Mere: Left wanting more

Last November’s visit to Mere had been one of my dining highlights of 2017, and so it was with anticipation that I returned recently. Mere is, without doubt, a wonderful experience, but (and there was always going to be a ‘but’) not a truly exceptional one. In terms of plaudits, it would be hard to fault the venue, décor or ambience. The service was also generally good, as was the food and drink. There was, however, no real sense of boundaries being pushed. Every dish from the tasting menus we sampled (omnivorous for me, vegetarian for my comrade) was beautifully presented and competently executed, but showed none of the breath-taking originality I might have expected. The inclusion of a cheese (and not a specifically obscure one at that – yarg from Cornwall) on a six-course tasting menu seems like something of a cop-out, since it requires no in-house preparation. Meanwhile, the strawberry and basil dessert, while lovely, seems to be the de rigueur pudding of summer 2018 in London, and Mere’s rendering showed none of the panache that others (such as one I sampled recently at 108 Garage) have exhibited. Onto the wines and, again, I witnessed little desire to be daring with the pairing. If anything, I sensed a tendency to go for relative value options from recent vintages. Moreover, our sommelier had to be among the least charismatic recently seen at a top restaurant. Perhaps the problem – and this is not an uncommon phenomenon – is that after an initial burst of praise and subsequent fame (Mere only opened in March 2017), the restaurant has rested somewhat on its laurels. They certainly have a lovely dining room and upstairs bar, both of which speak of understated class. Meanwhile, Monica, the head chef, is highly talented as both my previous experience and the flashes of culinary excellence witnessed on our recent visit showed (the Cornish cod in a black curry was my standout dish, while my comrade raved about her tomato consommé). Pricing is also reasonable, certainly relative to other comparable venues. However, the challenge to Mere is to up its game further; dare to be bold and different.