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!!
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)!
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.
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.
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!!
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).
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.
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.