The scene Like a shining beacon in Soho’s winding warren of dark lanes, Mele e Pere’s brazen window front demands attention: the name’s in lights, and row upon row of brightly coloured glass apples and pears ram home the concept (a family-run Italian trattoria in the heart of London town – ‘mele e pere’ means ‘apples and pears’).

Head inside, though, and it all gets a bit confusing.

While upstairs retains the sleek Soho bar vibe conjured out front, the cavernous basement feels more traditional, and yet also has a split personality – the rammed, brightly tiled bar area borders a more relaxed, low-lit dining space.

Every single table is taken on a Thursday night, though.

The grub Sharing plates and pastas couldn’t be more classic, but the ‘authentic Italian’ feel gets lost somewhere on the way to the main courses, where the likes of Surrey pork chops and Welsh lamb turn up.

Diners are advised to start with three or four sharing plates, which is precisely what my date and I do – only to be so over-faced by the portions, we could have happily cancelled our mains.

The aubergine parmigiana is an indulgently cheesy treat, while smoked Sicilian swordfish, fennel and blood orange is light and smoky, a much better option if you want room for the main event.

Braised lamb meat balls are a disappointment, though – they smell incredible, but taste bland.

My Angus beef fillet main course hits another bum note (even the pink parts are tough).

But my date’s braised lamb shoulder and roasted aubergine proves a surprise standout, especially as the aubergine has been infused with an unexpected, spicy kick.

For dessert, vanilla panna cotta with warm maraschino cherries is a silky dollop of downright deliciousness.

Behind the bar Homemade vermouth is a specialty (all £4). Wines from £3/ £16.50 per bottle/ glass, and there’s an excellent selection of Italian dessert wines from £6, too.

Bill please Starters from £4.50; mains £12.50-£24; desserts from £5.

Daily lunch deals from £8.50 per dish.

Verdict Hits some high notes but can go off-key – order with care. 

%TNT Magazine% stars 3

46 Brewer St, Soho, W1F 9TF  
Tube | Piccadilly Circus