Restaurateur determined to serve local community year-round

“I’m not confident about my looks, I’m not confident in my teeth, but I am confident about my cooking.” Refreshingly self-effacing, when I sat down with Caroline Farrell, she quickly revealed her determination to make a go of The Home Plate, a recently opened restaurant in Murray River, PEI.

On the corner of Normans and Cross Bear Roads, at the site of the former Amelia’s Bakery, The Home Plate opened in August of 2018. Farrell bought the building in March, and had hoped to have the doors open by May, but renovations took longer than expected, so it was a late summer opening for her.

Caroline Farrell is serving up hearty dishes at The Home Plate //photo credit: Cheryl Young/Salty

Despite the late start to her season, she had a great response from the community and experienced a busy fall. “The first three months were great, they really were. And I knew that there’d be a honeymoon stage, and then it wasn’t ‘til Thanksgiving that it actually went quiet, so we had a long honeymoon stage,” Farrell said. Unlike many seasonal restaurants, Farrell is set on staying open year-round. “I’m here for the locals. I’m not here for the tourists…when we’re away, if we can find somewhere the locals go, we know that’s a good place to go. And I want that to be this place. So if we get tourists in during tourist season, great, even better. But [our] main focus is local.”

Currently the restaurant seats 14, but adding an additional washroom will allow for an expansion to 25 seats. Farrell is anticipating that the clientele will appreciate the added table room.

The Home Plate’s menu is focussed on home cooking and baking and although Farrell has decades of experience cooking diverse foods, it always comes back to good old-fashioned, stick-to-your-ribs food.

When asked why there’s such an appeal to her menu, she said, “There you go, perfect word, nostalgia. Probably, if the restaurant was full, you’d hear, at least once, ‘oh my god, it reminds me of when I was a kid.’ The food is very nostalgic.”

A full breakfast is a popular item on the menu //photo credit: Cheryl Young/Salty

Fish Fridays, Pizza Saturdays, full English/Irish breakfasts, Farrell is busy filling her customers’ plates with foods that are familiar and comforting. With meat pies that use free-range chicken and pork raised on her family’s farm, sausages made in-house, Bakewell tarts, soda breads, and apple pies that are made with over five pounds of apples, the food served up each day is fresh, local, and satisfying.

Lee Sanders is from Murray Harbour and bills himself as a semi-regular. He popped in for a quick breakfast with his daughter. It’s simple for him, “I like the food. It’s different for what’s around here. Some of the Irish stuff, I’m enjoying that. The fish and chips are really good and I like their breakfast, the Irish breakfast.”

The Irish breakfast is a must, since Farrell herself is from Ireland. Many of her recipes, particularly for baked items like soda bread, come from 17th century cookbooks. Farrell and her husband Paul came to Canada in 2010 for a “better life”. After the economic downturn of 2008, Canada seemed to be the place to start fresh. They initially settled in Saskatchewan, north of Saskatoon, as Paul had a job lined up as a truck mechanic there. A few winters in, and the prairie weather was enough for them to start searching for a different part of Canada to live in. They checked out properties in BC, but found that pricing there was rather steep. By chance, an ad for a farm here in PEI ended up on the BC Kijiji page and three years ago the Farrells found themselves on this coast of Canada.

They now have a farm where they raise chickens and pigs, and many laying hens. Unfortunately, the free range eggs cannot be used in the restaurant, as they are not graded but instead, they are sold at the farmgate. However, the meat can be used, as it is slaughtered at a certified butchery.

Farrell says that PEI reminds her of Ireland in many ways, in particular, how our smaller homes scattered throughout the rural areas are much like Irish homes. The landscape is also similar and Farrell hopes that her restaurant will become like the Irish pubs of old, where communities gathered for a pint, a coffee, or just some company. “Some nights here, it’s busy here, and it’d be like as if we were at a pub. It’s all banter. So they don’t just come in for the food, they come in for the banter as well, and I open my arms to it all.”

About Cheryl Young

A “Jill of all trades” describes Cheryl to a T. From operating her own handyperson company, to selling luxury cars, to working as a film and TV crew member, her resume is diverse. But her dream as a kid was to be a journalist and she started down that path many years ago at CBC Charlottetown. Returning to her journalism roots, she’s excited to be editing Salty’s content and occasionally writing herself.

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