"Yah," Livia the intern would have continued, "but maybe something a little...ironic?" thereby at least justifying the lunch money she'd later go and spend on Marlboro Lights.
"Uh, now guys, I'm thinking waaaay outside my Dr Dre Beats Audio Boombox on this," Zander the 'Ideas Furnace' would volunteer, "but hear what I'm saying, si? Well it's Italian. And its down some stairs. And what could be more ironic, y'know, than Cockney rhyming slang - but in Italian? Apples and pears, stairs. Mele e Pere - stair-ay!" At which point, and following a brief awe-struck silence, everyone would applaud before adjourning to the John Snow for celebratory Staropramens all round.
And so it came to pass that Mele e Pere was rendered in neon in the tricolore of the Italian flag, appended to the front of the building (a corner plot on busy Brewer Street) and the windows filled with a Damien Hirst-ish installation of beautiful Murano glass apples and pears. So far so conceptual. Except that if you didn't know what was behind the name and very elegant facade you'd walk straight past, thinking that it was...well, some sort of Soho creative agency.
|Photo by Michael Ford anastasia-duck.com|
My vegetarian guest, uber-blogger Michael Ford, struggled to find much that was meat-free on the menu but that was about our only complaint. While waiting for our starters we tried Mele e Pere's home-made vermouth - a citrusy white and sharper rosso - which at £4 for a generous measure made for a perfect aperitif. Michael started with maltagliati - 'misshapen' - pasta with walnut pesto, chilli and garlic, which was excellent, as was my thick soup of chestnut, curly kale and white beans which put me in mind of a breadless ribollita. A generous sprinkling of Pecorino Romano added welcome tang.
Potato gnocchi - Michael had again to order from the pasta section for his main course for want of other options - were an exercise in luxurious simplicity, drizzled in white truffle oil and stirred through with shavings of slightly dry but nonetheless discernibly fungal Italian black truffle. My roasted wild duck was served alluringly pink and was deliciously tender, quince puree bringing a nice acidity to the plate. A side order - one of any from the menu is included in the price of mains, giving a flexibility of choice I'd like to see catch on elsewhere - of broccoli with chilli and almonds was good if a little cold.
To finish we shared some Fontal and Gorgonzola cheese, served with mostarda di frutta - candied fruit in a mustard syrup, a delicious cross between chutney and piccalilli. Had space allowed we could've chosen from a short list of classic puds - tiramisu, pannacotta - or Mele e Pere's home-made ice-creams and sorbets, which given the quality of everything else we ate I'm sure would have been splendid.
The wine list is almost exclusively Italian and quirkily categorised under headings such as 'The Jewels In The Crown', 'The Aromatics' and 'Gems From All Over The Boot'. Our bottle of Pignataro Montepulciano d'Abruzzo delivered a lot of fruit and flavour for £25; the list starts as low as £16.50 and there's plenty of choice by the glass and half-bottle too. Thought's also been given to cocktails and digestifs; drink is clearly taken as seriously as the food although working through too much of any of it might make the return ascent of the mele e pere rather tricky.
So bang slap in the middle of Soho there's a smart restaurant serving honest, unfussy Italian food and interesting drinks at fair prices - you just need to know that it's there, and now you do. One of the categories on the wine list is 'Hidden Treasures'; it's a category Mele e Pere falls into itself.
Mele e Pere, 46 Brewer Street, London W1F 9TF Tel: 020 7096 2096 www.meleepere.co.uk
I was invited to review Mele e Pere
Posted by +Hugh Wright