Hām: West Hampstead
- Credit: Archant
Ham is not just a sandwich filling but the Old English word for home that gives us the root of place names such as Hampstead.
But there is a distinctly home and away feel to Spyros Koufalakis' cooking at the helm of popular West Hampstead neighbourhood restaurant Hām.
The Athenian's Mediterranean leanings are ever present; in the olive oil drizzled over my mackerel and salted gooseberry starter, or the unctuous chocolate cremeaux with hazelnuts. Yet my perfectly cooked turbot with fresh peas, Jersey royals and seaweed butter was the best of British on a plate.
The ex-Ottolenghi and Barrafina chef marries British ingredients with continental flavours throughout this light and summery menu.
A molten croquette spiked with spicy Nduja, and preserved San Marzano tomatoes with ricotta and oregano were both a pungent taste of Italy. And the terrific potato terrine with aioli was essentially a crispy pommes dauphinoise - a great consolation prize for being unable to travel to France this year.
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While there was a little timidity in seasoning, it all came together in a cracking saddle of lamb with pistachios and anchovies - the salty dressing a worthy accompaniment to the tender pink meat.
One word of advice, don't skip dessert. Each of a trio brought their own joy. The creamy depths of the cremeaux, the crowd-pleasing comforts of strawberry and elderberry doughnut with mascarpone, and a dreamy white peach puree atop creme Anglaise with a fig leaf oil that gave a not unwelcome hint of coconut.
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Be sure to test the creativity of the bar staff, a chili Margarita, and a lovely gin and peach juice concoction struck the right opening note for an unstuffy relaxed evening of distanced dining. And the green velvet banquettes furnished with cushions made it feel like a Hām from home.
Hām is open from brunch onwards for all day dining but the early dinner offer of three courses for two plus a bottle of house wine for £60 is a bargain.
Hām West Hampstead, 238 West End Lane, NW6.