Another day in Berlin, another startup offering to bring food to your flat in exchange for money. The latest addition to the pantheon is called HomeMeal, and in spite of the plethora of food delivery apps on the market, it’s actually offering something fresh: prepared meals from local home chefs. HomeMeal was founded in Berlin (and is still in its early days: Berlin is currently its only market), and it acts as an intermediary of sorts, offering an app for ordering and payments, and delivering the food to customers.
The food was pretty stellar: karniyarik, a beef-filled eggplant dish was velvety and deeply flavoured
In practice, HomeMeal sits somewhere in between the worlds of meal box companies like HelloFresh and restaurant delivery apps like Wolt or Lieferando. Meals are typically delivered ready-to-eat: all you need to do is heat them up, but you have to place orders in advance. You don’t need to be a big planner: the app offers same-day delivery as long as you order by mid-afternoon.
Full disclosure: I’m not a chronic order of delivered goods: I only occasionally order takeout via the apps, and mostly avoided the ultra-fast grocery delivery services, since they often seemed to strike a balance between expensive and unnecessary (the rampant anti-worker attitudes at some of those companies didn’t help). So it was a surprise that after trying an array of meals from chefs on HomeMeal, it struck me as a service that actually filled a gap and offered something new: access to home-cooked meals from people who are skilled in their craft, but may not be willing or able to stump up the (considerable) sums required to open a brick-and-mortar restaurant.
My first order was from an older Turkish lady, Nilgün Sunar, who uses the exceedingly homey title “Mutti kocht” (“Mum cooks”) on the app. Sunar seemed to neatly embody the ethos and vibe of the app: you’re not ordering from a business but a “real” person. To that end, the order was delivered with a charming hand-written note, and a short explanation of how to heat up the food (although in most cases on Homemeal, the reheating process is so straightforward that these directions aren’t really necessary — although those who are truly inept in the kitchen might appreciate them). The food itself was pretty stellar: karniyarik, a beef-filled eggplant dish was velvety and deeply flavoured, in that way where you can tell the chef has tweaked and honed the recipe over years; another dish of lahana sarmasi (stuffed cabbage leaves) with a tangy garlic yogurt, was also top-notch. In a bonus display of hospitality, some dolmades were also thrown in for free, and the portions were robust: one order was almost enough for two servings. For about 9€ per dish, it would be disingenuous to come up with a serious complaint here.
It hit that ideal balance of being actually hot, yet without letting the chili overpower the coriander, ginger, and other spices
Most other chefs on the platform take a similar approach, bringing their cultural background to their offerings, while you can find pad thai and butter chicken on Homemeal, it seems like a good place to try dishes that aren’t pandering heavily to German, bitte-nicht-scharf tastes. That was certainly the case with my favourite Homemeal dish, a kerala-style beef curry with perfectly soft, flaky paratha bread from chef Abhishek Mavingal. It hit that ideal balance of being actually hot, yet without letting the chili overpower the coriander, ginger, and other spices that made up this saucy, heady dish. Sure, at 12€, it was more expensive than some other things on the app, but an eminently good deal for the quality.
While dishes like that curry stood out, more or less everything on Homemeal was solid, especially considering the prices (the fact that most chefs keep a limited menu, often with just two or three dishes, likely helps keep quality up). That said, I’m not convinced that every dish on Homemeal works well with the “heat up at home” concept. To mind, some chefs were offering Colombian and Venezuelan-style arepas (cornmeal cakes stuffed with savoury fillings): they looked appealing, but I just wasn’t convinced that these would hold up so well after being plunked in the oven. I also ran into this issue after ordering a bolognese: the sauce was rich and tasty, but after stovetop reheating, the pasta was sloppy. Maybe it would’ve been better if they’d just sent some fresh noodles for me to boil at home instead.
Yet these are minor issues: for a very young startup, Homemeal seems to operate pretty darn smoothly: it’s easy to navigate, and in my experience, the deliveries were always on time. Sure, the concept might not be perfect for every dish imaginable (mercifully, nobody was offering reheatable burgers), but at these prices, it’s hard to formulate a serious complaint. Just choose wisely, and it’s a seamless way to sample something new.