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, Iberico Bellota is a pricey £17.50 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.
There’s no cooker here, no microwave, no hissing Gaggia. Anything cooked is bought in like the Scotch eggs from the Handmade Scotch Egg Company – black pudding Scotch eggs recommended - to the ciabatta from the Creative Bakery in Shipley. And if you want a coffee, get it yourself from Laynes Espresso next door.
None of this matters a jot when the quality of what they serve is so good. They are 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.
4 New Station Street, Leeds LS1 5DL, West YorkshireTel 0113 242 0275
Review by Jill, 28 February 2013blog comments powered by Disqus