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26 September 2012

Going down the Apples and Pears: Mele e Pere Review

Every time I have walked along Brewer Street over the past few months, one window has always caught my eye. And no, it's not what you're probably expecting, given the majority of tenants on this Soho street. Instead, it's the window of Mele e Pere, which is filled with hundreds of coloured glass apples and pears. I thought at first it might be a particularly specialist antique shop, but it's actually a lovely, family-run trattoria, which I finally got to test out last night, with some of the other members of the Quisite family.

Myriad mele and a plethora of pere

Upstairs at Mele e Pere, there are only a few perching tables, but luckily, we were ushered down the old apples and pears to the main restaurant, where there are a few more perching tables and plenty of regular tables. Oddly, for a below-ground room, the ceiling slopes down to one side, making you feel a bit like you're in an artist's garret, or, at least, a loft in Brooklyn. The decor is simple and stylish: minimalist wood tables, Anglepoise lamps suspended from the sloping ceiling and walls adorned with vintage Italian posters and various apple- and pear-themed memorabilia.

Down the 'apples and pears' at Mele e Pere

On an autumnal Tuesday evening, Mele e Pere was pretty busy, although there was never a queue. We arrived just in time for the pre-theatre menu, although because I wanted a main course from this menu, but didn't like any of the starters or puddings, I had to cut a deal with the waiter, who, after checking with his boss, was happy to assent to my request, and I got to have my gnocchi with (I think) basil, rocket, pea and pine nut pesto, followed by a non-regulation panna cotta. The others all ordered the pork belly, which looked really good--the salami starter was a pretty decent portion size too. Gnocchi can be so stodgy, but these were flavoursome and delicious. My pasta was really tasty. Those with bigger appetites than me might have needed a side dish or a starter and a pudding. My panna cotta came with strawberries and what I thought was supposed to be a strawberry marmalade but I may have been misremembering; the panna cotta itself was good, but the strawberry sauce tasted a little synthetic.

Gnocchi with pesto (L) and panna cotta (R)

The bill came to about £100 for four people, including at least two courses each, some nibbles and a bottle of wine. Not bad at all for Soho. You could easily have spent that amount at Pizza Express, for example, with nowhere near as much character or quality of ingredients. Equally, dinner for four at Polpo, just up Bridle Lane, would have been a lot more expensive.

If you're looking for a simple but stylish Italian restaurant near Piccadilly Circus, with good food and great service, Mele e Pere definitely fits the bill. È proprio il contrario di una mela marcia.

Mele e Pere. 46 Brewer Street, London, W1F 9TF (Tube: Piccadilly Circus). Website. Twitter.

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