With a pie crust as glossy as a Crufts champion, Hara at Home brings cook-it-yourself restaurant quality food to your own kitchen
Hara at Home
YOUR dinner's on the door step. And so it was, sitting there in a cardboard box by the front door when we got back from town, ready for us to unpack, heat and eat.
Hara at Home is based in Newtownards, Co Down and is run by chefs Roz and Andy Turner, who used to run Hara Restaurant in Hillsborough.
It's a food delivery business, which sounds a bit cold and functional. The food they deliver is anything but. Well, it is cold, but, well, you'll see what I mean...
It's a takeaway, but not as you know it. You can't just get home of a Friday and see there's nothing in the fridge or decide that you can't be bothered cooking whatever is in the fridge, and pick up the phone to find yourself answering the door to a Deliveroo driver an hour later.
A Hara at Home meal has to be ordered a few days in advance, so you have to anticipate being faced with an empty fridge, or feeling too tired to bother cooking.
And you have to do a bit of preparation yourself – putting things in the oven or microwave. Essentially it's the same, though. You order and pay with a few clicks of the mouse and you're good to go, or good to get, anyway. Just a few days later, that's all.
The Hara website, the one given on their Facebook page, isn't fully up-to-date. There are still references to the old restaurant and, if you click on the link to get to the delivery page, you'll find it tells you the delivery service is 'coming very soon'. It isn't: it's already here.
Just click on the Hara at Home link, or simply use the shophara-food.com address. It's not that confusing, but you might get the impression things aren't as advanced as they actually are, and so give up, which would mean missing out on some lovely grub.
They offer two types of delivery. One – which we went for – is a two-course meal for four people. The other is a fancier, three-course meal for two, with bread and chocolates thrown in.
With the latter, you don't get a choice of what to order. The family meal choice is restricted to either chicken pie or beef pie. If that sounds limiting, the plus side is the chefs can focus on making the food as good as possible. And it shows: I thought our meal was fantastic.
Not that it looked too fantastic as it emerged from the box. It's packed to save space, so the mash, vegetables and custard came flat in sealed polythene packages, a bit like astronaut food (note, this is a guess: I'm not an actual astronaut).
The food arrives on a Friday, incidentally, and, so long as it's stored properly, keeps until Sunday. I bunged ours in the oven as soon as I unpacked it.
My word, the pie looked good when it emerged. The crust was glazed beautifully, glossy as a Crufts champion, gleaming enough to see your face in it. (Not the first pie my face has been seen in, hence the restraining order from Greggs).
It tasted good, too. More than that, it tasted gorgeous. The pastry was excellent, and it was crammed with melting chunks of prime beef, sitting in a rich, thick, beery gravy, with the addition of something we couldn't quite define but which turned out to be Worcestershire sauce.
The mash was creamy and smooth, the carrots sweet and buttery, and the cabbage full of flavour, with a nice bite.
If the main was good, they turned the dial up to 11 with the dessert. This was autumn in a bowl – sweet and sharp apple cubes sitting atop a bed of the loveliest, softest sponge, with the caramelised brown sugar gluing the whole thing together. And the nicest custard I've ever tasted, creamy and thick with a rich, warming note of hazelnut. We settled on 'stunning' as the best word to describe the whole dish.
The entire meal was terrific, top-quality gastro-pub food. More expensive than a standard takeaway? Possibly, although maybe not much more. As convenient and immediate as one? No, but there are advantages, too, in that you can choose your time to heat and eat it. Better than your average delivery? By miles.
Glenarm shorthorn beef and Irish ale pie
Baked potato mash
Glazed Co Down carrots
Brown sugar apple cake