Mere | London (UK)

High-level cooking indeed, but if blending classical French with South Pacific influences is the aim, then be bold about it and show off Mere’s identity!

I think it’s great whenever a talented female chef leaves the empire of a culinary icon (think of Angela Bartlett leaving Gordon Ramsay) and strikes out successfully on her own. Samoan-born New Zealander Monica Galetti did just that when she left Michel Roux Jr to open her own restaurant in March 2017 together with her husband. Mere is located at the less hectic northern end of Charlotte Street, in the middle of Fitzrovia, London (UK). The restaurant name has a double meaning. It’s the French for mother, the restaurant name here is pronounced “Mary”, as Mere is the Samoan for Mary, which is Monica’s mother’s name. 

Monica Galetti is best known for her role as the scary chef/gatekeeper to Michel Roux Jr on the BBC-series “Masterchef: The Professionals” and former Michel Roux Jr’s Le Gavroche** senior sous chef (were she worked for 16 years) and has been trained by some of the best chefs in the business. In short there’s a lot of talent there. The other half making up Mere is Monica’s husband, David. David Galetti was head sommelier at Le Gavroche** and knows his wines, as well as structuring front of house and managing the restaurant. The perfect dynamic duo if you will.

Upstairs is the bar with dark blue-grey walls and royal blue sofas. The perfect surrounding to have your aperitif. A beautiful staircase of rough concrete and curved plywood leads you down to the dining room, which is long and buzzy with a geometrically decorated Samoan siapo cloth and other island artworks by Galetti’s cousin, Solomon Daniel, on the walls. A sleek and modern feel and atmosphere.

Mere is open 6 days a week for lunch and dinner. They are closed on Sunday. The à la carte offers 6 Starters (at £15-£25), 6 Mains (at £24-£39), 5 Desserts (at £11-£12) and a Cheeseboard (at £14.50). They also offer a Lunch Menu (2-courses at £29 and 3-courses at £35) and a 6-course Tasting Menu (at £77).

We had dinner last Friday and went for the Tasting Menu.

Bread & Salted Butter

The bread was made in the kitchen and was a miniature white loaf, with pleasing, soft texture like brioche.

Cauliflower Tempura

The first canapé was a cauliflower tempura with a bit of lime mayo. The cauliflower had a nice bite to it, but the coating was was a bit heavy, so it was more a batter than tempura. Citrusy lime mayo to add freshness. Tasty!

Panisse of Chickpea

The second canapé was a panisse (fingerfood from the Provence, typically served as fingers, like fries) of chickpea with a creme of red pepper and smoked paprika. Outside crispy and inside nice and creamy. Loved it!

Set Pea Custard – Ham Hock – Truffle Sable

The first course was very pretty, neat and clean looking. The fresh peas on top were nice with the pea custard, really enhancing the texture. There wasn’t enough of the ham hock to play a part unfortunately. And the pastry just fell apart, beyond crumbly, when trying to eat it. The bit of mustard was probably there for the ham hock, but was weird with the peas. Truffle came through nicely, but why call it truffle sable? (The French word sable means “sand”, which is the French term that takes the place of the English “breadcrumbs”.). Loved the overall taste and flavour though, but this dish could benefit from a few adjustments.

Cornish Cod
Pan Roasted – Artichoke – Confit Fennel – Olives – Dulse Aioli Sauce

The cuisson of the cod was perfect. The dulse aioili sauce with a bit of saffron was delicious. (Dulse is a seaweed of a reddish-brown colour). The garnishes were lose elements on the plate. A slither of olive and another slither of sun-dried tomato. Every mouthful was different. Maybe that was the intention, but I missed harmony in the dish. I would have been perfectly happy with just the cod and the aioli sauce!

Lentils – Carrot & Pickled Celery Ragout – Guanciale

The scallops were cooked perfectly. The Guanciale (an Italian cured meat product prepared from pork jowl or cheeks, its name is derived from guancia, the Italian word for ‘cheek’) on top was lovely and added a bacon-like saltiness. The lentils ragout was beautiful with a nice crunch from the carrot and celery. Best dish so far! Lovely textures and flavour, beautiful taste and harmony on the plate.

Hardwick Lamb
Cannon & Sweetbread – Black Garlic – Courgette & Basil – Lemon – Thyme

The lamb was succulent, tender and delicious! (Cannon is the meat from the eye of loin section of the lamb, its is considered one of the best cuts of lamb for roasting). But the piece of cannon was too small. The basil crème with fresh and bold green flavours. Black garlic was nice and quite strong in taste. The quantity of basil crème and black garlic was too much for the lamb (or as said the lamb piece was too small). When tasting everything together, you couldn’t taste the lovely jus anymore, which was a shame. The sweetbread was excellent. Overall a good dish.

Whipped Goat’s Cheese – Leek & Filo Crisp – Poached Pear – Salad Leaves

Picture perfect dish again. Punchy goat’s cheese. Together with the leek it almost tasted like gorgonzola. Wafer thin filo, very delicate and nice. Light but packed with flavour. I loved it! Maybe a bit too punchy for most people though, so I would add more sweetness to counter the goat’s cheese as the pear can’t handle that as it is.

Yorkshire Rhubarb
Crème Fraîche & Vanilla – Rhubarb Compote – Lime & Ginger Syrup

Stunning dessert! The outer layer was white chocolate, filled with crème fraîche and vanilla mouse and rhubarb compote in the center. Creamy and quite sweet, but the rhubarb underneath brought balance with the perfect level of tanginess. Excellent dessert!

Chocolate Ganache & Chocolate Praline

Lovely “Mere branded” chocolates to finish a great dinner. Yes, some mild comments here and there, but it never got in the way of the enjoyment of the dish. Also we had the all-too-rare experience of eating a menu so well judged and balanced that, by the end of it, you feel neither heavy nor ready for a siesta but simply very satisfied!

The staff were nice, attentive and extremely helpful, but everything was quite rushed. Maybe because there were a few to many waiting staff and everyone wanted to do something, but things were served too quickly and when our water and wine were being topped up for the fourth time when we just had our first course, I explained it to the waiter and asked them to slow down. This helped and everything was managed perfectly throughly the rest of the dinner.

No magic sparkly dust, dry ice or culinary tricks. but high-level cooking indeed in a sumptuous dining room. I just struggle to see the kitchen’s identity. On the website it says that blending classical French with South Pacific influences is the aim, but I don’t recognise it enough in the dishes, tastes and flavours. Be bold about it and show off Mere’s identity! We definitely will be back, because this restaurant will go places. Definitely worth a visit!