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Monday 21 April 2014

Film is Art - Mele e Pere - La Mancha

Wednesday 2nd April - The day's activities started with a lovely lunch in Soho, but I'm going to skip ahead to the evening slot first.  I met Rich at Hoxton Overground at 6pm to attend a preview of Press Play's "Film is Art" immersive & intimate screening of Kill Bill in Hoxton Arches.

After a quick pre-drink in Beagle (who always have a couple of great beers), we walked over to be greeted by The Bride (Uma Thurman's character) who was on front of house duty, whilst Elle Driver (Daryl Hannah) was on the decks in the background.  With a shot of sake in hand, we walked around appreciating the stunning Kill Bill street art that the Outside Collective had managed to create in just 2 days.  It made me sad to think that it would all have to be painted over again only a couple of days later!

Drinks could be found at the Pussy Wagon bar, manned by two members of the Crazy 88s.  Rich suggested it might have been more fun if we had all been given Crazy 88 masks ourselves, though we might have looked a bit odd without the matching ties and shirts.  Drinks could have been more exciting than Tsing Tao cans, wine and loosely themed Bride / Bill cocktails - something to improve on for their next event.  Food was more impressive with tasty sushi including crab prepared in front of us by Sushi Kai.

We returned to the main room where a time lapse video of the set up was being played on the big screen.  In the background, Elle Driver was DJing away, but sadly not playing any of the fantastic music from the film to which might have been a nice way of building up some anticipation.  

After a couple more beers and a whole load more sushi, we settled down for the film.  The screen and sound quality were good throughout (always a worry in unusual venues) and there were several amusing touches such as altering the lighting in the room to match Tarantino's own use of filters, and pumping in some smoke.

Time lapse of set up in Hoxton Arches

All went smoothly and Tarantino did his part of the job well.  With immersive screenings, there is always more you can do to make the event stand out, though obviously budgets and time constraints come into play. For £20 it was an enjoyable & affordable evening out, but we felt there was still room for improvement, considering that London is already full of top notch creative film companies (Edible, Rooftop & Secret Cinema for example). However, this was Press Play's first major event, and I'm sure that we will see a lot more from them in the future.

Back to lunch, I finally made it to Mele e Pere in Soho - an Italian Trattoria & Vermouth Bar whose colourful apples & pears (get it?) I have often admired from afar when passing.  Continuing with the cockney rhyming slang, most of Mele e Pere is tucked away down the stairs with the bar, but there a few tables that benefit from natural light as you walk in.

I considered my options over a glass of their homemade vermouth (more on that later), before ordering a few sharing plates & small pasta dishes.  Large pasta plates and main courses are available if you aren't in a sharing mood.  There are excellent lunch and pre-theatre deals to be taken advantage of too.

Everything that followed was delightful.  From the Sharing Plates, Aubergine Parmigiana stood out, along with a beautifully presented Hand Chopped Beef Tartare (with Italian leaves and Quail's egg) and a wonderfully light plate of Ricotta piemontese, peas, purple broccoli and smoked bacon.

Home-made bread and focaccia

Hand Chopped Beef Tartare, Italian Leaves and Quail's Egg

Grilled Octopus and calamari salad, potato and garlic leaves
Moving on to the pasta, I was intrigued by Tropea Onion Ravioli with Seaweed, Baby Squid and Lemon Sole - a smartly put together dish that wasn't overpowered by either the onion or the seaweed.  The one dish that you absolutely have to order though is Potato Gnocchi with Umbrian Black Truffle, a ridiculous plate of buttery goodness that you will foolishly stuff into your face before your body realises what's going on. Order the large version at your peril.

These were washed down with glasses of 2011 Montenidoli Vernaccia di San Gimignano which was one of their wine picks for the month.  They have an impressive list celebrating the best of Natural, Organic and Biodynamics wines of the world.  Maybe pay them a visit during London Wine Week (2nd-8th June).

Tropea Onion Ravioli with Seaweed, Baby Squid and Lemon Sole

Potato Gnocchi wit Umbrian Black Truffle
I finished off with a healthy scoop of Pistachio ice cream, a worthy rival to Scoop and Gelupo round the corner.  Had it been slightly later in the day, I might have got myself a boozy Kam-Peet-Up (Laphroaig, Punt e Mes, Kamm & Sons Ginseng & House Orange Vodka) from their After Dinner cocktail list.  

It was a superb lunch - impressive cooking, great drinks, a lovely atmosphere, friendly service and affordable prices.

However, I had unfinished vermouth-based business, so I returned two weeks later on Tuesday 15th April for one of their monthly Vermouth Tasting Masterclasses in the attractive downstairs bar.

The evening was hosted by Ed Scothern, Mele e Pere's in-house Vermouthier & Sommelier.  We started by tasting their red and white house vermouths (£4 a glass) alongside some more bitter Punt e Mes.  

Vermouth is fortified white wine (around 15%), created by adding sugar syrup and a mix of herbs, roots and barks that have been steeped in vodka.  Vermouth is in fact German for wormwood, an essential ingredient. We were presented with some, along with rhubarb root, speedwell, and other potential constituents.

Ed Scothern, Vermouth master at Mele e Pere

We then moved on to a couple of house cocktails to show off the vermouth, including a not-too-sweet Down the Stairs and a fabulous Martinez twist (with lemon rather than orange).  

These were accompanied by generous portions of food from the sharing plates menu.  Spicy, fried ascolana olives with n'duja sausage, deep fried squid with smoked aioli, and finocchiona salame with gnocchi fritti were very much appreciated with all the drinks flying around.

Finocchiona salame with gnocchi fritti

Spicy, fried ascolana olives w/ n'duja sausage
Next, we had a go at making our own vermouth, adding the likes of gentian, angelica, wormwood, lemon thyme and juniper to a sweetened wine.  I was pretty happy with mine, but only after piling in a fair amount of ice.

The evening finished with a refreshing Punt e Mes vermouth sorbet, nicely presented in a Martini glass.

At just £15, Mele e Pere's vermouth masterclass is one of London's best bargains.  It was a fun, informative and intimate evening hosted in style by Ed.  Make sure you grab one of the 10 seats for the next one as soon as possible - more info is available here.

Thursday 27th March - I'll just finish up by mentioning a quick tapas trip to La Mancha back in March.  I was feeling a bit worse for wear at the time (man flu), but I soldiered on and filled up with 13 courses (life is tough) from Head Chef Senor Nilo Geada.

Family-run La Mancha recently relocated to Chiswick after many years in Putney, joining the likes of Franco Manca, Charlotte's Bistro and Outsider Tart in an increasingly exciting area for food and drink. The friendly owner Salvatore made us feel very welcome.

We got off to a strong start with Pimientos de Padron (sweet hot peppers from Galicia, sautéed in olive oil) and Berejenas Fritas (crispy aubergines with honey and Romesco sauce) impressing, alongside some moreish Rebenada de pan con tomate (Bread, chopped fresh tomatoes, garlic and olive oil).

Pimientos de Padron - sweet hot peppers from Galicia, sautéed in olive oil

Berejenas Fritas - crispy aubergines with honey and Romesco sauce
A few courses in the middle of the meal didn't stand out quite as much, with Tortilla Espanola, Patatas Bravas and Cochinillo Asado (roasted suckling pig, apple sauce) the main culprits.  Spinach Croquettes "with hints of pinenuts" and Albondigas de Ternera (Beef Meatball, Smoked Bacon, Tomato Sauce) kept us on track before the Signature Paella with mixed fish, shellfish, pork and chicken arrived in large paella pans to several "oohs" and "aahs".  Portions were so generous that there was plenty left to take home despite it being very popular.

Squid hoopla?
The meal ended in style with an outstanding Tarta de Santiago, a traditional Santiago de Compostela almond cake with vanilla ice cream and caramel sauce that made me forget about my life-threatening man flu for a couple of minutes.

Tarta de Santiago

Well-chosen wines flowed throughout the meal, and a couple of boozy after dinner drinks might have been ordered too.  The rest of the drinks list is a little unadventurous - it would great to see some G&Ts in those awesome coppa glasses, or some Spanish craft beers making their way on to the menu.  Nearby Charlotte's Bistro and Blue Plate put a lot of effort into keeping the drinks as interesting as the food.

The 13 courses were a mixed bag, but there were some fantastic dishes on the menu, and it was a very pleasant meal overall.  A lovely local restaurant that needs to do a little more to pull in visitors from further afield.  Bonus points for having Miro on the walls. 

Joan Miro - "The Gold of the Azure"

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