I go to Friends of Ham regularly and have done since they opened; I'm not an employee, this isn't a paid review - I'm just a "friend of ham".
This review's perspective is mine alone and should be taken into account along with the other reviews on this site; I then suggest a visit to form your own perspective :)
Oh yes - it's quite a long review because I want to give you the reader as much information as possible! :)
Just over a year ago (from time of writing) Friends of Ham (FoH from now on - it's shorter to type) opened up on New Station Street in Leeds; they celebrated their first birthday on July 10, 2013.
They'd been on Twitter prior to opening with many people - myself included - following them as they posted about the trials and tribulations of converting the previous noodle bar into what is now one of the best places in Leeds for deli style meat and cheeses platters, craft beers and fantastic wines.
Finally they opened and what a place! I'd encourage anyone to try FoH at least once - and I'd be surprised if there wasn't a return visit.
The owners Claire and Anthony ("Kitch") Kitching have done themselves proud and have created an excellent addition to the Leeds food and drink landscape.
FoH isn't huge - but it's also not tiny either; the ground floor is where the well stocked bar is as well and where the food preparation takes place. There is some seating whilst the downstairs hosts further seating, a shuffleboard table (yes you read that right!) and the toilets.
Wood and industrial scaffolding make up the architecture of the place - and it really works well. Brown paper is used for on-wall menus showing the regular wines as well as specials of both the food and drink variety and announcements of any upcoming special events.
Stools are used upstairs to allow limited at the bar seating and there's some along the back wall opposite the bar. Downstairs is populated by chairs and sofas in small groupings as well as a hefty wooden bench and table set running down the middle of the room. Books on beers are on (yes you guessed) wooden / scaffolding shelves along with board games if you want to chill out.
I've seen people look in, see it's a little crowded and walk on; if this is you it's worth coming in and seeing if there's any seats downstairs or if it's just going to be a short wait.
FoH don't serve spirits, it's not what they wanted to do. You'll find no major mainstream lagers or bitters here so if that's what you like in a bar - this isn't the place to be.
However, if you like to try different independent beers both draught and in bottles with a sprinkling of ciders along with fabulous continental wines, and you enjoy cured meats, cheeses and such like - then this is your kind of place.
The measures for beer are 1/3, 1/2 and pints; many are only sold in lower measures due to the high alcohol content. Anything that's on draught you're welcome to have a taste of. The staff know their beer - so don't be shy in asking questions and letting them know what sort of tastes you like etc. - they'll try to help you get the beer you want - whether it's draught or bottle (no samples from bottles folks remember).
The beers tend to change regularly and season on season too. When a beer runs out completely then that's it - a different one tends to take its place. That's the thing about craft beer - you buy in so much and use it up; no huge lorries restocking cellars here - this is the real deal when it comes to expanding your beer tasting horizons.
Many American beers are on show - some often make their way onto a draught pump every now and again - so it's not just British and continental Europe brews that are the stars.
They choose their beers to complement their food - so again don't be shy in asking about food pairing. The FoH staff are always happy to help in that regard.
FoH have also paired up with breweries to brew special seasonal beers too. Now that's dedication to bringing customers great beer!
The wines are also carefully picked to complement the food. Whites, reds often a rosé along with sparkling wines too. They tend to keep some firm favourites in all the time (mine is the wonderful Spanish Borsoa red - excellent with their food or by itself) but again FoH mix it up and bring in specials to keep the choice fresh for their customers.
Now the food - well - where to start!
There's always two legs of Spanish ham on show; in their holders just like you'd see in Spain.
Along with this is Italian meat like prosciutto as well as various salamis and cured sausages; some of the meats are now being sourced from Leeds and UK suppliers to add a fantastic mix / variation of what's on offer.
Cheeses next - always a wonderful selection - not huge but enough to cover every cheese lover's taste. Again a mix of continental Europe and British are present.
You can choose to have meat or cheese by itself or 3 mixed on a platter and the same for cheese. If you fancy some of each then maybe the 2 meat / 2 cheese platter might hit the spot. Artisan bread, cornichons or olives and a lot of care and attention go into each board that comes out from behind the bar where they're prepared - so you can get to see the theatre that is your food platter in the making.
A favourite of FoH is scotch eggs - but be warned when they are on the menu they sell out fast. Yes! they are that good! When served along with the chilli / pepper ("chipper") jam they make a great accompaniment to beer, wine or cider.
Portions of olives, chillies or almonds are available as well as a small selection of crisps (potato chips to any US readers) and - of course - pork scratchings! Well this is a "hamporium" after all :)
What also makes FoH a very unique place are the events they run. They work with wine merchants to do wine tasting with food pairing, or small breweries for "Meet the Brewer" nights where beers from the chosen brewer are showcased and again with food pairings.
Recently there was a "learn to carve a Spanish ham" night with an expert carver from London taking the attendees (myself included) through a whirlwind tour of the different types of ham, tastings of each and then the carving. Coupled with this was a local wine merchant taking attendees through various sherries that compliment the hams.
The events tend to be ticketed - the "Meet the Brewer" evenings usually shut the place down for the day because of the high attendance; other events may just mean closing downstairs.
As mentioned at the start, FoH have just celebrated their first birthday with a night that included live music and a selection of one off beers that members of staff helped brew in collaboration with independent breweries!
I'm biased being a regular to FoH - but I'd suggest that if you haven't tried Friends of Ham then do so :)
As they print on their take out paper bags - Trot On!