Review: Ham & Friends, Grand Arcade Leeds

Primark is filled with tinsel. Lattes are only served in festive cups. The heating is officially ‘on’. Yes friends, Christmas is coming. This is my absolute favourite time of year. I love the dark, cosy nights lit up with candles and fairy lights. I love the chill in the air and the sense of magic around the corner. The busy calendars, the parties and of course, THE CHEESE.

Ham & Friends of course opened in Leeds last year, but we unfortunately haven’t had chance to visit until last night. Having tried to get into Friends of Ham (v optimistic at 6.30pm on a Saturday evening), and with charcuterie on our minds, we thought we’d given Ham & Friends a go.

We showed up with no reservation and they happily seated us, though we had to leave the table within an hour or two as a big party was coming in. Not a problem for us, as the bar looked really welcoming for us to move into after.

We opted for the cauliflower cheese croquettes, as recommended by the waitress, with some bread and butter and then a sharing plate of two cheese and two meats.

The bread was delicious and crusty and served with an absolute mountain of fresh, salty butter. I could have just eaten this and been happy!

The croquettes were incredible – a gorgeous breadcrumbed bullet of cheesy joy, with soft pieces of cauliflower nestled in a cheesy sauce. I couldn’t put my finger on the cheese but if I had to guess there was something gooey and slightly smelly in there like an epoisses or raclette.

For the sharing platter we ordered the Vacherin Mont D’Or, the Monte Enebro (Spanish blue goats) with the Jesus Pays de Basque salami and the bresola. It was great to be able to include the Vacherin on the sharing platter – this is my all time favourite cheese. At their sister bar, Friends of Ham, it’s often only available as part of a pre-made up board and is also usually served fridge-cold (v upsetting). The Vacherin was pleasingly room temperature and definitely ripe. It was delicious with the crusty bread. The Monte Enebro had a lovely chalkiness that goats cheese has and definitely had lots of character. Meat wise, the salami was good but the bresola really stole the show, it was so savoury and melt in the mouth.

My only niggle would be that the same boards at Friends of Ham come with cornichons and crackers as well as bread, and if we hadn’t ordered extra bread we might have been a bit short.

The overall interior is really cosy, with lots of fairy lights and very Instagrammable marble topped tables.

The service was quick and friendly and with drinks included we spent around £25 each. You would struggle to get a better meal and atmosphere for that in many places in Leeds, we’ll definitely be coming back!!

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