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Eating Out: Mele e Pere, London

Mele e Pere
46 Brewer Street, Soho, London, W1F 9TF
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Non-Italian speakers may not realise these colourful ornaments. fashioned in Murano glass, are in fact a charming nod to its name which literally means ‘apples and pears’.
Mele e Pere is easy to overlook among the neon lights of Soho.
Apart from the attractive window display of glass fruit and brightly-lit name, its compact Brewer Street entrance gives little away to passers by.
Non-Italian speakers may not realise these colourful ornaments. fashioned in Murano glass, are in fact a charming nod to its name which literally means ‘apples and pears’.
Down the apples and pears you go and a cosy Italian-style Trattoria is a pleasant surprise.
Passing the green glow and art deco lights of the bar the dining area is surprisingly dark. It’s probably here you appreciate the cosiness of this subterranean spot.
But ambience aside, Mele e Pere pride themselves on their Italian wines. After all, they do dub themselves an all-day Vermouth bar.
It was therefore a delight to have a waitress who took pleasure in helping us find a wine to our tastes.
After pouring samples of both the Colli Argento Pinot Grigio (Veneto) and the Castelnuovo Rose equivalent, we opted for the latter which complemented our sharing plates well.
The calamari was tasty, if a little overcooked. But it managed to stay on the right side of rubbery and was served fuss-free with a chunk of lemon and garlic mayo.
I couldn’t help wish my San Daniele ham had been served in more delicate slithers, acting as a ‘glaze’ to the juicy charentais melon. Thinner slices may also have dampened down the overwhelmingly salty aftertaste. Nonetheless, the melon was perfectly ripe and refreshing.
Spicy fried ascolana olives, seirass ricotta with peas and broad beans and fried courgette flowers, squid and mackerel all feature in Mele e Pere’s very impressive selection of 13 starters.
We held back in order to fully enjoy our mains: a carbonara ravioli with pecorino and pancetta, and a spring herb and lobster risotto.
The carbonara ravioli wasn’t carbonara in the traditional gooey, indulgent sense. The sauce was thinner than expected – a silky glaze that carried a reddish-pink, tint from the pancetta. The pecorino cheese made a very subtle presence and the presentation was somewhat modest. But looks are deceiving, as this pasta dish certainly delivered in flavour.
You get generous portions for your money here. After procrastinating over which size of dish to order, the small risotto proved perfectly sufficient.
The lobster risotto was in fact, the winning dish for me. Again, it went against expectations and wasn’t the gloopy rice dish I’d hoped for. But the al dente bite proved extremely welcoming and it still carried a wet consistency with good depth of flavours. Along with the spring herbs and rich lobster on top, I could eat this dish all over again.
Mele e Pere’s dessert menu stays true to their Italian roots with nothing more than Tiramisu, affogatos and a range of gelatos and sorbets.
Had it not been mid-week, we’d have happily stayed in this hide-away until the early hours, sampling their sweets and their tantalising cocktails and vermouth.
For a family-run business, the genuinely friendly staff, cosy interiors and authentic Italian fare at Mele e Pere does more than enough to pull in the West End crowds.
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8 August 2013
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