SquareMeal Review of Mere
Matching her food to the setting, MasterChef Monica Galetti’s Fitzrovia HQ displays restrained elegance throughout. The unassuming frontage of a Charlotte Street terrace conceals a ground-floor bar that is a destination in its own right, though star billing goes to the basement dining room, cleverly opened up to daylight by a double-height window and furnished with cool blue upholstered seating, mirrored walls and gold-edged tables that somehow look subtle.
She might have a reputation on TV as ‘Scary Monica’ but Galetti is lovely in person (she comes out to greet diners when she’s in the kitchen) and her front-of-house team, marshalled by husband David, offer easy manners and helpful suggestions when needed – and they know David’s wine list inside out.
The menu, meanwhile, reads like a shopping list you wish you made weekly: lobster, white anchovies, softshell crab, black garlic and heritage tomatoes might all feature. Sweet roast scallops are seasoned with salty, crispy chicken skin, paired with cauliflower and the gentle warmth of curried mayonnaise.
Butter-poached lobster is another triumphant layering of flavours and textures, dressed with heritage carrots, a crispy claw and coconut shavings and perfectly complemented by a mild peanut dressing and rich lobster bisque. It is generously portioned to boot – a whole crustacean per person.
Elsewhere, wild Cornish cod was moist and perfectly cooked, while veal sweetbreads were glazed in an umami-rich sauce cut through by the freshness of peas. Veggies who feel underserved by only one option per course might be better off with the six-course vegetarian tasting menu.
A killer line-up of puddings makes it hard to choose just one, but we’d recommend going for the lemon baked Alaska, delivered with a flourish of theatre. Vodka is warmed at the table before being set alight and poured over the meringue casing, toasting it as the alcohol burns off.
Make time to finish in the bar upstairs, with its rich petrol-coloured velvet seating and mixologists who give as much care to the drinks they serve as the kitchen does to the food it presents. There’s also a small menu of bar snacks that makes a comfortable start to any evening, whether dining at the restaurant or not.
Monica Galetti, Masterchef judge and former senior sous chef at the legendary Le Gavroche, has offered herself up for scrutiny with her first solo restaurant. Mere, pronounced Mary, is the French word for mother and the Samoan word for Galetti’s own mother Mary.
Kick things off on a deep-blue velvet chair in the elegant ground-floor bar where, à Le Gavroche, guests peruse the menu, perhaps over a glass of the richly rounded house Champagne that Galetti has produced with Duval Leroy.
The striking design continues downstairs where a double-height glass frontage removes any sense of eating in a basement and has transformed the site into a light-filled lunchtime rendezvous as well as an elegant setting for dinner.
But as expected, it’s the cooking that shines the most brightly, with Galetti’s Samoan and New Zealand heritage blended seamlessly with Gavroche-style haute cuisine for a contemporary take on high-end dining.
To start, a light ’nduja sauce highlights the meatiness of a springy curl of octopus, sticky from the plancha, while the accompanying caper and raisin jam is so good you’ll want to spread it over the mini bread loaves that arrive warm from the kitchen. Brined cabbage, pickled celeriac and a gribiche dressing are the perky contrasts to soft folds of ox tongue.
To follow, lobster is rescued from creamy sauce territory, simply poached and served with potato purée, cabbage and a bisque sauce in harmony of light sweetness, while 30-day aged sirloin comes with puffs of onion beignets, glazed cheek and a tarragon crème fraiche to keep all the richness in check.
Desserts have more conventional flavours but are no less good for it: chocolate and peanut cremeux with peanut praline, roasted cocoa nib ice cream, and a coconut cream pie filled with roasted banana and drizzled with rum caramel are the stuff of sweet dreams.
The letter ‘M’ appears everywhere in the restaurant, from the door handles of the loos to the lapel pins of the nattily attired waters. With Mere, Monica Galetti has stamped her own claim to one of London’s most famous restaurant addresses.