Friends of Ham, Leeds: ‘I do love a good brie’.

It is completely acceptable to tuck into a spot of cheese and crackers with a glass of something, by yourself. In fact, there have been many times when I’ve resorted to this if I’ve wanted a quick dinner but not been particularly hungry. Even at University, I always seemed to have a giant chunk of Cathedral City cheddar in the fridge (and of course, some wine) and found myself enjoying the two when I seemed to be low on food – so much so, that I once asked for a ‘Jacob’s Biscuits for Cheese’ Selection for Christmas.

‘Even at University, I always seemed to have a giant chunk of Cathedral City cheddar in the fridge – and of course, some wine’.

Another combination I resorted to was a big bowl of cheesy pasta. Boil the pasta until it’s just gone from slightly al dente to soft, then serve it in a big bowl. Whilst it’s still steaming hot, grate long strands of cheddar over it and just watch the cheese slowly melt and coat your pasta. It’s that umami flavour we all crave. I will also happily eat buffalo mozzarella straight from the packet and who can resist dipping crusty bread into a gooey baked camembert?

Another time when cheese is at its best, is when it’s paired with charcuterie. We had family visiting the other night who love jamón and our first thought was to take them to Friends of Ham. We squeezed ourselves around a cosy wooden table in a corner, with a dripping candle in an old wine bottle and two more tealights as our main sources of light for the evening. With a bottle of Jose Pariente Sauvignon Blanc from Spain in an ice bucket and a couple of pale ales and IPAs (Friends of Ham are well-known for their craft beer offering) we opened the menu and already knew the first thing we would order – the Spanish board. It consisted of Jabugo Ibérico, Ibérico Bellota Chorizo, Zamorano Gran Reserva (unpasteurised sheep’s cheese) and Garrotxa (pasteurised goat’s cheese). We then decided to make our own plate of meat and cheese, which could literally be anything we wanted – we agreed on Bath Chaps (British hot-smoked pig’s cheeks), Brie de Meaux, Monte Enebro (a soft Spanish goat’s cheese) and Cecina de León (Spanish-cured beef). It didn’t end there; we also ordered a side of nduja on sourdough bread, griddled morcilla and more bread and oil.

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The menu stated that our white wine paired perfectly with any goat’s cheese and the Garrotxa was a real joy along with the Ibérico Bellota Chorizo. The potatoes and fried egg (which made up the griddled morcilla) echoed the comforting taste of a Spanish tortilla and the Cecina de León had a bit of a bite to it and a deep nutty flavour, which was delicious with the sourdough. My highlight was the Brie de Meaux served with Miller’s Damsels charcoal wafers. I do love a good brie and this was the best I have ever tasted. It had a creamy gooeyness and a delicately soft, spreadable texture which worked so well with the satisfying ‘crack’ of the wafers. It was very difficult to stop myself from eating all of it.

‘I do love a good brie and this was the best I have ever tasted’.

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A plate of charcuterie and cheese with a bottle of wine, is the perfect sharing dinner when you’re with family. Throw in a bit of jazz music and it’s even better – so that’s exactly what we did. After our delicious meal we headed over to The Domino Club in the Grand Arcade, where we walked through a closed Barber shop and down some darkened stairs, to enjoy live music with a couple of cocktails.

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