Zoë Perrett relishes a return to fine dining in an actual restaurant: especially when the tasting menu’s so damn tasty
Given the many and varied lockdowns of the past 15 months, the last place you want me to be telling you to go is Home, right?
Wrong. Because this is Home with a capital ‘H’, and it’s phenomenal with a capital P (even if it sounds like an F). You probably wouldn’t even mind if you did end up stuck here. Far fewer Zoom meetings, and far superior food. Swap your trackie bottoms for fancy pants though please – dressing up from the waist-up only is so pre-May 2021.
We all spent a while gamely pretending we actually enjoyed being at the mercy of the oft-merciless Great British weather as we shivered our way through distanced dining encounters. But that while whiled itself away a while ago, and I for one could not be happier to be residing inside a restaurant, where the waiter’s learned explanation of your amuse bouche doesn’t get whisked away on the wind along with an errant micro-leaf.
If you don’t already know (and, embarrassingly given I’ve lived in Leeds since 2018, I didn’t), Home’s entrance is located on Kirkgate – although the fact it’s so subtle we walk past it twice even with the assistance of Googlemaps means I feel slightly less like a complete numpty.
Up several flights of stairs and we’re welcomed – properly welcomed, none of that ‘you’re lucky to be here cause we’re waaaay cooler than you could ever hope to be’ froideur – into chef-owner Elizabeth’s Cottam’s high-ceilinged, petrol-blue dining room. The space calls to mind a gallery; except the artistry on show here is all happening within the vast open kitchen to the room’s rear.
Tables are generously-sized, which sounds a minor concern unless you, like me, are someone for whom spending entire meals shunting around condiments, glassware, cutlery and crockery to accommodate an elbow or yet another greedily-ordered dish induces red mist. For those of us of such a persuasion, this feature earns a gaff a star straight off the bat.
Aside from opting for 10 or 12 courses in your set tasting menu, Home doesn’t afford you much menu choice. But by electing to eat here, you’re already made a very wise decision. If you want make the wisest one of all, bolt on every single option offered: Champagne, wine pairings, cheese…
That Champagne comes with a caviar-topped oyster; the bivalve’s brisk marine character freshened further with a verdant splash of watercress dressing. The shells give way to stones as we’re presented with a dish of black pebbles; two of which are actually chocolate-enrobed chicken liver parfait. A lovely little trompe l’oeil… just don’t pick up the wrong one.
Snacks give way to starters; the first of which is delicate white crab, hibiscus and pear salad and a lacy biscuit made from brown crabmeat which, despite being nothing like a crab sandwich in form, tastes just like one. Oh we do like to be beside the seaside.
And one of us also really, really likes Nuits Saints Georges, which is handy because it’s the pairing for a barbecued lamb tartare with smoked yogurt, wild garlic chimichurri and a sticky jus it’s only just possible to resist licking off the plate. The wine’s tannins and acid offer the counterpoint to lamb oft-provided by mint sauce; the accompanying stick of onion bread ‘to share’ is less shared than fought over.
Hot and cold, crunchy and creamy, rich and tart (and quite possibly the seventh dwarf, whose name always eludes me) all feature in a course of brûléed Ragstone goat’s cheese buried in a cloud of roasted onion mousse along with still-crisp candied pecans and white port and Mirabelle plum sorbet.
Cheese-loather LB is a fan of all but the fromage, which I’m more than happy to relieve him of while he finishes his lemony glass of Davenport’s English sparkling and moves swiftly and happily on to a Saintsburg Chardonnay with saline notes apt to its accompanying of a rockpool-inspired dish entitled ‘The Sea’.
This oceanic agglomeration is comprised of a fluffy langoustine dumpling, dulce seaweed served both crunchy-fried and pickled, and umeboshi; the sour-salty-tart notes of that Japanese pickled plum as ingenious an inclusion as a dusting of matcha powder – which makes excellent employ of that ingredient’s fishy background note (come on, don’t pretend you haven’t noticed it in your latte).
Yet more multiple texture-and-taste-gasms are delivered by a ceviche in which the silky-sweet richness of elderflower-marinated scallop flesh is punctuated by piquant pops from tiny capers and the acidic crunch of micro-cubes of compressed apple.
A dish of seared stone bass with a beer-battered oyster and a taramasalata-redolent IPA, dill oil and lemon dressing is served alongside a Chablis which comes from 70 year-old vines and whose character, just like LB’s, has benefitted from advanced age – although he’s not too mature to snort that refined wine out of his nose when I accidentally burst a gel-encapsulated black olive consommé all over the table.
Table wiped and lols reined in, we tuck into five-year-old Galician blonde rib of beef with earthy, jammy, date-textured dehydrated beetroot and a black garlic and star anise-laced gravy. As I note the presence of a shiso leaf garn, my phone autocorrects it to ‘shitshow’; perhaps the least appropriate adjective for this course/meal/restaurant that Apple technology could generate.
I leave LB to sup on a Pineau des Charentes described as ‘an eau de vie crossed with a liqueur’ as I enjoy some solo inter-course cheese – a sort-of Waldorf salad centred around the creamy-piquant punch of Harrogate Blue. Just like every other dish, it benefits from beautifully accurate seasoning.
Just like my TSI (that’s Table Size Issues, obs), consistent and accurate seasoning is a personal bee that rattles around in my bonnet. Yeah sure, you can dehydrate, sphericate and indeed pontificate about gastro-technique, but have you got skill with a salt mill? ‘Cause if not, you’re not worth yours. Any chef in need of a masterclass in Maldon, spend a shift at Home.
Talking of salt, we’re onto the sweet with the arrival of pudding. Pudding-S, actually – because there are three: a meadowsweet parfait in a pool of melon-studded camomile syrup; cloudlike spoonfuls of a crunchy-crusted gin and tonic mallow, and Malham – an edible ode to the North Yorkshire cove.
The latter is constructed from a series of monochrome blocks, hewn variously from ewe’s milk pannacotta, chocolate-coated mandarin jelly, shortbread and black sesame dulce de leche. Proof that a cheesecake by any other name would taste as sweet.
A plate of French and British cheeses is a cracking conclusion to a meal that, even without my ecstatic-to-be-out, post-lockdown-tinted glasses I’d have deemed exceptional for its knowledgeable, personable service, perfect pacing, culinary ingenuity and oh so much more. Go big and go Home, guys. You won’t regret it.
MAKE IT HAPPEN
- Home Restaurant, 16-17 Kirkgate, Leeds LS1 6BY
- To visit the website, click here