overpower. I cannot thank the waitress enough for the recommendation, although I went some way towards doing so with the tip. The service all round was very good. I was asked twice, each time by a different person, if everything was all right; attentive without being overbearing, and each time I could only answer in the affirmative. I must now own up to making a fundamental reviewer’s mistake, mea culpa. I went into this bar when I was starving hungry and tucked straight into the meal as soon as it came and I had taken a photograph. I have already said that the menu was brought by the waitress and, after I had had time to read it thoroughly, she took it away again. Fair enough. I prefer that to having the table cluttered up with menus or, worse still, the Great Wall of Menu when they are in a stand in the middle of the table. As you will see from the photograph, and as I realised when I reread the menu on-line later, the sourdough croutes and horseradish failed to appear. Such was the service that I am sure they would have appeared had I pointed out the omission. Unfortunately, what did appear without my asking were two items on the bill which I had neither ordered nor had served. When I pointed them out to the waitress they were quickly removed and apologies proffered. Now, it is my belief that you can really tell how good a place is when something goes wrong. Anyone can smell of roses when everything goes right, and the situation was resolved in a very professional manner. social media In conclusion, Friends of Ham offers a great concept and I would gladly return; in fact I will certainly return either here or to sample the branch which is due to open in Ilkley in August.
Article first published by Leeds Living on 29th June, 2015