To some people, being organised means having alphabetised record collections, being the proud user of four finance apps, and knowing their way around a colour-coordinated underwear drawer quicker than you can say Marie Kondo. To others, being organised means not hitting snooze for the eighth time and ceremoniously shoving any and all clutter into that cupboard every Sunday night. Whichever category you fall into you’ll be hard pressed to be more organised than Mere.
This Fitzrovia fine dining spot is a restaurant that runs like clockwork. The second you scoop up your last piece of aioli smeared cod it’ll be cleared from sight, and another server will pirouette in with a scallop that’s been meticulously topped with coconut and a hint of kaffir curry. Each explanation of a tomato fondue, top-up of your wine glass, and angle of a pomegranate has been as carefully considered and scheduled as a royal wedding. Picture Jennie Bond stood outside Mere’s enormous wooden front door saying “the Herdwick lamb has officially arrived, with initial unconfirmed reports of black garlic and lemon thyme in attendance”. Nothing here is an accident, especially how excellent everything on their classic French - with a touch of the South Pacific - menu tastes.
The thing is, the people behind Mere have a lot of experience and they’re well-known. And when we say ‘well-known’, we mean, ‘she’s been on the telly and you might have panic-bought your sibling a copy of her cookbook for Christmas’. We might as well tell you now that this is Monica Galetti’s restaurant with her sommelier husband. If we didn’t, you’d wonder why the people sat at the table next to you keep going all meerkat every time the kitchen door swings open. The big name means you’ll find a fair few Masterchef fans in their Sunday best, couples toasting their anniversary over the £77 six course tasting menu, a few low-energy, big-budget business dinners, and a whole lot of quiet, respectful conversations. But really, when a single bite of coconut mousse is more satisfying than colour-coordinating your entire bookcase, you’ll quickly forget who’s around you or even who’s in the kitchen.
The space itself matches the atmosphere. The upstairs bar is all royal blue velvet, marbled tables, and a long shiny bar. Soft. Sophisticated. A little showy. Whilst the basement dining room is a lesson in what your house might look like if you could finally get your shit together and part with all that junk you keep promising to eBay. Sleek wooden chairs, recently plumped pillows, ocean blue banquet seating, and smack bang in the middle of the room, the floor-to-ceiling wine-rack - a nod to the fact that this place takes wine seriously. Their sommeliers are patient, and potentially mind-readers. Name a wine you like, pick a price point, and they’ll do the rest without an ounce of judgement or any attempts to turn a casual weeknight carafe into a triple-digit Burgundy from 1993. Whichever wine you end up going for, just don’t go too overboard on the booze. This place is more elegant sips than human malbec-mop.
The only issue with Mere’s excellent timing is that it doesn’t schedule in a lot of room for deep conversations, or, you know, having a laugh. As anyone who has a friend that’s obsessed with saying ‘we need to leave in exactly three minutes’ knows, organised fun doesn’t really exist. Plus, leaving here in under two hours is pretty much impossible. But that doesn’t mean that Mere isn’t perfect for a serious £35, three-course business lunch where your boss knows you won’t be back before 3pm. Or to spend several hours ooh-ing and ah-ing over the tasting menu for a parent’s birthday. Be warned though, weekend bookings at peak times are hard to come by. But honestly, even if you’re the kind of person that thinks buying a calendar is the same as planning, it’s worth being a little organised for the food at Mere.
Apart from some of Mere’s signature dishes, the menu here changes seasonally. But these are the kind of dishes you can expect.
Much like Ikea furniture and any poor soul named after a Game Of Thrones dragon, the dish names at Mere might take a hot minute to understand. No, this starter isn’t just a small bowl of your green old faithful. It’s basically a savoury pea custard with ham hock and truffle on a savoury shortbread, that will ruin mushy peas for you forever. The opening of the tasting menu and we’re into it.
The crab starter might look distinctly like Poseidon was having a strop and took it out on a well-meaning crab, but it’s really pretty tasty. Even if you’re not a seafood fan, you’ll like this. It’s full of black curry, little chunks of tomato, and a lemon gel that goes with the salty, crispy crab a treat.
If you’re one of those people who’s bought into the vicious conspiracy theory that sweet and savoury things don’t belong on the same plate, then you’ll hate this. We love it. Thin, rare strips of duck manuka smoked with super sweet pickled cherries and a good crunch of pistachio crumb. A proper highlight if you’re ordering a la carte.
Don’t look at this plating for too long. It’s like crop circles, it’s better to not know what’s going on. Just accept that everything on this plate is necessary and very tasty. Even the little cubes of tongue, tiny swirls of lemon, and the bite size piece of sweetbread. Especially the sweetbread.
So, technically, Jimi Hendrix and your secondary school music teacher can both play the same instrument. But that doesn’t mean that their guitar solos sound the same, does it? Technically this is aubergine, but spiced with cumin, oregano, chilli powder, and a fair dose of feta, it tastes far better than your average. One of the reasons to get involved in the vegetarian tasting menu.
Very ‘just ate a pack of hazelnut lindor hunny’ feel. The chocolate cremeux is especially tasty. You’ll probably be tempted to lick the plate clean, but resist. You’ve made it this far into the meal. You can do it.
Congrats to this dessert. It now joins Beyoncé, Madonna, and Adele in our hearts as ‘one-name wonders’. Whenever anyone mentions lemon in the future we’ll think of this boozy baked alaska and the big old slap of lemon curd that goes with it. Get involved.