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Dan the apples n pears

Dan the apples n pears

By on May 1, 2014 in Drink, Food, Italian, Restaurants, Reviews, Vermouth | 0 comments

You would be forgiven for walking straight past mele e pere whilst out and about in Soho scouting for a top notch watering hole and eaterie. Rest assured you’d be missing out, as beneath the elegantly simplistic upstairs bar facing onto Brewer Street, extends a spacious and welcoming basement, where the serious business of rustic Italian trattoria dining at its finest takes place. We sat upstairs in the goldfish bowl bar before dinner, sipping gin Martinis, absorbing the laid back vibe. Staff genially busied about the floor, a couple next to us shortly taking delivery of a profiterole dessert I was so impressed by that I rudely asked its recipient diners if I could snap the beast. They kindly obliged and in fact joined in the fun. Take a look at the beauteous objects and you’ll perhaps understand how such temptation took hold.  Mele e pere means apples and pears in Italian, or stairs in cockney rhyming slang, which is cute, as their extensive collection of blown glass apples and pears comprises the entire wall beside stairs you descend to get in amongst it in the basement, featuring a stunning copper topped bar stocking an assortment of vermouths blended by their team and bottled in beautifully ornate glassware. If you are so inclined you can join in the vermouth revival movement by attending monthly masterclasses hosted by head sommelier Ed Scothern, where you will learn how to blend different vermouths, and naturally, to drink them too. This is great value at only £15.00 which includes cicchetti (light bites such as olives, ham and squid). The meal was a culinary delight from start to finish. Rather than choosing mains, we selected a number of starting plates to share, so as to graze gently and savour the experience. Seirass ricotta, fresh peas, purple sprouting broccoli and smoked bacon proved an excellent medley of flavours and textures, creamy mild Piedmonte ricotta blending beautifully with tangy, salty bacon, freshened with lightly blanched greens. Salad of grilled octopus and calamari was cooked to tender perfection, fruity olive oil providing a gorgeous warmth to softened potato, dressed with fresh wild garlic leaves, the aroma and flavours of which had me reminiscing of walks in Devon where the good stuff...

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Diciannove? Yes, she did a Nove.

Diciannove? Yes, she did a Nove.

By on Jan 2, 2014 in Adventure, Cocktails, Italian, London, Real ale, Restaurants, Travel | 0 comments

After browsing through the many artefacts at the Victoria & Albert museum, including the legendary Ardabil carpet and Dale Chihuly’s mind-bendingly intricate glass sculptures, we returned to Blackfriars and had a quick tipple in the Black Friar, an art nouveau pub, notable for it’s ornate sculpted and carved friezes, and which rather conveniently has a great range of very well kept cask ales. Then we crossed back to Crowne Plaza to pay a return visit to the beautiful Voltaire bar for a pre-dinner cocktail. This particular invention is a quirky little number created in partnership with Temple Spa; it’s a gin based drink containing grapefruit juice, thyme, rosemary sugar and lemon, and was a perfect aperitif, even including a tube of soothing foot balm which was much needed after all the walking. As tempted as I was to kick off my boots there and then in the bar and start applying the lotion, I resisted the urge, instead heading to the recently renovated and re-launched Diciannove. From the very moment we arrived, service was warm, attentive and friendly, and I noticed this to be the case not only with us, but with every table that was being attended to. It struck me the effectiveness of good service really can’t be under-estimated as it adds to the overall atmosphere, in part because nobody feels ignored or frustrated. I remember my days working as a waiter and event organiser fondly, as it would often be the case that you could turn around a person’s bad mood from the moment they walk in, lending a kind and sympathetic ear, finding out and fetching exactly what they require in a timely fashion and by simply smiling in spite of their frustration at the cruel world responsible for delivering them to you in this state of angst. This chrysalis of perfection becomes their safe haven, and you are their protector for a brief while. As we were staying in the hotel that night we figured on staying at Diciannove for the duration, so rather than seeking to wolf a meal down in two courses, we opted to share a range of smaller dishes. After a round of delicious freshly baked breads and infused oils came thinly rolled classic Neapolitan...

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