Being a TV chef can be a double-edged sword. On one hand, you’re getting massive exposure; on the other, people might think you’re better talking to the camera than you are on the pass. Monica Galetti might have been a steely-eyed sidekick to Michel Roux Jr and now Marcus Wareing on MasterChef: The Professionals, but that doesn’t mean she’s left the life of a chef – something her new restaurant Mere (pronounced Mary, which is both Monica’s mother’s name and French for mother, although we’re sure the staff are used to hearing it being pronounced in all sorts of ways) is out to prove.
It’s been two years in the making, with Monica and her sommelier husband David (both Le Gavroche alumni) looking at every aspect of the food, drink, design and feel of the place. When we visited it had only been open for three days but service was seamless, the atmosphere buzzed and Monica and David seemed incredibly relaxed for a couple who had spent the past few years juggling family life (they have a ten-year-old daughter at home) and opening their first ever restaurant.
The building itself is right in the heart of Fitzrovia, with the bar area up top and the larger dining room in the basement below. Unhappy with the fact that there would be very little natural light downstairs during lunch service, David and Monica battled hard with the council to get a full glass wall installed – something that’s definitely paid off. It actually feels more naturally light downstairs than it does at street level.
The décor is all muted blues and natural materials, with everything fitting together very nicely – even the menus have a touch of craftsmanship to them (cork for the wine list, slate for the cocktails and pearl for the main menu). There's plenty of Samoan artwork on the walls (including a very interesting traditional tapestry telling the story of Monica's life) and David’s love for wine is apparent throughout; as well as a glass-fronted wine rack in the centre of the room there is an amazing feature wall outside built from his enviable collection of wooden wine crates.