I finally got to visit the newest addition to the 17th Ave scene, Home & Away. The concept for this restaurant was the brainchild of the same people that brought us Craft Beer Market, Commonwealth Bar & Stage and HiFi Club.
The space has completely transformed from its previous rendition, it now hosts a long bar takes over the south side of the space. Beside the bar, you will find some skee ball and basketball games. Beyond that, the space is filled with plenty of tables and booths, which can hold a lot of sports fans. The floors remind me of my high school gymnasium and they have multiple feature walls that reinforce the sports bar feel. The most eye-catching feature wall is on the east end of the space where there are skateboards lining the entire wall, which can be hidden by a projector screen that is brought down to show the big game. This is a beautifully designed space that makes it obvious what Home & Away’s focus will be – sports. However, with only 6 TVs around such a large space, I have to wonder if there are enough TV’s to give every seat in the restaurant a good view.
Now the second part of the equation, the food, which is created by Chef Mike Pigot who previously worked at Murrieta’s, which is known for it’s fine dining offerings. Home & Away has offered him a blank canvas that has allowed him to use his fine dining background to create a diverse menu focused around elevated comfort food. Chef Pigot is also passionate about supporting local suppliers and trying to make everything fresh in-house – minus the ketchup, only Heinz served here! This is a mindset that is becoming more and more common among local restaurants, and is something that makes diners like me very happy!
The menu features some traditional bar food that have been taken to another level. Chicken wings with in-house picked peppers, fried chicken with homemade hot sauce & grilled lemon and mac & cheese with pork belly smoked in-house. The menu also features some non-traditional items that obviously come from the Chef’s fine dining background such as beef tartare, fried cauliflower and tuna tostadas.
Seeing as it was Wing Night, we decided to try both types of wings on the menu. The Two Way Wings has some pickled peppers with a “ranch” honey drizzle on top of some dynamite wings. Usually I don’t like breaded chicken wings, however there are always a few exceptions, and this was one of them. The batter was light yet extremely crispy, reminiscent of Korean fried chicken. The drizzle was sweet and tart and had a complexity to it that makes it very hard to describe. While the peppers added a mild kick, although they needed a little more pickle on them. The Hot & Blue Wings is described perfectly by the name. The wings came tossed in hot sauce and were drizzled with a blue cheese sauce. This drizzle is not in any way subtle and featured that pungent blue cheese flavour that people either love or hate – I personally am not a big fan of blue cheese. However, I still found myself enjoying the creaminess of the sauce in contrast to the spiciness of the wings.
Next up were the Chili Glazed Squid, a dish that featured a distinct Asian theme. The squid came covered in a sticky black bean sauce, topped with chopped cashews and some scallions. The squid was tender, with a strong black bean flavour but was distinctly lacking in chili and desperately needed some acid. Another traditional pub dish done in a very non-traditional way, one that I could see myself ordering again.
Now I had heard a lot of buzz about the Home Dog, so obviously we had to give it a try. A Brant Lake Wagyu Beef Hot Dog topped with fried onions, Dijon aioli, in-house pepper jelly and sprinkled with some greens on top. The toppings were very untraditional, and tasty on their own. However as a full meal deal, the Home Dog fell short. Unfortunately, everything was muted by the large bun ratio in comparison to everything else, making this feel like just your typical hotdog.
I managed to snag myself a piece of the Fried Chicken, as I had to try this controversial item but did not want to order 5 pieces! I had heard differing opinions about this menu item, both positive and negative, and unfortunately my experience was negative. The fried chicken had a significantly lighter breading than the wings, which left the chicken lacking that crunchy exterior synonymous to good fried chicken. While the chicken itself managed to stay moist, it was lacking in seasoning, resulting in a bland piece of chicken. The accouterments of homemade pickles, hot sauce and honey were delicious but the star of the show fell very flat.
In my second visit to Home & Away, I managed to try the Crispy Cauliflower. While not overly crispy, the cauliflower was tender while the pico de gallo added some nice freshness to cut the creamy and spicy aioli. I was a bit disappointed with the lack of crunch yet again, however this was a very interesting and delicious take on an appetizer.
The last dish on my expansive tour of the Home & Away menu featured the pan roasted fish & chips, another unique take on pub food. A nicely cooked piece of fish was placed on top of gigantic pollenta fries and sprinkled with a homemade succotash. The fish was tender and well seasoned, however there was very little of the succotash. The polenta fries were also well seasoned but did not have a crispy exterior and was very mushy on the inside, making me think they were overcooked. The jalapeño lime aioli gave the dish a nice pop but the overall dish needs a bit of refinement.
Overall, Home & Away is a fantastic space for hanging out with friends to catch the big game and I give them high marks for creativity on the menu and with their food specials. However, the food needs a bit of tweaking as a lot of dishes fell flat for me leading to a 3.5 rating on Zomato. I will definitely return to Home & Away and hope that the food improves as time goes on.