“So where is it we’re going?”
“It’s called ‘ham’.”
“Like the meat?”
“No, it’s the Old English name for home.”
“I’m pretty sure it’s the Old English name for ham, too.’
Actually ‘home’ would have been a good name for West Hampstead’s latest hot restaurant, because Ham pulls off a very neat trick: it combines some pretty damn fine modern English cooking with a homely, friendly atmosphere. There’s nothing stuffy about the place – it’s a cosy, unpretentious setting but the food would be at home at a restaurant charging twice what it costs here, and best of all every ingredient is locally, and responsibly, sourced (the wait staff knew the exact farm that each piece of meat came from).
We started with a Devon crab, macadamia nuts, cucumber and avocado which was subtle and tangy, and a goats cheese tortellini with fennel, orange and shiso that showed how a simple plate of veg can be delicious if the ingredients are good. Mains were similarly well balanced: cod, verjus sauce, pink fir potato and mussels was a creamy bowl of marine comfort food while the roasted root vegetables with almond, pear and parsley was British cooking at its very finest. Add a luxurious chocolate tart with blood orange sorbet and a buttermilk panna cotta with rhubarb that was the best dessert I’ve had in 2018 (and I’ve had a lot of desserts) and all three courses were a hit. In short it’s just the kind of place I’d love to have in my neighbourhood: beautifully put-together modern British food, impeccably sourced and not expensive. And we were seated next to Sir Derek Jacobi (though I’m not sure if that can be guaranteed every time).