First Fish & Meat, now Ham & Sherry… I could get used to this does-what-it-says-on-the-tin approach to naming restaurants in Hong Kong – at least you know exactly what to expect (I’m now awaiting a bar named “Booze & Hangovers”)!
Following the success of 22 Ships, Ham & Sherry is the latest collaboration between HK restaurateur extraordinaire Yenn Wong (208, Duddell’s, Chachawan) and Brit chef Jason Atherton – in fact, it’s even on the same road, Ship Street in Wan Chai. Covered in eye-catching Spanish blue-and-white tiles, you certainly can’t miss the place; inside, it’s a similar set-up to 22 Ships, with the central focal point of an open kitchen and enough bar seats and tables around it to seat about 30. It’s intended as a more casual affair than the gastronomic innovation happening down the road, a bodega-style social hangout with quality booze and bites.
The stars of the meal, unsurprisingly, are the cold cut meats. Go for the mixed board so you can try a selection of everything – soft, silky and deliciously salty slivers of 24, 36 and 48 month aged ham, thin slices of spicy chorizo and my favourite, an uber flavourful beef lomo. Salty and addictive (“…just one more piece!”), these really are the perfect accompaniment to your bevvies, and totally what the concept of Ham & Sherry is all about.
As the tapas wave rages on in HK, it seems like the concept has taken on a whole new life from the original Spanish idea – but Ham & Sherry’s tapas definitely feels more authentic than some of the giant-sized “world cuisine” options we’ve been seeing lately. Small dishes of “paella arancini” (deep-fried balls stuffed with paella, chorizo and pepper puree), padron peppers, and goat’s cheese and jamon croquettes feel truer to the original idea of tapas – small sharing bites intended for grazing over, glass of wine (or in this case, sherry!) in hand. I can’t say any of them were especially memorable, but they were all prepared well and tasty enough.
It’s with Ham & Sherry’s “pan con” (translation: stuff on toast) that things get more interesting. Forget fiddly baby bruschetta – Ham & Sherry’s are the rustic real deal, piled high with quality ingredients like quail egg and a startlingly strong sobraseda (a pork sausage paste) or, my favourite, seared beef and Manchego cheese. The beef was cooked perfectly, whimperingly tender and pink in the middle, and paired wonderfully with the Manchego. Then again, say Manchego and I’m yours – I can’t get enough of the stuff!
As customers have been requesting larger dishes, Ham & Sherry also do a couple of blackboard specials. I really enjoyed the garlic chilli prawns with paprika aioli; again, there’s nothing revolutionary about this dish but it was definitely one of the best renditions of it I’ve seen in Hong Kong. The prawns, seasoned just right, were incredibly moreish – you might find yourself chomping down on these perfectly crunchy, spicy, salty morsels as easily as you would popcorn!
As a dessert lover, I was a little disappointed by Ham & Sherry’s limited selection – a glass of Crème Catalan with berries, or warm chocolate mousse with candied orange. Featuring a similar presentation and texture, they essentially felt like two versions of the same thing, although both were light, pleasant ends to the meal.
Nevertheless given that Ham & Sherry’s menu stacks up at around ten pages of sherry to one of food, it’s pretty obvious what you should be concentrating on here! With the largest sherry list in Asia (including limited edition tipples from the now defunct elBulli cellar), it was intriguing to see that so many different varieties of the fortified wine even exist. Think sherry and your mind tends to leap to sweet thimblefuls of your granny’s favourite (those with a sweet tooth should try the Gonzalez Byass’ Nectar – fruity, warm and caramel-golden, it’s like a more sinful honey!) but it was interesting to discover that there are so many other types available – dry and pale, full and dark, and Ham & Sherry even has some cool sherry cocktails too.
Ham & Sherry is a perfect companion venue to 22 Ships – a more laidback brother, with down-to-earth tapas, staff who know their stuff, and sherry galore. Other than the more expensive mixed boards of meat, all the tapas dishes clock in at under $100, whilst glasses of sherry range from between $50-150 (or go all out and buy one of the $2500 rare bottles!).
On a night out, Ham & Sherry probably isn’t going to be your main destination for a meal… but it isn’t intended to be. As a casual hang-out with friends over some stellar drinks and appetite-whetting bites, it’s a job well done – and in true Atherton style.
Ham & Sherry G/F., 1-7 Ship Street Wan Chai