Like Roald Dahl’s pig in ‘The Pig’, we’ve all tried to puzzle out what life was really all about. At Friends of Ham on New Station Street where I spent my monday night, I think they’ve figured it out. I’d heard through the grapevine the odd whisper about paper thin slices of Carne Salata Malenca (beef that’s taken a week long soak in a bath of salt, pepper, cinnamon nutmeg plus other wonders) and I’d waited patiently for my fourth year of freshers’ hangovers to subside in order to go and indulge in the simple brilliance of the meat and cheese combination. And ohhh the wait was worth it. Now, I’m not generally into eating pig (I know.. I know) so I took along my friend Sophie, who has just returned from Milan and needed to find her own slice of Italy in Leeds to sample the swine side of things.
We opted for a seat downstairs on the end of a long, central table and took in the sights: stacks of books about beer, a table shuffleboard (more on that later), comfortable sofas, a wall dedicated to portraits of pigs, water in glass bottles and a plethora of happy people. If you’re looking for a chilled out date location, this is definitely the place. It’s cosy but not overbearing, sophisticated not stale.
On a side note, they do specialise in supplying beer from local microbreweries, and want to spread the word that beer doesn’t just mean lager; message received loud and clear- I am converted. If you’re into that, I recommend the Calico Jack- the ginger stout by Summer Wine aged in rum barrels, it’s something else. If you ask nicely then they will probably let you have a little taste rather than committing to the full pint. I might be right in thinking that they also serve most of their draught beers and ciders in thirds too, I’d recommend grabbing a seat at the bar and making your way through their barman’s recommendations.
We shared a board of meats including the afore mentioned beef and some course cut chorizo, brie, and a blue cheese by Blur’s Alex James, if your brain starts singing “you should cut down on your porklife mate, get some exercise!” don’t listen, they never meant it. All of this was accompanied by a variety of pickles, bread, crackers, olives and chutneys, plus a glass of jaw achingly delicious smoked almonds. We were then befriended by some smartly dressed Yorkshire boys and coerced into playing table shuffle board. This is not something I’d ever encountered but if like me you are lucky enough to have the kind of coordination that allows you to excel at beer pong, or even if like Sophie your hand eye coordination works against you when table sports are involved, please just go and play this and turn it into a drinking game and tell me about it.
The Friends of Ham ethos means that they combine excellent local products with specially imported Spanish and Italian meats, ideal if you’re having withdrawal symptoms from your Italian Erasmus year or from your summer in Spain. We spent ￡10 each on food and drink and left feeling very satisfied. Be friends of ham, with Friends of Ham.