12 Nov “HOME is a little star” – Marina O’Loughlin reviews HOME, The Sunday Times.
“Up many sepulchral stairs from busy Kirkgate, a former billiard hall and Indian restaurant (has) precisely no kerb appeal, apart from the Poundworld below. It is therefore joyful to report that Home is a little star.
Our five-course menu — seven, if you count amuses and petit fours — brings a celebration of autumn on every plate. The ochres and russets and umbers of piccalilli and pumpkin and wild mushrooms, used like brushstrokes on a canvas of deliciousness. Take smoked eel, glazed with a rarebit of blow-torched Lincolnshire poacher cheese, two blasts of intense savouriness jostling for supremacy, each winning. It comes with a tiny hummock of crisp roots bound in a Marie Rose sauce like Tinkerbell’s Russian salad, for lightness. Or Yorkshire mallard, the gamey duck breast daringly rare but silkily tender; underneath a swoop of “marmalade”, on top, salt-baked albino carrots, puddles of orange carrot purée and an almost sausage roll of other ducky bits. It’s a play on that old duck à l’orange cliché, given an exhilarating cattle prod of modernity.
There’s a real sense of place, too. Even in something as potentially corny as a prestarter cracker of salmon and cream cheese, the jet beads of fish egg are “the world’s first socially acceptable caviar”, produced just outside Leeds, a wonderfully Yorkshire combination of pleasure-seeking and pragmatism.
Home has a lack of ego that makes you feel the focus is on diners rather than attention-seeking chefs. Make no mistake: this is ambitious cooking. From the crumbed cube of suckling pig on puréed piccalilli that sets the scene, with its petals of pickled onion cradling mustard seed and curried apple, to a pumpkin bavarois that is a flourish of Halloween showmanship: cinder toffee, clotted cream ice cream, weeny cubes of candied pumpkin — it’s not short of technique or chutzpah. But there’s a lack of attitude, a dearth of swagger. Dare I say that might be the influence of a female partner, the chef Elizabeth Cottam? It’s no secret restaurant kitchens can be the worst kind of toxic masculine environments. But, just as crucially, Cottam’s co-owner, Mark Owens, has a background in some of Yorkshire’s most brilliantly unpretentious foodie stalwarts: the Star at Harome; the Box Tree in Ilkley.
One side note: the restaurant has adopted the Tock system, where you stump up a deposit on booking — £30 each of our £50-a-head menu. When small, independent restaurants lose unconscionable amounts weekly due the rudeness of “no-shows”, I have no problem with this — it’s like prepaying for big theatre, music or sports events. And it means that the restaurant might, you know, survive. If this is something you object to, do realise I will judge you.
Lookswise, Home adheres to that new Elle Deco-style template for restaurants: dark, broody walls, jewel-coloured upholstery, cage lampshades. In its large airy upper room and bar, it does its thing beautifully . There’s heart here at Home: it’s a good place to be. And not an edible flower or Rorschach blot presentation in sight: how very metropolitan of them.”
Originally published in November 5th 2017 edition of The Sunday Times. Click here for the full article.