Apple and pear
That’s the meaning of “Mele E Pere”. The designer took it quite literally and mounted a polychromatic window display of apples and pears – some metallic ones, some Murano glass ones – on the street level of this mysterious Italian eatery on Brewer Street. In fact, the entrance was pretty much a camouflage. Judging from the moss green facade, the bright neon signs, the vintage sofas and the vast number of chandeliers, one would certainly assume this was a furniture shop. No staff in sight. Just a menu neatly but unnoticeably placed on an old-school pressing machine of sort. The restaurant itself was situated in a vast, den-like basement, which I accessed via a staircase adorned with vintage handcrafted tiles. The creamy wall paint and the mix-and-match wooden tables glowed in spotlights. Trattoria-style. Cozy. Charming. With a smart bar.
Cozy Italian to match
The chef Andrea Mantovani worked at Harry’s Bar and was head chef at Anthony Demetre’s Michelin-starred Arbutus and Wild Honey. At Mele e Pere, the menu was northern Italian and not overfussed. The starters were priced between £7.50- £11.50; the pasta could be served starter-sized (£7.50- £9.95) or as a main (£10.95- £15.95); the main came with a free side of your choice (£16- £19.95); an additional side cost £3.50; and the desserts were around £5.50 each. Warm Salad of Razor Clams (£9.50) was this coarsely sliced, springy razor clams tossed in olive oil, parsley, tomato and a medley of finely diced celery and carrot. The vibrant acidity from tomato and the squeezing of lemon made the dish very pleasant to eat, while the sweet cannolini bean mush balanced it off well. That aside, I detected some minuscule slices of octopus and, as the menu only read “razor clams”, I wondered if they were intentional. Artichoke Risotto with Lamb’s Neck (£9.95) lacked a cheesy shine, while the taste was very intense bordering on being too salty for my liking. This had much to do with the infusion of pungent artichoke cubes and rich lamb reduction. There wasn’t so much flavour from wild mint as billed (which could have elevated the dish). The piece of lamb’s neck, however, was expertly done. Moreish and very tender. I wouldn’t mind eating just a full portion of this. Roast Cod and Fennel (£17.95) was underwhelming. The cod was nicely seasoned and correctly roasted. It would look so much prettier if served with the “roasted” side up. The garnish of a blanched tomato and grilled fennel chunks did not much and I couldn’t help thinking I was eating disparate parts rather than everything as an entity on a plate. My side of grilled vegetables (inclusive of the main course) was also so-so and could do with a finishing touch of extra virgin olive oil drizzle. Tiramisu (no picture and I also couldn’t recall the price) had a lovely coffee forte but could do with more sweetness.
My meal at Mele e Pere was reliable, but not exciting. In fairness, the place delivered what it promised to be – the “trattoria”. The FOH was attractive, attentive and sweet. The bar surely would be quite hip at night. The bill for a 4-course with water, juice and a glass of wine came to just £60.
GO FOR: Easy Italian. Charming space.
MELE E PERE
46 Brewer Street