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.
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:
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’.