Mele e Pere is a new Italian place helmed by Andrea Mantovani, from a Wild Honey/Arbutus trajectory. Those two restaurants have a fantastic reputation for enabling people to enjoy top class cooking in smart yet unstuffy dining rooms, at very reasonable value. So I was hopeful that this Soho newbie’s offering of Northern Italian cooking with London’s first vermouth bar would deliver a similar ethos. It's an arguably slicker proposition, but it doesn't quite over-shoot.
Refreshingly, they aren’t too lazy to manage reservations and the bar area is as nice a place to wait as you’d need. Especially the high tables across from the bar with the naval swivelling stools, certainly a novelty for Brewer Street anyway. A decent soundtrack would help, never a forte of Italian bars or restaurants...!
Opening week meant a round of zesty prosecco on the house, salute! Staff hotness warrants an early mention – there is plenty of eye candy here which is just as well, as the dining room is a tad sparse otherwise.
Breads come at £2.50 per head which if we’re empathising ourselves into Italian authenticity, is fine as a cover charge. House baked skinny grissini were moist and flavoursome, the best I’ve ever had. Gorgeous focaccia with whole roasted garlic cloves and amazingly deep, fruity olive oil made the bread basket certainly worth it. The grissini led to facile headlines of "Zucca in W1" floating round my head as we waited for our antipasti and primi.
A platter of antipasti meats was a bit steep at £12.50 even if it did include rabbit bruschetta and some wonderfully spicy deep-fried cichetti olives. The pancetta slices were another standout addition.
Spaghetti Carbonara was fantastic, bitey and good value at £7.50 – I’ll always allow a deviation from the Northern Italian blurb for this Roman classic. Made with rich yolk, plenty of pecorino, plenty more pancetta and not a drop of cream in sight, it was perfect.
Beetroot, walnut, pear and Gorgonzola salad (£7.50) was a light, fresh dish, perhaps made that little bit lighter with scant Gorgonzola.
Hand-chopped veal (£9.95) was a brave choice by The Piglet – this was obviously top quality meat and was excellently seasoned. Even though he thought he was eating Krang from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
|"After them Shredder!"|
On to the mains, a clean summery plate of grilled plaice and cannellini beans was simple and top notch (£17).
The rabbit (£17) wasn’t a whole bony carcass as it can be, but several meaty leg and thigh pieces in a tomato jus, replete with olives, pine nuts, tomato, carrots and other pseudo-peasant food accompaniments. Very nicely cooked indeed. I’m still rather shocked I managed to move past a Bistecca alla Fiorentina.
Lamb neck risotto was well put together but could have done with more meat!
We had some lovely digestivi and gelati – Campari and Blood Orange flavour being one highlight, and an exquisite pistachio being another.
Service was bubbly and helpful – our wine could have been topped up a little more but nothing major. More importantly, no glaring food errors which can be harder to iron out. I hope the menu is seasonal if not daily as per the masters of the genre in W6, and that the pastas change accordingly to keep it all fresh. Some slightly inconsistent pricing; some great value to be found but a few stings in there too.
I liked this place but it needs a little time to mature I think. It’s not Zucca – primarily as it’s in the basement rather than boasting floor to ceiling windows - but it's spacious in a way that Soho can’t often provide. Once word spreads, I think this will become a great place just to come for a drink and some snacks too.
At street level, cabinets of beautiful hand-blown glass apples and pears could be an exhibit at the V&A. You wouldn't risk it on Tottenham High Road though.
Although it's far less fusty than the V&A, with the promise of great food and drinks down the old "mele e pere"… *
* early reviewer’s rights to make rubbish obvious gags is reserved
Food – 8/10
Drink – 9/10
Service - 8/10
Value – 7/10
Tap water tales – 9/10 (iced carafe and glasses brought immediately with no prompting)
Staff Hotness – 9/10