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New to Leeds: Ham & Friends

· Ali Turner · Food and Drink

There’s a good reason why the name sounds familiar, this new concept bar comes from the folk behind Friends of Ham.

Ham & Friends

It’s been a long time coming, but Ham & Friends is finally ready to open its doors.

No, we didn’t get the order mixed up, the people behind Leeds favourite Friends of Ham are giving us a new venue called Ham & Friends. It’s opened up in Grand Arcade, where they’ve transformed the space into a cool, homely bar that takes their original bar concept and builds on it, big time.

Ham & Friends

Credit: Ben Bentley

They officially open on Friday 28th April 2017, but it’s not their first time they’ve opened their doors to the public – in fact, they launched a Christmas pop-up in the space back in December, giving us a taste of what they had to offer. The pop-up wasn’t originally part of the plan. Owners Claire and Anthony Kitching had hoped Ham & Friends would be open last year, but fate had other plans. You see, Grand Arcade is a listed building, so even though they’ve done this before, they’ve had a lot more hoops to jump through this time around. The result? Their autumn 2016 opening turned into a spring 2017 one.

The new venue is a conglomeration of all the things we love about Friends of Ham – it’s a food hall, a wine shop, a bar and restaurant, all rolled into one. The shop will sell cheese, charcuterie and homeware – but what we’re really excited about is the wine. They’ve lined the shelves with over 200 low intervention wines, all of which can be bought and drunk on the premises for a small corkage fee, making this a surprisingly affordable choice.

Ham & Friends

Credit: Ben Bentley

With so many options at Ham & Friends, you can try something new every time you visit – and they’ll have an ever-changing ‘by the glass’ list too, just in case you don’t want to share a bottle with your mates (or your date). The tricky part will be choosing what to order, so we caught up with Claire and Anthony to get their 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,” Claire suggested, and if you fancy something a bit different, Anthony has just the thing. “Try a white wine with a bit of skin contact – so made a bit like a red wine where the skins are left with the juice rather than removed before fermentation. They can take on an orange tinge, which is why they’re often described as orange wines, though they don’t always. They can be incredibly aromatic and are great food wines.”

Ham & Friends

Credit: Ben Bentley

There’s a real focus on collaboration at Ham & Friends. For example, The Yorkshire Wine School have already moved in, and they’ll be offering all manner of fabulous tastings in the weeks to come. They’re not the only ones either – local cheesemongers George and Joseph have their own walk-in cheese room (that’s right, a whole room of cheese) where you can pick up a block or two, with some of the finest cheeses around adorning the shelves.

And all this is just the beginning, because in May, they’re going to launch the second stage of Ham & Friends – the restaurant. It’s a proper sit-down affair, as opposed to the sharing platters we’re accustomed to at Friends of Ham. They’re going to serve up a menu of British inspired dishes with a few European influences, using fresh, seasonal produce – this is Yorkshire, after all, so they have everything they need, right on their doorstep.

If first impressions are everything, then Ham & Friends has a very bright future ahead of it – you might even end up liking it more than the original. Check it out for yourself and let us know.

Ham & Friends, Grand Arcade, Merrion Street, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS1 6PG.

Cover image credit: Tom Joy