Hām in West Hampstead: Meticulous dishes in a warm and inviting setting
It’s a beautiful summer’s evening and West Hampstead is buzzing. Already home to a bunch of popular eateries and gastropubs, the area is oozing charm and character. Hām has now joined the bill, hoping to entice the local crowd with its take on modern British food.
From the offset, it’s clear that the restaurant is going for a homely, neighbourhood vibe: bright, airy interiors decked out with individual pieces of art hanging on the walls; long tables that were just made for large groups of friends and family; and intimate cushioned booths in cosy corners. I immediately feel at home. The kitchen is situated at the very back of the space, overlooking the entire floor at an elevated level, and it is where head chef Matt Osborne (The Ledbury and Terroirs) works his magic.
Once sat down, we are presented with a seasonal food menu – which changes on a daily basis – and an extensive drinks menu boasting cocktails and wine. We decide to whet our appetites with a couple of house cocktails, while we enjoy oysters, bread and butter. The West Side – gin with Chartreuse, citrus, elderflower, cucumber and mint – is gentle on the palate and subtly infused, making it a real refreshing quencher. The Hām Sour – whiskey liqueur, rye, Maraschino, lemon and egg white – combines just the right amount of sweet and sour, doing the old classic justice in the process.
Now it’s onto the grub. The menu is split into plates and ordering a few to share is highly encouraged. If you’re really reluctant to part ways with convention then you can also order the dishes to come as a starter and a main. The first to arrive is the Tempura Vegetables with Miso Hollandaise. The batter is light and has a wonderful crunch to it, and the vegetables are well cooked, retaining their firmness and flavour. The miso gives a lovely twist to the hollandaise and the result is a salty, buttery, silky smooth sauce.
Next up is the Miso-glazed Ratatouille with Piquillo Peppers and Shiso. Served as a neatly stacked tower of vegetables, this offering gets top marks for presentation. But it isn’t just a pretty sight: sweet, smoky, caramelised at the edges and bursting with ripened flavour, this is a standout dish for me.
Then it’s onto the Cornish Pollack with Kombu Dashi, Delicatesse Potato and Broad Beans. The pollack is seared to perfection, giving it a lovely browned top before giving way to meaty flakes of fish. The kombu dashi is also a nice touch, giving off a distinct aromatic flavour that runs throughout the entire plate.
We also order the Norfolk Quail with Pearl Barley, Shimeji and Rainbow Chard. The quail is succulent, revealing a beautiful pink hue of gamey meat inside. The pearl barley and shimeji are a match made in heaven, with the rainbow chard bringing a delicious splash of colour.
For dessert, we have the Chocolate Tart with Cherries and Yoghurt Ice Cream. The tart is like velvet on the palate and bursting with rich cocoa flavours while the fruity accompaniment adds just a hint of sour. The yoghurt ice cream attempts to provide a lighter touch but I still feel a scoop of cream-based ice cream would really top this off.
We also have the Fresh Strawberries with Lemon Curd, Crème Fraîche and Fennel Shortbread. The strawberries are just sweet enough and the curd is satisfyingly tart and smooth. The biscuit is wafer thin, melts on the tongue and proves surprisingly light.
At Hām, every single plate delivers, which is down to carefully thought out dishes and meticulous execution. But it’s the atmosphere that has really won me over. Osborne and the team have certainly succeeded in creating a restaurant experience that you want to return to – bringing friends and family – for top-notch food in a warm, inviting setting.
★★★★★Food ▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮Drinks ▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮Service ▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮
Photos: Filippo L’Astorina
To book a table at Hām, 238 West End Lane London NW6 1LG, call 02078 130 168 or visit their website here.