When you've worked for years under the tutelage of the great Michel Roux Jr at Le Gavroche and also on the ever popular TV show, Masterchef, it takes a brave soul to journey out into the notoriously fickle London restaurant scene with your first restaurant. However, the stern taskmaster that is Monica Galetti is not one to shirk from a challenge and her new restaurant, Mere has opened to rave reviews and the restaurant operating at full capacity on most nights.
Mere means mother in French and is incidentally Monica's mother's name, which is ‘Mary' in Samoan. The restaurant is filled with elegant artistic touches which highlight her Samoan heritage, but there is also a touch of the French, no doubt influenced by her husband and business partner, David Galetti, who was the sommelier at Le Gavroche.
It appears the core ingredients tend to be very similar such as scallops, lobster and squab but the accompanying ingredients and garnishes vary depending on the season. Black curry scallop is one of those dishes that has travelled from the La Gavroche kitchen. The exquisitely plated version here came with cauliflower and golden raisins; they used golden rather than the darker variety as it is lighter, fruitier and provided a colour contrast.
Corzetti is the kind of pasta dish I wish more restaurant would offer in London: Mere's version is thin, light yet you can still feel the al dente texture. It's been stylishly embossed with the M logo and flavoured immaculately with chicken oysters and wild mushrooms.
For those diners having the perennial problem of deciding on a fish or meat main course, Monica might have the answer for you in her monkfish dish. Firstly, it has a very meaty texture and the version we tried was garnished with irresistible smoked bacon and glazed oxtail and accompanied by buttery soft parsnip puree. It is hardly a surprise that monkfish is no longer considered ‘a poor man's lobster'.
They naturally offer a lobster dish at Mere too. Monica's take has a definite touch of the Samoan with tropical sounding flavours like coconut, peanut, ginger and chilli along with the lobster served a la plancha.
At heart, Monica is also a New Zealander having spent most of her formative years growing up in that stunning country and you do see references to that country such as the salted toffee and hokey pokey. For those non-antipodeans amongst us, it's a vanilla ice cream filled with chunks of honeycomb toffee. It comes with a chocolate mousse that felt as light as air and the crunch was provided by the Breton sable base.
The food has the classical excellence of Le Gavroche but served with the distinct Monica touches in a more relaxed and welcoming environment. She might have just started an institution that will last just as long as the great Le Gavroche.
For more information on Mere see here.
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