It says something of a restaurant when you can nip in for a pre Arena meal and, halfway through, wish you were staying for the evening. That’s the case at Home Canteen – the new venture by the Puschka boys and Chris Lee (ex Microzine). They’ve got it spot on here. G Plan tables, scuzzy leather bar stools, lighting that doesn’t make you feel like you’re in a fish tank (Heathcotes never managed to pull this trick off) and warming plates of simply great food (the three course Christmas meal, at £25, is well worth investigating).

You can pull up a barstool and pretend you’re in a Pan Am lounge at Atlanta airport, circa 1975, and watch the city rush by on the Strand below (do it with a Home Canteen vodka and cranberry cocktail for maximum pleasure), or you can hunker down around the teak tables and enjoy fabulously juicy sirloin, cooked to perfection (why can’t most restaurants get ‘medium’ right?) (£18.50), crunchy home-made chips (£2.95) and towering beef burgers with onion rings and bacon (£9.50).

Actually, you can do both. Home’s no-rush aesthetic suits a protracted evening, and there are plenty of nooks and crannies to hole up in – there’s even a nice little private dining room on the mezzanine level which, should you have the requisite numbers, you can hire for nowt (and even screen your favourite film in).

We knew the Puschka crew know how to create a convivial atmosphere – but this isn’t a me-too venture. Home eschews the blushing fuchsia and Parisienne chic of Rodney Street in favour of a sleek mid-town diner palette of earth tones, brick and slate. Couples don’t come to coo here, nor hold hands over a vanilla custard. They come on secret assignations and surreptitiously brush calfs under the G Plan.

The severe geometry of Beetham Plaza has needed softening off for a while now (and Herbert’s jackets-only Champu bar wasn’t the one to do it). We’re sure Home is going to be on the circuit for some time – and wait til spring, when they’ll be bringing the restaurant (sofas, standard lights and rugs) onto the square for al fresco fun. Best not get the table next to the tipping fountains though, eh?

Oh, if you think this review’s light on actual food details, blame Madness. We had to eat and flee. But this place was the real house of fun.

Home Canteen
Beetham Plaza
25 The Strand

Pic: Peter Goodbody

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