Leeds bar is ‘best place to drink’ in the country

Friends of Ham, in New Station Street, Leeds.

Friends of Ham, in New Station Street, Leeds.

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AN independent Leeds bar has been lauded as the best place to drink in the UK at a national food and drink awards.

Friends of Ham, in New Station Street, Leeds, a venue run by first-time bar owners Anthony and Claire Kitching, was awarded the prestigious title at the 2014 Observer Food Monthly Awards, in London, on Thursday.

Championing the best growers, producers, restaurants, chefs, food initiatives and retailers in Britain, the highly-prized awards are now in their 11th year.

Friends of Ham opened just two and a half years ago, after husband and wife Anthony and Claire decided to head back to their northern roots from London and leave their respective careers in construction management and headhunting.

Focusing on pairing fine meats and cheeses with craft ales and wines, the two-floored venue has proved a success since opening and has had rave reviews.

Co-owner Anthony, 34, told the YEP: “It shows there is a good independent scene in Leeds and it also shows that the media, that can be quite London-centric, can look beyond the city to see things are happening elsewhere.

“In Leeds there are a lot of people with a lot of ideas that are starting to get off the ground.”

The couple, who now live in Cookridge, chose Leeds to open their first bar after trips to America and central Europe gave them a taste for craft beer and charcuterie – a branch of cooking devoted to meat products. The venue has since tripled its groundfloor bar space, which offers 14 beer taps and 150 bottles.

Observer Food Monthly editor Allan Jenkins said: “Whether it’s an unsung chef producing brilliant Michelin star food in Abergavenny at 67, or a craft beer utopia in Leeds, or a motorway service station outside Gloucester baking world-class cakes, the days of London’s crushing domination of the food scene are finally over.”

Visit www.friendsofham.com for information.

Raymond Manners.

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