As Homer, the ancient Greek poet, is believed to have written in The Odyssey, "Everything is more beautiful because we're doomed. You will never be lovelier than you are now. We will never be here again." Or, in the words of my eight-year-old dinner companion, intrigued by entering a Greek restaurant seemingly named after a character from The Simpsons, "D'oh!"
Homer On Homer, situated on Homer Street, the main thoroughfare of Earlwood shops, was started by David Tsirekas (Perama, Xanthi, 1821 and Avli in Chicago) and Stacey Giaprakas, childhood friends whose parents emigrated to Australia together from Greece. At the end of June, Tsirekas stepped back for health reasons and Christos Palipidis took over as chef.
Housed in a big, bare, high-ceilinged 1926-built former mechanics workshop (the first of several incarnations including an indoor play centre), the restaurant's warm and homely space feels like visiting family, particularly if they're Greek and love large, comfy highly polished dark wood furniture, wine-red Persian rugs and delicate ceramic antiques, sculptures and plant pots balanced on white Grecian plinths.
Tsirekas and Giaprakas's plans to open Homer on Homer were sideswiped by COVID-19 restrictions in March, but the pair modified their plans and kept cooking.
They began offering takeaway lunch and dinner in April and orders flew in for roast pork belly with potatoes, onions and artichokes, or beef cheeks, slow-braised for 12 hours with honey, tomato, red wine, cloves and cinnamon. Lockdown lethargy was upended by their vegan chocolate baklava with walnut, almond and pistachio and raspberry puree.
In June, Homer on Homer's doors opened with Giaprakas, who collects antiques, behind the restaurant's pre-loved furnishings, including an 1800s sofas and vintage landscape and portrait paintings. An internal wall made from curtains and second-hand doors divides the space and the family dinner vibe is heightened by a glass-fronted, antiques-filled cabinet, upholstered standard lamps and a glowing chandelier.
But, the star of Homer on Homer is the food, designed to be shared. We start with tzatziki, zesty, citrusy and lustily swiped with still-warm pita rounds. Next is Greekslaw, a crunchy, sweet and fresh mini mountain of cabbage, parsley, mint, dill, coriander, almonds, currants and spicy corn tossed with a lemon garlic dressing.
It's a polite fight to evenly share the four sticks of melt-in-the-mouth pork belly souvlakia, dripping with Greek-style kimchi and mustard mayo, the succulent barbecue chicken thighs marinated in yoghurt and feta brine and fat haloumi chips with red capsicum sauce.
Luscious desserts follow, with younger family members plunging spoons into creamy pistachio, walnut and almond chocolate baklavas served in long-stemmed glasses, and grown-ups savouring the smashed semolina cake layered with warm coconut pudding and sweet, syrupy orange.
There are plenty of meat dishes but more than half of the menu is vegetarian and vegan.
Giaprakas wants to keep things simple, and has concentrated on controlling costs, reducing waste and offering seasonal food influenced by Greek heritage. The built-in, corrugated-roof kitchen uses minimal modern cooking equipment and all produce is used by the end of the week, a philosophy inherited from parental prudency in postwar Greece
Delectable, down-to-earth and as close to being fed by your own family at the dining table, Homer on Homer is an outstanding tribute to heart-and-soul cooking and hospitality, right when we need it most.
Homer on Homer
Where: 283 Homer Street, Earlwood, facebook.com/homeronhomer/
Main attraction: Mouth-wateringly luscious, rustic Greek food from a seasonal and mindfully created menu of shared dishes.
Must-try dish: Greekslaw's glorious green, gold and purple-flecked mini-mountain of cabbage, parsley, mint, dill, coriander, almonds, currants and spicy corn.
Insta-worthy dish: Chocolate baklava, redolent in pistachio, walnut and almonds with chocolate filling and mousse, served in a long-stemmed glass.
Drinks: Aperitifs/digestives $8; wines by the glass $11-$13, by the bottle $15-$64; beers $7-$8; sparkling water $9; soft drinks $4; coffee $3.50/$4.50; tea $4
Prices: Sides/salads/vegetables $10-$18; mains $22-$34; desserts $14
Open: Thurs-Sun 5pm-10.30pm; closed Mon-Wed
Clarification: This review was amended on October 20 to clarify David Tsirekas' role in the business.