I walked past Mele e Pere a few times over the years; I stopped to look at the menu, peeked through the window and admired the colourful glass apples and pears on display. I wrote the name down on my list of restaurants to try, waiting for the right occasion to visit. Finally the chance came last month as the restaurant launched a new breakfast menu and I was invited to try it.
Mele e Pere appears rather small when you look from outside, in fact the restaurant at street level is not more than a cafe’ with a few tables at the back and two window counters.
Once you walk in however, you notice a staircase going down, leading you to a large dining area with a cocktail bar and tables. It has the atmosphere of someone’s living room, with a shelf diving the space, wooden tables and framed pictures hanging from the red and green walls.
Co-owners Andrea Mantovani and Peter Hughes opened Mele e Pere in February 2012, with a daily-changing menu of seasonal British produce and Italian ingredients. All of the bread, pasta, desserts and ice-creams are made in their kitchen every day.
The wine list celebrates independent and biodynamic Italian producers, with choices available by the glass and bottle.
Mele e Pere also features one of London’s largest selection of vermouths (aromatised wines, flavoured with botanicals such as spices, fruits, roots and herbs). You can have their home-made citrus-dry white Vermouth on the rocks or ask the barman for one of the Mele e Pere signature cocktails. You can also choose your favourite vermouth to build your own your Negroni and Martini!
Mele e Pere aims to be an Italian-style “neighbourhood trattoria”, but in my opinion it’s more than that. A trattoria in Italy is a family-run, unpretentious and frankly ordinary place to go for a casual family meal. You will find places like that in pretty much any neighbourhood in London, your “local Italian” that serves good, no-frills food at accessible prices.
But this is the heart of Soho after all, not London’s zone three or a small town in northern Italy, so don’t expect anything ordinary around here. Mele e Pere feels rather special with its curated decor, vermouth bar and truffle dishes.
If I were going for a full meal at Mele e Pere, I would wait for a special occasion as the prices can get a bit steep after a few dishes and wine. The great thing about this restaurant is that can easily just pop in for a drink after work, perhaps some sharing plates, or for a quick pre-theatre dinner.
I was invited to try Mele e Pere for dinner and I visited the restaurant with my husband on a Friday evening a few weeks ago. Our table was booked for 19:30 and when we arrived the large room downstairs was still quiet, however the tables around us quickly filled up as the night went on.
One of the restaurant’s co-owners, Peter, was at the restaurant that night and took the time to introduce himself and talk us through the menu. Mele e Pere isn’t a traditional Italian restaurant, as in it doesn’t serve only classic dishes from Italian regional cuisines. The menu draws inspiration from Italian ingredients and cooking techniques, but it takes them further. The dishes are often eclectic and surprising.
We shared a few starters:
Goat’s cheese bruschetta, white truffle oil, summer mushrooms and walnuts – not everyone loves the taste of truffles, but if you do, then you are going to love this dish! Truffle oil, mushrooms and goat’s cheese are a match made in heaven and this dish works really well. It comes as a generous portion to share.
Romanesco broccoli, pumpkin seeds, fresh pomegranate and sesame dressing – whilst this was probably the least “Italian” dish I tried at Mele e Pere, I loved the flavour combination that reminded me of middle-eastern dips.
Salt cod mantecato, squid ink mayo and potato crisps – this was a dish that the chef sent to our table and it reminded me of the Baccalà Mantecato spread that my mum always makes for Christmas Eve dinner. I thought the salt cod was delicious by itself, but with the squid ink mayo it became too rich. The homemade crisps were fantastic, but not a good match for the already salty cod. Bread would work better for this dish in my opinion (though it would be as exciting as the crisps!).
The pasta dishes are in my opinion the strongest feature of the Mele e Pere’s menu. You get the choice of a small or large portion; the small pasta dish was about the amount I would cook for myself at home normally. And considering we had just shared three starters, the pasta was more than enough to fill us up.
I loved my Tagliatelle with beef ragù! I often order ragù in restaurants because I never get the chance to cook it at home (my husband is vegetarian and it’s too time-consuming to make for just one person – I know I could make a big batch and freeze it, but to be honest I like to eat the same dish as my husband).
The dish is served without Parmesan cheese, but this is added on top of the tagliatelle if you want to.
My husband ordered the Potato gnocchi with Umbria black truffle. I tasted it and thought it was very good. I had a truffle risotto cooked by Mele e Pere at Soho Food Festival two years ago and I still remember it, so good it was!
Truffles and cheese make this a very rich dish, so definitely go for the small portion if you are going to try it.
For dessert I ordered a scoop of Amalfi Lemon Sorbet, which was so good I finished it quickly and forgot to take a photo. (I’m lying, I didn’t forget, I was simply too busy snapchatting on my phone to pick up my DSLR!)
I did photograph the Negroni Sorbet though. Like the lemon sorbet, this was also great, though a bit too boozy for me.
The chef also sent us the Millefoglie dessert to try: three layers of flaky pastry filled with vanilla cream and fresh raspberries. It was very good, but a tricky one to share as it all falls apart as you try to cut through it!
Speaking about cakes, Mele e Pere have recently launched a breakfast menu of homemade pastries and cakes that are baked freshly every morning.
There’s custard cream doughnuts (“bomboloni”), chocolate brioches, short-bread biscuits with jam, granola bars, and carrot cake. If you prefer your breakfast to be savoury, they also have salmon & cream cheese brioche buns and the special Full Breakfast Sandwich: homemade sausage, smoked pancetta, free range egg and house relish on toasted sourdough bread.
The breakfast is served every day from 8.30am until noon alongside good espresso from Terrone Coffee Roasters (a Rwandan single origin was in the hopper when I visited).
Personally I feel very close to the kind of food served at Mele e Pere – pastries, pasta and ice-cream as in my DNA! I didn’t try the vermouth, as I am not a big drinker and I’ve rather have a glass of white wine than a cocktail, but I am sure their large selection of vermouth is a big selling point. And I like the idea of making your own Negroni with your favourite liquors…perhapsI shall try one next time!
I am always on the look-out for good Italian restaurants in London, because I often get asked for recommendations on where to eat the best Italian food. Now I know I can recommend Mele e Pere!
Disclaimer: I was a guest of Mele e Pere during a bloggers’ breakfast event and for dinner with my husband. All opinions are my own.