Mele e Pere Soho
46 Brewer Street, Soho, London W1F 9TF
020 8947 4474/www.meleepere.co.uk
I went to Soho trattoria Mele e Pere a couple of times after it opened and whilst I liked the space and concept I found the food rather uneven, so I was pleased to be asked back to review to see how things have progressed.
It is a 100 cover restaurant and head chef Andrea Mantovani, who is a partner in the business, has an impressive c.v. that includes Arbutus, Wild Honey, Les Deux Salons, Harry’s Bar as well as collaborating with Chef Giorgio Locatelli.
The joint has changed since I first visited. The small ground floor space was solely a reception area with a window display featuring an attractive selection of Murano glass ….apples and pears (hence the name of the restaurant).
It is now a small bar area with some seating at raised tables; the Mele e Pere are fortunately still there having been moved to a display cabinet.
Downstairs the action centres around the rather sexy and well-stocked copper vermouth bar featuring all the usual suspects along side their own bespoke blends (they run rather exciting sounding vermouth blending events). My grandparents used to drink vermouth neat as an aperitif but until very recently, with the resurgence of interest in the bitter Italian flavours of Campari and cocktails such as the negroni, the rather genteel herbal flavours of vermouth had fallen out of favour. In the circumstances it would have been churlish not to try the house blends.
Both are built on a vodka base with the white having a dry citrus character, having been infused with lemon and orange peel. The red was more spiced with woody elements in the flavour. Both sat very well over a tumbler of ice (£4). It was probably rather foolish to order the Spicy ascolana olives as an accompinament to our drinks (£3.50) because although delicious they overwhelmed the flavour of the vermouth.
The menu suggests ordering four small plates of food for two people as starters and years of extensive therapy have enabled me to obey this kind of instruction without any kind of psychological trauma ensuing.
Deep fried Squid with smoked aioli (£6) came fresh and hot from the fryer with a subtle smoked paprika mayo.
Puntarelle (an Italian winter chicory) salad with pecorino and black truffle (£6) was a beautifully balanced blend of the wonderful truffle and cheese flavours combined with the crunch of the puntarelle.
By now we were drinking an Archeo (Ruggero di Tasso) Grillo (£26.50), a deliciously herby and chewy white from Sicily.
For my mains I chose Roast stone bass with clams, cannellini beans and tender broccoli (£16.50). The fish had a crisp skin and good flavour, and the whole ensemble perched on a shellfish bisque that added richness.
Barbecued baby Chicken came with brussel tops and preserved lemon (£14.50). It came with a rich sticky sauce that Fiona mopped up with her chips. She let me try a couple (any more would have led to violence) and they were crisp on the outside and fluffy on the inside-a bit like me.
For desserts Fiona from London Unattached chose the Chocolate fondant (£6) which was rich and gooey and perfect with the dry herby glass of Calem Port (£6).
I chose the Roast caramelised pineapple which arrived with good vanilla ice cream and a wonderful Armagnac caramel (£6). It was washed down with a Moscato d’Asti from Piemonte (£6)-a light sweet fizz that was perfect with pineapple.
Mele e Pere has a self-confidence about its offer that is really appealing; it feels like a model of what a sophisticated urban trattoria should be and has clearly grown into itself. You could drop in for a pre-theatre plate of pasta (both the Globe artichoke ravioli and King Prawn Bigoli really appealed), a four course blow out or just for a glass or three of vermouth and it would deliver on all accounts. With the pricing being very reasonable it is part of the new democratisation of dining in London. It just shows that first impressions aren’t always correct!