Breakfast at HOME
No, not at home, home, silly – at HOME, the new cafe in Castle Cary, not far from Bruton, in south-east Somerset, which has only been open about three weeks. The words on the window read ‘We wanted to open a restaurant that serves the kind of food we eat at… HOME’. The ‘we’ are Fi and Paul Mattesini – Fi is half-Irish and Paul is Italian-born, both cultures where cooking and eating together are central to family life – and HOME is going for the European family-run cafe vibe. The ‘kind of food’ turns out to be inventive, modern vegetarian, Italian-influenced dishes – at present, breakfasts and lunches but with dinners on the horizon.
First of all, don’t do what I did and try to go through the front door – it’s locked. To get into the cafe you need to go through the archway into Pithers Yard…
… and enter by the back door, almost as if you’re slipping into someone’s house. You’ll find yourself in the tiny kitchen, where, in between cooking and serving, Fi and Paul make a point of greeting every customer like an old friend (if you’re not one already, you feel like you soon will be). Fi, a self-taught cook and successful food writer, creates most of the dishes and does the majority of the cooking; Paul comes from a family of Italian restaurateurs and mostly handles front of house.
They’ve captured something of the mood of an Italian or French family cafe in the small dining room, with the mismatched furnishings, a couple of sofas, family photos on the walls and the sounds of chat, cooking, the radio or 70s/80s playlists coming from the kitchen. The neatly stacked back issues of Private Eye, old LPs, Red and Q magazines are a nice touch.
First find somewhere to sit, pop one of the Scrabble letters ‘reserved’ signs on the table and check out the menu on blackboards and roll-down brown wrapping paper. Order your food in the kitchen with your table number (on a wooden spoon) and make yourself at home (the mags) while they cook the food. You pay in the kitchen when you leave.
Breakfast’s served up until around 10.30 but even though I turned up a bit later than this, they were more than happy to cook me a huge Home Breakfast: two eggs any which way, perched on top of a thick slice of Fi’s toasted, home-baked soda bread, baked beans in a tomato sauce spiced up with smoked paprika, thyme-baked tomatoes, mushrooms, avocado – topped off with some maple roasted pumpkin seeds. Totally yummy.
Also on the menu for breakfast: a sweet potato porridge with a choice of milks and a promise to ‘bling it up with something’, granola with berries, toasted soda bread, and American-style buckwheat pancakes, which are served all day. I loosened my belt and ordered the pancakes, which were crisp on the outside, melt-in-the-mouth inside and served with maple syrup, a scattering of blueberries, a dollop of Greek yoghurt and some tiny perfumed flowers.
Coffee (in all the usual permutations) is Bruton’s excellent Beanshot Coffee – ’nuff said – though I would have liked more of it. If you don’t need the caffeine, they also serve up teas, hot drinks, cold cordials, fresh and raw ‘slow’ juices and smoothies to which you can add a über healthy dash of fresh turmeric or supergreens. Apart from Fi’s own soda bread, all the bread comes from the wonderful Lievito artisan bakery (Best Bakery in the Muddy Stilettos Awards). Homemade cakes – Victoria sponge, lemon polenta cake, chocolate brownie that others were scoffing on my visit – looked scrumptious and portions were huge (sorry but size does matter).
I’ll be back another time to eat lunch. The menu that day included an interesting sounding quinoa pizza, a frittata, Paul’s grandmother’s recipe for melanzane (aubergine parmigiana), warm roasted root veg, a broth with cannelini beans and a selection of fresh La Tua pasta dishes like pumpkin, sage and butter ravioloni. There are always vegan and gluten-free options.
The atmosphere seems to appeal to a wide range of people. When I was there, so were a father and young son, young couples, old friends, someone working on a lap top, an elderly woman lunching on her own (in addition myself, of course). You get the impression that nothing’s too much trouble, that they’ll do whatever they can to make sure you can have exactly what you want. The atmosphere’s so laid back and homely that at one point Fi came out of the kitchen and prepared some veg at my table – mamma mia! It was rather nice.
Currently, Home is open for breakfasts, lunches, teas, coffees and cake 9am-3pm, Tuesdays to Saturdays but they will be running regular pop-up evenings with set menus in the near future – so watch this space.
Good for: vegetarians (obviously), vegans, those on a gluten-free diet, anyone wanting a hearty breakfast or a light lunch that’s a bit different from the norm, a quick or a lingering coffee and a (large) slice of homemade cake.
Not for: meat eaters: it’s 100% vegetarian; not for those looking for a dark corner to hide in (the dining room’s a shop front so you’re a little on display); curmudgeonly types who don’t want to chat to the hosts.
£££: Reasonable/inexpensive. Home breakfast £8.50, pancakes £6, porridge £5; lunches £8.50, broth, bowl of pasta £5. Coffee around £2.50 and cake £3.50.
HOME, Pithers Yard, 7 High Street, Castle Cary, BA7 7AN.