Since its opening in October 2012, Jason Atherton’s 22 Ships continues to attract the masses, who queue up outside from even before it opens for both lunch and dinner. Atherton, together with Hong Kong restaurateur Yenn Wong, has brought us yet another tapas bar, just across from the first, that goes by the straightforward name of Ham & Sherry. Can you guess what’s on the menu?
The design is typical of a Spanish tapas bar, with bold blue and white tiles and a central open kitchen, around which hungry diners watch the obligatory ham being carved before them. It’s not a huge space, but it’s bright and welcoming and seems bigger than its sibling. It’s designed to be a more casual place than 22 Ships, where patrons can enjoy a tipple whilst waiting for dinner across the road, or a full tapas meal.
The food menu has grown since day one, with enough options to fill you up, yet the menu itself is still very heavily focused around the latter half of its name: sherry. There are in fact over 50 different kinds of this fortified wine to choose from. This may seem a little daunting if you know nothing about sherry, but the staff will do their best to offer recommendations or suggest pairings to go with your food. I had a couple of glasses of La Guita Hijos de Rainera Perez Marin, which was very easy to drink and amazingly priced at only $36 per glass. There are also a few interesting sherry cocktails to choose from.
It would be rude to visit Ham & Sherry without trying some ham. There are several choices, with more on their way very soon, so we decided to go for the Chef’s selection mixed board. When they say ‘board’, what they really mean is ‘boards’, as first you get one layered with Iberico Bellota chorizo and lomo, and then another with three types of ham – 24-month Jamón de Teruel Pdo, 36-month Jamón Ibérico Paleta and of course the stellar 48-month Jamón Ibérico de Bellota. I know it’s hard to go wrong with cold cuts delivered straight from Spain, but these really were fantastic. Just because head chef Max Kellman could see we were jamón-obsessed, were also given some air-dried beef to try, as well as a sample of some delicious new treats, which will be making their way onto the menu very soon. Between two of us that means we ate our way through four boards of cold cuts…oops.
The padrón peppers were also delicious, sprinkled in crispy fried garlic, which gave them a lovely salty flavour that balanced out the slight bitterness these peppers can often carry.
When we saw garlic and chilli prawns on the blackboard specials menu, we assumed it would come in the form of traditional gambas al ajillo, in a clay pot with garlic and chilli-infused olive oil. This version, however, was entirely different. The prawns had been fried in their shells and served dry, with the garlic and chilli on top. They were so crispy and the shells so tender, that we were advised to eat them whole, including the head. I admit I chickened out of eating the heads, but enjoyed the rest of the body and the crispy tails.
Ham & Sherry’s version of chicken and mushroom paella also differs from the traditional. Chef Max told us an amusing story of the first time he ordered chicken legs from one of his local suppliers; they turned up with chicken leg mushrooms! Atop this paella sits a large object that looks like a piece of fried bread – it is in fact fried chicken leg mushroom, which has a distinctive meaty texture and pleasant taste. We also enjoyed the strips of crispy chicken skin that added an interesting texture to this tasty dish.
To finish, we shared a Crema Catalana. Again, this is nothing like the original flan-like dessert. Here orange-infused whipped cream is served in a glass with berries and crumbed hazelnuts. The flavour matches that of the original dessert, with an exciting modern twist. I perhaps wouldn’t give it the same name, but I definitely enjoyed it.
Our meal, including a couple of cocktails in the secret back room (shhh, you didn’t hear it from me!), came to $730 between the two of us, although one of us was on the mocktails. Ham & Sherry is a fun, lively tapas bar that retains an air of tradition, with a spark of creativity. Admittedly the 50-strong list of sherries isn’t enough to draw me back, but the delicious selection of hams, plus the rest of the menu certainly is. Unlike 22 Ships, Ham & Sherry offers a reasonably priced set lunch menu too that I am very keen to try. The restaurant doesn’t take bookings, so make sure you go early to grab a seat at the bar.
Ham & Sherry
1-7 Ship Street
Tel: 2555 0628