Friends of Ham Leeds

Good bread, good ham, good cheese and a glass of wine or a pint of micro-brewery ale. What more do you need, except perhaps a drizzle of olive oil, a few olives and somewhere nice to eat it?

Well you get all that at Friends of Ham. A bar and charcuterie in the grimy and insignificant New Station Street, the one you rush along on the way to the station or the multi-storey car park.

But wohwa! Slow down. If you’ve time to kill before a train, there is no better place to chill. It was a bit cramped upstairs until they expanded next door. Now you eat upstairs at lunch and head down to the basement in the evening, a lovely long, low room of soft sofas and soft lighting, communal tables and quiet corners, games, books, the daily papers and a shuffleboard table.  

There is wine, but beer is their thing with a list of 100 odd bottles from around the world: Hop Rod Rye from the US, Scottish Brew Dog and Yorkshire's raspberry beer from Sam Smith. And there's a changing roster on draught: Madness IPA,  Brodies Dalston Black, Imperial Smog Almighty.  Or order a little wooden tray of six sample glasses.

Food is simple and fabulously good. Basically it is good ham. The Spanish kind that is pinioned to a ham stand and is carved thinly and tastes, sweet, earthy and ancient. The top of the range, pata negra, Ibérico  Bellota is a pricey £13.25 a plate, but most plates average £6  for the likes of prosciutto, chorizo, Tuscan or Catalan salami, lardo and our choice Salata Malenca, actually a sweet and tender cured beef from Lombardy. Plates come with bread doused in olive oil, pickles, gherkins, olives and that’s it.

You can have cheese if you prefer: Torta Cañarejal, an unpasteurized sheep’s milk cheese is a whopping £15, but like the meats the rest come in a whisper over a fiver. Choose from Wookey Hole Cave aged Cheddar, an Irish goat’s log, an unpasteurized Brie de Meaux and a scattering of Yorkshire cheeses.

To begin with there was no cooker, no hissing Gaggia, then they expanded next door and that gave them room to make their own coffee and  add a few cooked dishes to the menu.

Most of all it's the quality of what they serve that makes 'Friends'  so good. Owners Anthony and Claire Kitching who inspired by the food stalls of Maltby Street Market in Bermondsey took a punt on Leeds and we're happy to report it has taken off big time. Good to know then that independent enterprise is alive and kicking in a sea of restaurant chains. So take our advice and hurry along and make friends with ham.

Now with a branch in Ilkley.

Friends of Ham

4 New Station Street, Leeds LS1 5DL, West Yorkshire

Tel 0113 242 0275

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Type: Cafe/Bar

Price guide

2 out of 5

Cuisine type: Spanish

Part of Eat Leeds

Review by Jill, 28 February 2013

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