For now, it’s a Christmas pop-up, but Ham & Friends is set to become the city’s newest bar…
No, we didn’t get the order mixed up, the people behind Leeds favourite Friends of Ham are giving us a new concept venue called Ham & Friends, but before they officially launch, they’re doing a festive pop-up in their Grand Arcade venue. Think of it as a taster of all the scrumptious things to come.
The pop-up wasn’t originally part of the plan. Owners Claire and Anthony Kitching had hoped Ham & Friends would be open by now, but it seems fate had other plans. You see, their new venue is in Grand Arcade and it’s a listed building, so they’ve had a lot more hoops to jump through this time around. The result? Their autumn 2016 opening has turned into a spring 2017 one.
Luckily, we don’t have to wait that long to get a taste of their new offering, because they’ve kicked out the builders for a month and launched a festive pop-up in the downstairs space, which is now open. By day, it’s a shop where you can pick up everything from organic wine to ham legs, then at night, it transforms into a bar with a few surprises up its sleeve.
It’s reminiscent of Friends of Ham, bringing in many of the aspects the we know and love, including their festive hampers. In fact, they were the inspiration behind the new pop-up, because it gives them the space they need to do them justice. They come filled with cheese, wine and beer, as well as speciality products like quince paste and chutney – but you can also get each item individually, including their famed ham legs, which you’ll obviously be wanting for your Christmas charcuterie.
If you’re more interested in the bar, you’ll find a lot to love there too. It’s open all day Saturday and Sunday, as well as every weeknight – and promises a vast array of wine, by the bottle or glass, alongside prosecco, beer and soft drinks. It’s a Christmas pop-up, so you can expect mulled wine too, which will go perfectly with the raclette. Sweet tooth? Try the festive brownies.
It’s not just about food and drink here, although that’s definitely one of the major pulls – they’ve also lined up a packed calendar of events, with live jazz every Sunday afternoon and a winema every Tuesday – yes, that’s right, we’re talking film and wine pairings. Entry includes the film screening and three glasses of wine.
So that’s the pop-up, but what have they got planned for the venue? More of the same really. Obviously it will be beautifully finished and they’ll have an extra floor to play with, which means some very exciting additions. It’s going to have a refrigerated cheese room run by George & Joseph (you’ve got to love indie collaborations), with over 200 wines available to buy in the shop alongside all manner of tasty treats.
As well as the shop, they’re going to have a 40 seat restaurant, using fresh, locally sourced produce and products from the shop to create an ever-changing menu that pays homage to the ingredients. They’ll also have their own private space for events, which will include wine tastings and sessions from Yorkshire Wine School.
Now, how about an insider tip? We asked Claire for a couple of personal recommendations, “There are so many stand out wines that would knock your socks off, it’s hard to know where to start – but try Gentle Folk Rainbow Juice, an Australian organic wine made using 19 different grape varieties named after the maker’s wife.”
Like Friends of Ham before it, Ham & Friends is set to be one of the city’s standout venues, and this Christmas pop-up offers the perfect opportunity to get a taste of what they’re going to do, ahead of their opening in spring. So if you’re looking for somewhere to new for festive drinks, this is the place to go.
Ham & Friends, Grand Arcade, Merrion Street, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS1 6PG.Cover image credit: Tom Joy