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Ham and Friends

My New Favourite Restaurant in Leeds

Ok, let’s start with a small apology. It’s been god knows long since I last wrote a blog post. What can I say? Life got the better of me.

What’s inspired me to start writing again is because I’m excited about what’s happening in my home city of Leeds at the moment. Every week, three or four new trendy bars and restaurants seem to pop up and I thought I’d take the opportunity to share a new favourite to come onto the scene in the last couple of months.

Ham and Friends

I’m already head over heels in love with Friends of Ham – it’s now nothing short of a Leeds insitution. Four years ago,  after Jay Rayner paid a visit to this gem, he declared “I would choose Friends of Ham over any number of bona fide Leeds restaurants.”

But now, it has competition from its sister restaurant.

Ham and Friends (see what they did there?) is nothing short of a triumph. Located in a beautifully converted section of the Grand Arcade, this is a bar, restaurant, wine merchant, cheese shop and events venue all rolled into one Victorian industrial inspired space, complete with winding wrought iron staircases, stunning lighting and of course, wonderful food and drink.

I was invited to the VIP event there earlier this year and whilst I only sampled a few nibbles and a beer then, the surroundings were so beguiling I was desperate to return as soon as it opened its doors proper. I just hoped it was as good as Friends of Ham.

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Since visiting the other day with my uni pal Hannah, I think I can say Ham and Friends is my new favourite restaurant in Leeds. The feel is a lot more formal than Friends of Ham; you feel special when you walk in and are seated by the super-friendly waiting staff. We were seated in the corner and the table was set beautifully with crisp napkins and shiny top quality cutlery. The wine glasses had that beautiful angular Danish look – you could tell some money had been spent on them.

I apologise in advance for the lack of photos of the food but I have to admit, I was determined to savour this meal and not be too preoccupied with ‘Insta’. But here’s a snap of the dinner menu for your perusal:

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We went straight in for the mains – it was a hard choice as I could have eaten any of the options. I ordered the Pigs Cheek Blanquette, Butter Beans, Jerusalem Artichokes and Pickled Shitakes. Hannah went for the Hereford Dry Aged Sirloin, Lovage Butter, Roasted Tomato Puree, Grilled Onions and Smoked Garlic. We also ordered two side dishes; fries and Purple Sprouting Broccoli with Pickled Chilli and Preserved Lemon.

My dish came in a beautiful white bowl and nestled inside was what looked like a creamy French style stew. The soft, salty peek cheek was combined with a gorgeous cream sauce and the butter beans which gave a delicious contrast between salty and soft textures and flavours. The real treat for me in this dish were the little surprise bites of artichokes which had a very slight crunch.

Hannah declared her steak to be the best steak she’s ever eaten – as a Londoner, I have to say I felt quite proud that a Leeds restaurant could impress her so much.

I can’t wait to return to Ham and Friends. Next time I’m planning to go with an empty stomach so I can go ‘the whole hog’.

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Northern Monk Supper Club, Leeds

Supper clubs and small plates. Two gastronomic terms that will be very familiar if you’re a food lover such as myself.

Earlier this week, Northern Monk Refectory in Leeds held a supper club for a select number of bloggers to launch its brand new menu of beautifully crafted English small plates.

Since the fabulous Grub and Grog shop upped sticks and moved to a new bigger premises, the city’s coolest brewery had some big shoes to fill. But they’ve clearly managed to do that with the appointment of their new chef.

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Norse, Harrogate: Review

We visited Iceland back in 2008. We watched geysers shoot their scalding jets into the air; we ate hot beef stew out of bowls made of bread; we explored delightfully poky shops selling stylish and quirky furniture and clothing; we swam in the Blue Lagoon wincing as hail fell on our heads.

Since then, it’s fair to say I’ve developed more than just a mild obsession with anything Scandinavian.

So when I heard that Harrogate, only 20 minutes from my house, had its own highly-regarded Scandi chic restaurant, Norse, I more or less picked up the phone then and there to make a reservation. I was desperate to try the seven course tasting menu.

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Blogger event: Black Swan, Leeds

Not many people know about Black Swan’s restaurant on Call Lane in Leeds. Tucked away at the top of the stairs above the well-stocked (and for that matter, well known) bar, its dark walls, graffiti and mismatched furniture give it the feel of an exclusive supper club. You could call it Leeds’ best-kept secret.

But if more people knew about it, I’d never get a table… and what a travesty that would be.

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Pho Bo

Life event: I finally made pho

I can’t quite remember the first time I tried beef pho.

It may have been at a street food hangout in Sydney’s CBD. (Before living in Sydney, I don’t think I’d ever tried Vietnamese food, let alone sampled this hearty beef noodle broth.)

Either way, over the years I have developed an obsession (quite a healthy one I think) with this delicious Vietnamese breakfast staple; clear fragrant broth, thin steak or brisket, filling noodles and piles of fresh herbs.

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