With summer in full swing, Mele e Pere restaurant and vermouth bar in Soho recently launched their seasonal dining fare and new Summer Spritz menu. Buzzing with a neighbourhood trattoria feel, the dishes showcase classic yet contemporary Italian flavour and pair perfectly with their delightfully uplifting spritzes. We visit Mele e Pere to try these fresh offerings for ourselves.
Located on the corner of Brewer Street and Great Pulteney Street in Soho, the outside of Mele e Pere is adorned with bright, Italian-flag-coloured neon signs bearing its name. Walking in passed the aperitivo bar, we are warmly welcomed by a member of staff. The bar itself is cosy, with a few small tables occupied by a good amount of people for this time of the evening, all enjoying some small plates and drinks. Our eyes are drawn to a mural stretching across one wall, depicting an attractive woman lounging in a giant martini glass, and graffiti print “Trattoria + Vermouth Bar” with a neon red arrow pointing down the stairs.
In the aperitivo bar, guests can order from a full range of cocktails, beers, and spirits, as well small plates including Lamb Meatballs with Pecorino Romano, Truffle Arancini, Finochhiona Salame, and more (all £4.50 – £7, or 3 small plates for £12). There’s also homemade vermouth on tap – a real treat for the Summer.
We make our way down to the trattoria and vermouth bar, which is much larger than the ground floor. Bartenders flit around behind the bar, diligently making cocktails for the busy, subterranean basement of patrons. At first glance, it appears to be a standard bar with the ambiguous liquor bottles that line the shelves on the wall behind it. However, these are all vermouth and on the middle shelf there are over twenty wine carafes with hand-written tags of the botanicals contained inside: lavender, dill, rose petals, orange, wormwood, raspberry, figs, sage, and the list goes on. It becomes apparent that this is not just any bar, but one that lives up to the claim of being the largest vermouth bar in London.
A loud but comforting chatter fills the room that has the familiar ease of a neighbourhood café. We are swiftly greeted by Ann who guides us to our table in a cosy nook, featuring retro warehouse shelving adorned with a mix of both practical and accent items. At 7 o’clock on a Wednesday evening, nearly all the tables of the eighty-cover restaurant are filled. There’s a lively atmosphere that can only be described as a quintessential Italian trattoria – casual, family-owned, and radiating local vibes.
We are presented with a tantalising, intriguing spritz menu and Ann guides us through all their five Summer Spritzes and tells us that, during Mele e Pere’s ‘Summer of Spritz’, spritzes (all £8.50) are two for the price of one all day, every day. For our first round, we go for the Mele e Pere Spritz and Cocchi Rosa Spritz. Their namesake spritz has Mele e Pere vermouth (homemade in-house), hibiscus, prosecco, soda, and an olive. It is delightfully invigorating; a subtle tart, almost cranberry-like flavour from the hibiscus, sweetness from the prosecco, all adorned with a tiny Italian flag in the olive.
The Cocchi Rosa Spritz has Cocchi Rosa Vermouth (made in Italy, Piemonte wine infused with gentian and rose petals), prosecco, soda, and blackberry. Equally invigorating, although slightly tarter and drier than the aforementioned.
We sip our spritzes, enjoying the atmosphere and forming our final thoughts of the all-important decision of what to eat. The food menu features classic Italian dishes with a contemporary influence.
For our first course (antipasti) we order Burrata Pugliese, Heirloom Tomatoes, and Oregano (£8); Prosciutto Di Norcia, Gnocchi Fritti and Grana Padano (£8.50); and Ciabatta with Sundried Tomato Pesto (£3.50). Proscuitto di Norcia is cured prosciutto crudo and encapsulates the traditions and passion of local butchers of this picturesque region. The Gnocchi Fritti were large, crisp, pillows that pair well with the savouriness of the prosciutto, whilst the Burrata was the perfect blend of contrasting textures. It’s hardly surprising that “burrata” translates to “buttery” because it was oh-so decadently delicious.
Sometimes the simple things are the tastiest and there’s nothing better than fresh, home-made bread. The ciabatta stands on its own merit, as does the pesto, and together they are a warm, rich duo you can’t help but lap up.
Up next for our mains, we go for the Grilled Whole Lemon Sole with Cannellini Beans and Sundried Tomato Pesto (£19.50), and Tagliatelle with Beef Ragu (£16).
The fish and meat at Mele e Pere are cooked over wood and coal – details like this that add up to a much better flavour that’s often lacking in other similar restaurants. The sole has crispy, seasoned skin and a flaky, mild flesh. The citrus and herby tomato pesto is a pleasant accompaniment to both the fish and cannellini beans.
The tagliatelle is everything you would expect from an Italian nonna: good depth of flavour, hearty portion, and supreme comfort.
Having finished our mains, table cleared, and sipping the second round of drinks that arrived during our mains – Cinzano Bianco Spritz, and Sacred Rosehip Cup Spritz – we steadfastly swear to ourselves we are too full for dessert. However, it takes little convincing; at the mention of tiramisu and gelato we crack.
A flared ice cream glass with two scoops of gelato and a plate of tiramisu soon arrives. The Chocolate and Mocha Chocolate Fudge Gelato (£3.50 – £8) is an intense duet of chocolate and coffee. Ann recommended this gelato combination to enjoy with the Mele e Pere homemade red vermouth and the advice is spot-on.
As we take our time finishing the last of our desserts and vermouth, there’s a tinge of sadness that our time here is coming to an end. Mele e Pere evokes comfort in all aspects; from its earnest service, humble décor, and fresh, authentic food, it truly is an Italian trattoria with a Soho spirit. We enter with a fondness for Italian food and culture, and leave happy, full and a new appreciation for vermouth.
Words by Whitney Special