First Street has been quite the success in the years since its conception, with HOME both the flagship venue and central point. This £25m building consists of two theatres, five cinema screens, a large gallery, bar, cafe bar and bookshop – in other words, everything the modern self-respecting culture vulture could wish for.
Even hardened carnivores and pescatarians should dive into the veggie and vegan dishes
We’re here to review the first-floor restaurant – as a dyed-in-the-wool fan of its previous incarnation, The Cornerhouse (formerly based a hop, skip and jump around the corner, next to Oxford Road Station), I’m expecting good things. It’s certainly a grander space than The Cornerhouse, though it’s hard to top those floor-to-ceiling windows that looked out onto Oxford Road.
The menu is nicely varied, with a large pizza section and an impressive but not unexpected array of vegetarian and vegan dishes. And it’s these that turn out to be the better options. The frickles (deep-fried pickles for those not up on their contemporary snack vernacular) are wholly vegan, but you wouldn’t know it. The batter is light as air, with a pleasing crunch, and my dining partner and I squabble over who gets to snap up the thickest ones. The accompanying mayonnaise is also vegan and has a smooth, creamy consistency, with a tart vinegary edge that pairs magically with the upgraded cucumber circles.
For mains, the spiced butternut squash and spinach lasagne is a decent, if a little heavy, selection. A deep pot, full of thick but soft chunks of squash, multiple layers of thin sheets of pasta, and topped with lots and lots (and lots) of piping hot taleggio and mozzarella cheese, grilled to give a nice crackable top layer. The garlic bread is thick and sturdy, good for mopping up the sauce. It’s certainly not for dieters, mind.
But the North African Buddha Bowl is the standout dish – both in looks and flavour. This is a hearty bowl of vegan goodness, packed with multi-coloured veg, grains and leaves. Our waiter is a little on the aloof side, which we can only put down to one too many Herzog films, but after some prodding does reveal that this is one of the most popular items on the menu. It’s a smart combination of spiced chickpeas, courgette, yellow pepper, garlic roasted broccoli, spinach, kale and pomegranate seeds, all positioned around a pot of citrus-infused herb dressing. It’s pretty as a picture and almost a shame to disturb, but proves far and away the best meal of the evening – all bold flavours, varied textures and fresh ingredients.
There are a number of meat and seafood dishes on the menu, but even hardened carnivores and pescatarians should dive into the veggie and vegan dishes. Much like The Cornerhouse in its day, this is what the HOME restaurant truly excels at.