Friends of Ham, Leeds

Ah, I love Friends of Ham and I know I’m one of MANY! A lot’s been said about the place since opening in a once less favourable part of town. But with FoH and the irrepressible Laynes Espresso, it’s taken time, but this end of the city centre has become an area where independents want to set up shop, just look at Bundobust and Tharavadu around the corner! The place was always too popular for its square footage, so I whooped with joy (along with many others I suspect) when they knocked down the wall to next doors Cash Store and opened a few weeks later, looking absolutely stunning!

I’m ashamed to say my last visit was almost six months ago though, August if memory serves me right, a few months before the renovations. A mate and I popped in for lunch, got greedy, ordered three dishes – one of their sharing boards, bruschetta and a salad. A couple of hours later of grazing on wonderful produce and equally good beverages we left completely spent! But since admiring them from street level on a regular basis, usually when dropping into Laynes, I’d hadn’t managed to pop in.

For a catch up with a friend last Wednesday, I suggested starting off in FoH, then I wanted to try out Cafe Moors new takeaway Caravanserai. You know what they say about all the best laid plans….we soon became seduced by our surroundings – all that meat and cheese, oh my! By 7pm it’d become pretty full, as I can imagine it does most evenings it’s that popular, so we took up a couple of free seats at the Ham Bar. It was such a good move!!

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It’s well known that FoH’s drinks list holds it own against their carefully sourced food menu, so I mustn’t forget to mention their wine. I’m no wine connoisseur, but our Pinot Noir definitely helped reaffirm my new found love of the grape variety, after having some duds in the past, not from FoH I may add though (£19)!

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As I mentioned earlier, the plan was to have a drink, possibly a snack, then move on for a feed. But their menu is so enticing, it’s too tempting to have a nosey and before you know it you set your sights on something; in my case the Nduja which I adore, and my friend the bruschetta. 

It’s pretty difficult to talk about food sometimes, because when an experience is so good I just want to eat it all over again rather than write about it! Being a visual person, photos always make me reminisce, bringing back those same feelings and sensations. Quick to give my friend a heads up of the portion sizes, especially after I’d overfaced myself in the past, it was her turn to see what I meant when our order was brought over. The bruschetta (£7) was huge with bread generously draped in glorious Jabugo Iberico ham, thinly sliced and topped with olive tapenade and cherry tomatoes.

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If that wasn’t good enough, then next up was the Nduja (£6.50). I’m a massive fan of this spicy Calabrian sausage,  served on warm lightly toasted bread, it was a real shame to share it, because secretly I wanted it all for myself!! Without a doubt it won a new admirer in my friend; there was first lust after telling her it was a spreadable sausage, which almost immediately turned into love after the first bite. 

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Apart from the food and drink (which is a given), one of the things I really love about FoH has to be the staff. They’re obviously busy doing their job, but also more than happy to chat about their work and the produce whilst we sat there. It made us both a little, no I tell a lie, very jealous, to the point where we half joked about jacking in teaching to work behind the counter, but I suppose for now living vicariously through them would have to suffice. Another plus point of our advantageous position being sat at the bar – every now and again we were given the odd little taster – firstly spicy chorizo, then a Lancashire and finally a Comte cheese, simply the best seat in the house!!

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In the background wafts of smells from melting cheese came over us and I looked across to see Raclette being prepared…..ok, thoughts of going to Caravanserai were now put on the back burner, as we both knew we had to stay for Raclette!! I was transfixed watching LOTS of melted Ogleshield being scraped off onto potatoes and topped with cornichons, the added extra of meat was also too much to bare and slices of Serrano ham was the result (£10, £6.50 without meat).

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A few people had ordered it before us, but the wait was completely and utterly worth it!!! Such a WINNER of a dish, definitely a comfort food dish which for me is best when shared. Washed down with a sneaky carafe of the same Pinot Noir we’d been enjoying all evening.

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So there you have it – I ADORE Friends of Ham, it ticks all the boxes for me. I really need to get my act together and not leave my next visit so long, hopefully I’ll see you in there? I’ll be sat at the Ham bar. 

Friends of Ham

4 New Station St
Leeds
West Yorkshire
LS1 5DL
0113 242 0275

Friends of Ham on Urbanspoon

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The Swine That Dines, Leeds

The Greedy Pig needs no introduction in Leeds, with a name that’s synonymous for serving great plates for breakfast, brunch and lunch. Whether you go for their famed full English (arguably the best breakfast in Leeds), the fluffiest pancakes, the most amazing scotch eggs, burgers and nose to tail tapas – you always walk out utterly satisfied. It may be a little out of the way, located in the outer reaches of the city’s northern quarter; but with neighbours The Reliance nearby, and of course the Belgrave Music Hall (as well as other well known haunts) literally just up the road, they’re in esteemed company. And anyway, who really cares about the distance when the food and people make it totally worth it!!

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The last few months they’d quietly fundraised; their aim, to build a toilet so they could open in the evenings. Many people supported them in the efforts, especially through their pie and mash nights, with profits going towards their toilet fund. Although they’re well known in these parts for their cafe menu, the long term plan was always to offer more formal dishes, where they could use their knowledge and skills to full use. 

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Now even though I try my best not to accept free invitations, there was NO way I was going to decline this one! I’m not sorry on this occasion!! They’d given a teaser of what may be on the menu with a snap of pigs trotters, so I was dying to know what else would be on offer, especially after knowing their penchant for offal and lesser used cuts of meat. I was up for anything so ‘game on’. 

On a cold chilly evening, a few of The Greedy Pig supporters were treated to some dishes from their up and coming themed menus, and it was nice to see some friendly faces; Lil Dix (Whip Until Fluffy), Amy Elizabeth, Ewan Mitchell, Leeds Pop Ups, Gary the Food Nut and People of leeds. 

Here’s a series of photos from the evening: dishes were from different supper club events, including Nose to tail, Roots to Shoots, Pig ‘n’ Squid and McSwines Night.

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Mock scotch broth
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Pigs trotters
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Butternut squash, aubergine, pepper, seeds and pomegranate – part of Roots to Shoots
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Crispy pigs head , black pudding, apple sauce and samphire
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Pork belly, razor clam, chick peas and samphire
Crispy porridge
Crispy porridge

Out of all the dishes, from six good plates my highlights were the crispy pigs head with black pudding, crispy porridge which was a completely new one on me and finally the scotch broth. All in all it was such a lovely evening with lots of chatter, giggles and good food provided by great hosts!

The Greedy Pig’s aim is to host a series of super clubs every Friday and a themed night monthly; this month sees them celebrating Burns Night, which happens to be sold out!! NO surprise that their then. Keep your eyes peeled for their upcoming events!

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The Greedy Pig

58 North St

Leeds

West Yorkshire

LS2 7PN

https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Greedy-Pig/101684753228381

Sambuca, Leeds

One of my favourite things things is going to the cinema, since high school I’ve been a regular and I’m more than happy to spend a few hours watching a film with salty popcorn in one hand and some sort of beverage in the other. Even though I’m more than happy to drive across Leeds and visit my favourite cinema, the Hyde Park Picture House, living in South West Leeds means it’s easier for me to drive to the Showcase cinema in the Birstall Retail Park to get my fix.

The in-laws also like to partake in a bit of cinema action and Sunday evening we went to watch The Theory of Everything. Unlike myself, they prefer eating a proper meal than just graze on popcorn beforehand, but with our nearest cinema being the Showcase you’ll only find the usual chains in terms of restaurants. That’s absolutely fine if that’s how you want to play it, but we wanted to see if there were any local finds. 

They’d asked me if I had any inside knowledge on Morley restaurants, to my detriment I didn’t really have a clue. We just used to go to Amaans for a curry, but apart from that I’m no use whatsoever!! So they went to TripAdvisor for guidance, not something I tend to use very often, but it does have its uses when you’ve no idea about an area, and isn’t really found on local blogs!!! Hmmmm maybe something I should be doing more of on here then, eh?! 

One called Sambuca popped onto their radar, an Italian spot found just off Morley’s main pedestrianised street Queen’s Street. As you can tell I’m absolutely rubbish when it comes to knowing my local area well, a major fault I know. Ask me where the bare necessities are like the supermarket, post office, bank and dentist are, I can tell you those. But I was pretty hopeless knowing the whereabouts of this place until I looked further, realising it’s just near my local vets and the post office!!! 

Once again, apologies for rubbish photos, all taken on my phone.

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On arrival we were greeted warmly and given a table at the back of the small dining room, it has a homely feel and gives you the sense of Italy with the music playing in the background and walls decorated with lots of Italian maps. From the off, there was a friendliness from the staff and we found it easy to feel relaxed.

A bottle of house red was ordered, an easy drinking Merlot which we found more than a quaffable drop after we left it to breathe.

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With a  menu full of Italian classic dishes and a handful of specials for both starter and the main course, there’s plenty to get your teeth into. With a little guidance from our helpful server we’d all decided, I wanted something not too heavy, because as my other half will testify, there has been many a time when I’ll be having a mini snooze while all hell is breaks loose on the big screen!!

Service was good and attentive throughout, with our starters seeming to arrive in no time at all! One of the first things I noticed were the generous portion sizes, in particular with the fishcakes. They were massive!! With my penchant for meatballs, I chose that over some other lovely sounding starters and wasn’t disappointed, as they were delicious. I would have gladly eaten another portion of them, they were meaty, with a flavourful tomato sauce and covered in melted mozzarella cheese. A great start! The other two starters both hit the mark two, with well cooked prawns and fishcakes, a little chilli heat in the sauces to keep it interesting. 

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After such a good start, plates were cleared and after a short break the main courses were brought out. I’d gone for the lobster ravioli special, not going heavy on carbs in the starter would hopefully mean I wouldn’t get too full, or too sleepy! It was a lovely dish and not as rich as first expected, which was a good thing. The pasta was quite thin and not heavy, filled with sweet lobster and covered in a generous amount of sauce.  

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The other two main courses were well received, especially the linguine, which came with chicken, mushrooms, sun-dried tomato and a cream sauce.  The chicken with spinach was enormous!! The chicken itself was probably enough for two people and was smothered in spinach, with a white wine and cream sauce.  Comments apart from it being tasty and huge, was that it had quite a bit of garlic in it, making her apologise for whoever would be sitting next to her in the cinema!

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Instead of having ice-cream at the cinema, a portion of vanilla and strawberry ice-cream was ordered. Again coming out in super-quick time, was pretty standard in terms of quality and polished off quickly. Lastly some Limoncello shots were brought out to finish our meal off and very nice they were too!

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All in all, a lovely meal! Who knew there would be this place so close by?! The total cost of dinner was £77 with a tip. 

Food: Lots on the menu, all the usual classics with some decent sounding specials. Generous portions and well cooked.

Service: Staff made us feel welcome immediately, they were friendly, chatty and helpful throughout. Waiting times were good. 

Atmosphere: It’s a small restaurant with a bit of character, an eclectic mix of music plays in the background whether it be Italian standards or hits from the 80’s and 90’s. 

Sambuca

2 Queens Place

Morley

Leeds

LS27 8HG

http://www.sambucamorley.co.uk

Sambuca on Urbanspoon

What would you like to eat in Leeds in 2015?

This week the subject of food trends has come up, as it does at the start of every year, with different publications and social media coming up with their own predictions on the matter. Just today trailblazers Leeds Indie Food started the conversation about what food trends 2015 would see. As you Leeds folk may or may not have seen, it was the year of the burger, frankly I think it was hard to miss!! 

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photo taken from Twitter

So, I was thinking not just about trends, but how may that relate to Leeds, what’s missing in the city’s food and drink scene. I don’t necessarily mean Michelin stars, however great it would be for one of the city’s establishments to hold one, but in terms of cuisine,  what would you like to eat?

Being a massive brunch fan, I love the fact that the awesome team at Laynes Espresso do their monthly brunch at Belgrave Music Hall with such aplomb, and of course we have amazing breakfasts from The Greedy Pig, The Grub & Grog Shop and others in Leeds. However, I know from other cities, e.g. London and San Francisco how much brunch is truly embraced and it would be the brilliant to have more of this in Leeds’ food and drink culture too.

I’d love to see somewhere selling Poutine, the Canadian dish famed for it’s dreamy combination of fries, cheese curds and light gravy. Most recently we ate it at Antler Poutine & Burger in Krakow a few months ago. It was good, so good in fact they they serve it in the burger too, yeah I know you could do it it yourself and add it in, but I just loved to combination of the two!!! Love burgers? Love Poutine, it would make my day if we had it here too!!! Anybody else love Poutine? 

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Antler’s Quebec burger with Poutine

What do you think? Are their any types of cuisines, or specific dishes you’d like to see more of?

Sunday lunch at Malmaison

Malmaison say the serve ‘The Biggest Sunday Lunch in Town’, a bold claim which is a fairly easy one to fulfil, but is it any good? The other half and I were invited last Sunday to join a friend who’d purchased a deal through Groupon, and as we hadn’t been out for a Sunday Roast in quite a while it made a nice change. Intrigued by their boast, I’d read up a little to find out more, reading a review of their Sunday lunch in Leeds List.  It praised it to the hilt, so with a review so positive I thought it’d be a worth a crack.

With service well underway, we arrived for a booking at 1:30pm to see it was pretty busy as you can imagine, with what looked like at least two thirds of a full dining room. After a little bit of table moving from the diners around us to fit in, we just managed to squeeze in to sit down. A gentleman then explained what was included in the £19.95 deal – soups and appetisers are unlimited, all presented at the front of the dining room were you basically help yourself, making it dangerously easy to overfill on the first course! The second course offers up a choice of brunch dishes, such as their Mal big brunch breakfast, eggs benedict, eggs florentine or main dishes like roast beef or chicken, then sea bass, burger and a risotto. Finally desserts are ordered at the end. 

The following photos show as selection of the so-called chef’s table; salads, meats, fish, terrines, cheeses, chutneys, also sausage rolls, scotch eggs and more! Trying to hold ourselves back from basically getting a mountain of food was a tad difficult, especially when sausage rolls and sliced meats are involved!!  

Apologies for the poor photos (taken on my phone).

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It was a little odd getting such a diverse plate of appetisers to start our meal, it felt like I was on an upmarket school training course! On the whole it was tasty, and quantities were topped up on a regular basis with the chef regularly returning to the table. The only thing which I wasn’t quite keen on was this odd savoury breaded cheese disc. Served cold, it was quite hard and not particularly tasty, and I’m not saying that because I’m not the biggest cheese fan, my other two dining companions said the same. 

We successfully denied ourselves a second helping and waited a short time for two roast beef and one burger (other half) to be brought out. It was nice touch that on ordering our second courses at the start of the meal, we were asked how well done we wanted the beef, both of us requested it pink which they stuck to! 

The beef had good flavour and was served with a generous amount of gravy and a decent Yorkshire pudding. For two people the portion of vegetables was plentiful and were pretty well cooked, apart from the sprouts. They arrived very pale green in appearance making me think they’d been overcooked, but turned out to be undercooked inside, as it was difficult to cut into them! My friend and I were a bit baffled by it all really!

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The other half’s burger was ok (just) I suppose, no more than that! After being given the choice of having it either medium or well done, and opting for medium, it arrived well done! Bacon which topped it was quite burnt rather than lovely and crisp, as you can see in the photo. Even though the fries were good, it’s wasn’t enough to redeem the burger. Something probably should’ve been said at that point,  but we were hungry and the other half simply couldn’t be bothered to wait. 

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Time for desserts, on the menu were classics like sticky toffee pudding, creme brûlée and a cheese board. I’m a bit picky when it comes to desserts, normally going for something light such as a sorbet, so the choices weren’t really what I would usually go for. A little while later two creme brûlée and one hot chocolate were brought across. The creme brûlée was a success with the other half, being one of his favourites he was a happy man. I’d also picked the brûlée, but as I was getting quite full and find the dessert a little rich I ate just half. That doesn’t mean it wasn’t a nice dessert, it possessed the crack from the thin layer of caramelised sugar, underneath was a creamy and smooth set custard with lots of flecks from vanilla seeds running through it. It’s just a shame I didn’t do it justice. 

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Overall this is was a Sunday lunch with good and bad bits, fortunately with the voucher two of us had a free meal, as if I had to pay full price I’m not sure I would choose to do it again. Sometimes quality over quantity is the way to go I reckon, even if it sound like a great deal!

With the Sunday roast being a such popular meal, there are plenty of independent spots that do a fine one, such as The Cross Keys, Adelphi, Bird & Beast  amongst others.

Food: There’s variety on the menu, but the quality was a little hit and miss for me, it needs more consistency across the whole menu. 

Service: Staff were polite and friendly, apart from forgetting to get our bill at the end the service was good.

Atmosphere: It was a busy dining room, lots of tables are close together meaning lots of diners. A nice buzz, at times it felt a little uncomfortable being so close to other tables, literally my friend and I were back to back to the table next to us. 

Malmaison

12 Swinegate

Leeds

LS1 4AG 

084469 30654

https://www.malmaison.com/locations/leeds/brasserie