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Mele e Pere Review – Soho, London:
I was lucky enough to take part in the Cicchetti Trail during last year’s London Restaurant Festival. And, one of the places I visited was Mele e Pere in Soho where I was both fascinated and enthralled by the homemade vermouth that we were offered along with our Cicchetti.
But a few mouthfuls of food doesn’t make for a very fair restaurant review so I was delighted to accompany The Hedonist back to review the venue, despite having to venture out in one of the wettest days in January. Thankfully, once inside, the interior of Mele e Pere is quirky, warm and welcoming, with a stunning collection of Venetian glass apples and pears on the ground floor and a large bar with a range of seating alternatives downstairs.
Head chef and co-owner Andrea Mantovani may hail from Verona, but he has also worked with Anthony Demetre in Arbutus, Wild Honey and Les Deux Salons in addition to collaborating with Giorgio Locatelli. At Mele e Pere he offers an informal menu of small plates and main courses that work perfectly whatever your appetite may be. Of course, we did indulge in a glass each of the house vermouth to start. I marginally preferred my citrus-based white vermouth over the Hedonist’s more heavily spiced red vermouth but both made an excellent aperitif.
Our selection of small plates to start were influenced by the pescatarian Hedonist though I wasn’t unhappy with the choice at all. Deep-fried squid with smoked aioli was light and tender in a crisp tempura batter. In some misguided attempt to reduce calories I didn’t actually try the aioli – or perhaps it was simply that the deep-fried squid was good enough on its own.
This pretty plate is puntarelle, a variety of Italian chicory, served here with shavings of fresh truffle and pecorino cheese. I would have been happy enough with the pecorino and puntarelle, so a little truffle was just icing on a perfect cake so to speak.
I also really enjoyed the smoked swordfish carpaccio – delicate and fine, for me rather a special dish, with very lightly smoked fish dressed with fine slices of radish and pickles.
Left to my own devices I’d probably have ordered more hot dishes – the menu has quite a wide choice and it is hard to choose. In fact, I’d happily have grazed on small plates throughout the meal.
I was keen to eat some meat by this stage and happy to discover that the barbecued baby chicken came with a side order. And, the menu had chips. No, it’s not really a particularly Italian but, as I mentioned before it was cold wintery weather and I wanted some comfort food. The sticky barbecued baby chicken served up with preserved lemons and greens hit the spot perfectly for me.
Meanwhile, The Hedonist went for the more complex option of roast stone bass with clams, cannellini beans and tenderstem broccoli. It looked lovely and I could easily have swapped – but of course, he doesn’t eat chicken, so I’d have ended up eating two main courses. I wouldn’t have minded a bit! Adding clams to a simple roasted fish fillet does lift the whole dish – and using a rich shellfish stock for the cannellini bean and broccoli base resulted in a hearty main course.
Along similar lines, he picked the wild mushroom polenta as his side order (and then tried to steal my chips). I’d happily have just eaten the polenta, which came liberally sprinkled with parmesan, by itself with a side order of fries of course.
There’s always an element of competitiveness when The-Hedonist and I enjoy a meal together. So, I picked the chocolate fondant with pistachio ice-cream – just to balance out my carb intake and ensure I wasn’t slipping behind.
The Hedonist’s altogether more lightweight option of roasted pineapple did look good though – and the sign of excellence is always when I don’t get to taste…as in this case.
I thoroughly enjoyed my lunch at Mele e Pere. I probably ate and drank more than was wise and certainly didn’t need any supper. And I’ll be back with friends at some point in the future because this is a reasonably priced, friendly place where you can enjoy excellent food from around £6 for a small plate up to £20 or so for a main course with a side dish.
46 Brewer Street,
London W1F 9TF
020 8947 4474
Disclosure: I dined as a guest of Mele e Pere