Brunch at Hām; was it Hamtastic?

It’s always exciting when a new business opens in West Hampstead and recently there seems to have been a shift up-market, with the arrival of Gail’s, M&S and Lola’s. The latest business to open is the new restaurant Hām, with a soft launch this weekend offering brunch at lunch and dinner in the evening. Our resident food critic Tom will be going for dinner in March so watch out for that, but I went for brunch this weekend.

And who better to go with than Jennie and Tom, formerly of that West Hampstead stalwart, the Kitchen Table. They know a thing or two about brunch. So, I rocked up at Hām on Sunday to meet them and a couple of friends.

The decor is very ‘now’. In a good way.

The first thing you notice about the place is that has undergone a serious renovation, the new Hām is very ‘now’, from the tone of the walls and furniture, to the shape of the lights, but in a good way. It was full of friends and family of the owners and there was a nice buzz to the atmosphere.

The chefs working in the kitchen are visible, although the clever use of mirrors not only brings more light to the back of the room it makes the kitchen seem to float in a different plane.

The chef, Matt Osborne (an Aussie) was formerly at the Ledbury (amongst other venues). The food is creeping into fine dining territory for brunch and I expect for dinner. I ordered the Hām breakfast (£13) a full English but with a twist: added avocado and kasundi (it’s oven dried tomato paste with a kick of chilli). It was good, a chef-cooked full English with the quality ingredients shining through. For me (and Tom who also ordered it), quality or not, we would have appreciated an extra rasher of bacon.

The Ham breakfast

Jody ordered avocado on toast with goats cheese (and kasundi), but not enough goats cheese in her opinion. Jennie went for the mushrooms (and Doddington cheese) on toast, which looked delicious, and she also sensibly ordered some crumpets with honey, ricotta and pear to share. It was brunch after all, which should be a relaxed sharing type meal, so I ordered them as well. And they were a nice sweet complement to my full, but fine, English.

Those crumpets (freshly baked) with honey, pear and ricotta.

Tom, Jody and I wondered if the sourdough toast was a bit difficult to cut, but we were put in our place by Jennie who thought that it was the crunch of the crust was what made it.

For drinks the menu offered green (apple, celery, spinach) and red (apple, carrot and beetroot) juices plus fine teas and coffee which met the high standard of the ex-Kitchen Tablers (and coffee drinkers) around the table.

While chatting to Rose and David, the new owners, Jennie advised ‘listen to Twitter and Instagram’ because West Hampstead will let you know how it feels. And if this tweet is anything to go by, Hām is off to a positive start. I’d agree – I had an enjoyable and importantly delicious brunch. Hām is a step up the fine dining and price ladder from other local options, but as we have seen with the arrival of Gail’s and then Lola’s if you offer a quality atmosphere and food, people will come – and pay.

Once it fully opens on 28th it will offer brunch and a set lunch menu, with à la carte in the evenings.

Four best brunches on West End Lane

One of the things that make West Hampstead so special are the incredible restaurants it has to offer, many with outdoor space. Perfects spots for a bit of brunch on the weekend, and is there anything better than a leisurely morning spent enjoying, rather than rushing the best and most important meal of the day?

So where are the best brunch spots in the area? These are my top four picks on West End Lane:

The Petit Corée
What a pleasant surprise the Petit Corée was! Serving French-Korean fusion, this delightful little place serves a variety of brunch dishes, in case you’re looking for something different. The kimchi pancakes with scamorza cheese are a perfect, light and warming dish, it packs a perfect little punch to start your day.

The highlight, however, must be the honeycomb butter that comes with the French toast. It is to die for! The French toast can come with caramelized banana or smoked streaky bacon, either is an absolute treat. You can also get a fresh, sweet orange juice and with good value to boot, this place deserves a score of 10/10

French toast with bananas at The Petit Coree

French toast with bananas at The Petit Coree

The Alice House
No one can deny the Alice House will always be buzzing with energy, drawing many people to West Hampstead. And the brunch is delicious too! The full Alice is sure to cure you of too much merriment from the night before, and satisfy any craving. Highlights include homemade beans and excellent quality sausages. If you can’t quite manage a full Alice, you can pick and choose your favorite breakfast bits!

For those with a sweet tooth (like me!) the incredible stack of pancakes will certainly make it feel like the weekend. The iced coffee is divine and the freshly squeezed orange juice is liquid gold. The major drawback however is that brunch finishes at 12! And I’m sorry, if it’s before 12, it’s not brunch…it’s breakfast! That, plus it’s slightly dear compared to other places gives it a score of 7/10

Brunch options at the Alice House

Brunch options at the Alice House

The Wet Fish Café
Always popular, the Wet Fish Café serves an amazing variety of brunch. The potato, chorizo and egg scramble with refried black beans & toast is simply gorgeous, and can be made dairy free to the delight of my brunch companion. The avocado toast with feta and lime is also recommended for those looking for something slightly lighter.

They also serve Eggs Benedict, which is simply perfect. The main drawback is that it is always so busy, you may need to wait and may not get the table of your choice (the ones by the door are lovely); hardly surprising given the delicious food, beautiful interior and lovely staff. This place deserves 9/10

Potato, chorizio scrambled egg at the Wet Fish

Potato, chorizio scrambled egg at the Wet Fish

If you’re looking for a more economic brunch, Bellaluna is worth a look. Some may argue that what they serve is a full English breakfast rather than “brunch”, but who’s complaining? One might not expect this lovely Italian restaurant to serve English breakfasts, but who can blame them for dipping in to the market of hungry brunch lovers? You can’t go wrong with a fry-up that is good quality and won’t hurt your bank balance, though without the elegance of some of the other establishments in the area. My score is 7/10