Please go to Mele e Pere. Seriously. Somebody really needs to.
Over dinner, I was listening to tales from Dr Vole who had spent the day shuttling a visitor from the Greater United States of America round the conference venues of Greater London. Already less than impressed by the state of our fair city, he at least had managed to avoid the centre of it. On encountering that perfect shitstorm of British planning mediocrity, Leicester Square, wouldn't it have been fantastic to tell him the tale of how the entire sorry quadrangle was airlifted to create a town in the Midlands before the Blitz, saving one depressing concrete lump for future unfortunate generations, while creating a permanent building site in the heart of the capital, an enduring monument to the continual change and development that goes on in our lovely city. I had cause to be grateful to our transatlantic kin tonight though. Without a table of whooping', hollerin' good ol' boys from the US of A, we'd have been virtually alone in Soho's newest gastronomic development, casual Italian basement diner Mele e Pere.
We were guided in by a gaudy wall of glass baubles, a pretty addition to an unlovely street but sadly for them not a clear enough indication of what lies within. Tripping down the steps brought us to a large subterranean cavern, whitewashed and well spaced with a lost and found furniture aesthetic created from a Habitat filled junk store.
Starters come from a short rustic selection, expertly matched by the Italian focused wine list. An explosively fruity half bottle of Puglian Primativo worked well as a bridge between the two courses. The well described and accessible list gives a little more info than what is at times a blunt and monosyllabic menu. Spoilt by Polpo and Bocca Di Lupo I found the lamb and mint polpettes as solid and bland as a chubby public school boy and soft tasty rose veal spoilt by pointlessly raw artichoke.
Thankfully things looked up, and rapidly, with the pasta course. There are no half portions here as you'd find in Zucca so it's an either / or between pasta and mains. Tagliatelle with ox cheek ragu was silky, sensual and substantial, if a little salty. Tiny cheek chunks and fragrant tomatoes came sparingly curled round yolky firm carbohydrate curls. The spring vegetable ravioli were also exceptionally well made parcels, albeit with more ricotta than anything else inside.
Tiramisu arrived like an over-exuberant busty hug from Nigella Lawson. Creamy, boozy and oh so slightly wrong. After a heavy hunk of pasta it's almost a step too far. Enough, almost too much, to share.
By the time we left, just after 9pm, a restaurant that deserved to be much busier was almost entirely empty. We walked out into Soho feeling it should be past our bedtime, like seeing a film during the day. It's a shame and I genuinely hope it improves. It wasn't perfect, but at £30 a head for two courses and wine I felt we'd eaten well. An uncomplicated, inexpensive Italian in tourist ground zero deserves a wider audience.