This is a new featurette on my and my friends’ favourite local and independent shops, eateries, pubs and bars. I really support small independent businesses and think that they provide the best products, best customer service and the best experience. I would choose the smaller guy over all big company stores, however the main problem as is for most people is money; giant companies have a buying power that goes with their size and can reduce their prices to an artificial low compared to the little guy next door. I believe in a micro-economy where the economy is made up of lots and lots of small businesses and chain stores or bars are limited to only so many outlets. If there are more independent stores and more people shop with them, then prices will improve, you’ll recieve better customer service and you will be supporting the owners, their workers and their famillies. To kick it off, I am looking into what is now my new favourite bar in Leeds city centre, Friends of Ham.
Me and my partner had a great weekend away in Leeds to celebrate a few friends’ birthdays and was informed by a regular at our old local about a new bar in town with a good range of beer. We love real ale so we wandered down the next night to investigate. Situated a few minutes walk from the railway station, the bar is in a small shop front with stairs at the back descending to a large seating area with tables, chairs and comfy sofas to lounge on. Friends of Ham has only been open for 6 weeks but its already got so much right as a business.
The bar area, decked out in pale wood with matching stools, is plain and simple. It has 3 hand pull ales and 6 beer fonts, that change on a regular basis, and a large fridge stocked with a great array of bottled beers mainly from Britain, U.S.A and Belgium amongst others. The list of wine is small but each is individually choosen for its flavour and they even feature a white and sparkling wine from a Leeds vineyard just miles away. Will have to try some next time I’m there. A few ciders complete the selection along with some specialist port. As with most craft beer bars, the drinks tend to be high priced but you pay for a quality product, great environment and normally a high ABV. The selection at Ham is definately quality over quantity
All the draught drinks were served in 1/3, 2/3, halfs or pints for lower percentage, and thankfully reminds you that you are drinking an 8% beer. As for our favourites, I drank Delerium Red, a Belgium cherry beer at 8.4% and Bristol Beer Factory’s, Milk Stout 4.5%. My partner started on Magic Rock, Canonball, a double I.P.A at 7.4%, he followed with another I.P.A by Oregon based brewery, Rogue Ales, named Brutal I.P.A at 6%. The Drinks were great but what really left a delicious impact was the small but perfectly formed food menu. Choose from plates of specialist Cheeses from Britain, France and Spain and/or, you guessed it, Hams and Beef. The Charcuterie Hams are from Britain, Spain or Italy, and are all flavoured with unique mixes of herbs and spices, and are matured from weeks to even years. Most indivdual plates are priced from £4.50 to £6.5o but we shared a two meat + two cheese plate for £13.50, the must thing to do while there to try some of their selection. A mix of snacks and nibbles adds to the experience and all the food can be bought as takeaway too. If I had to choose one meat and one cheese again, I loved the Lardo and the Monte Enebro. Nom Nom!
Not only was the food brilliant, the staff all seemed geniunely nice too. All friendly and knowledgeable about their products and services, I could not fault them if I tried. Having walked past a Yates’ at the top of the street with a brawl falling out of the front door on a saturday night, we were pleased to find Friends of Ham with a busy but relaxed atmosphere and not noisy at all, perfect for conversation. Even though I liked its quiet relaxed ambience, I could not keep this gem to myself. We will definately be going back to try the pricey but intriguing 4 year matured acorn fed ham, Senorio Iberico Bellota, and as they told us, ‘A friend of ham is a friend of ours’.
So go make friends with them and check them out at https://www.facebook.com/friendsofham