Earlier this year saw the first restaurant opening from husband and wife team, Monica and David Galetti.
The dynamic duo have really focussed on their true passions, for Monica; using great seasonal produce and classic techniques, but with her own take on the menus. For David; creating an accessible wine list in terms of cost, whilst offering an enviable selection from both Europe and further afield.
In addition to the restaurant, Mere boasts a superb bar with a cocktail list where you’re spoilt for choice, produced by Bar Manager, Laurent Requin.
Monica & Laurent talk to us about the first few months of Mere.
Was opening your own restaurant, the concept, look and feel, an easy decision for you and David to make?
Monica – Mere’s definitely a reflection of our personalities, and that and that goes through to the menu, the décor, and everything we do really. When you’re investing so much time and energy into something the small decisions become huge – we pondered over salt and pepper grinders and toilet mirrors for the longest time!. We wanted Mere to feel welcoming while still being elegant, so our guests can switch off from whatever’s going on in their lives for a few hours. The bar is all about blue velvets, and the downstairs restaurant has well-spaced tables and soft, warm lighting.
When arriving at Mere you can see that a lot of thought and effort has gone into the décor with some really interesting and individual pieces. Can you tell us about them?
Monica – Yes of course, art is actually another passion of mine. I come from a very creative family and used to spend a lot of time drawing myself, though I don’t have time to do that now. My cousin from New Zeeland, Solomon Daniel, made two large pieces for the restaurant. They each tell a story drawn in Samoan tribal tattoo style. We’ve also got a specially created traditional Samoan ‘siapo’, (also known as a tapa cloth) which is above the banquette in the main dining room. Then upstairs in the bar we have 3 pieces by English artist Warren Kerley, made from hundreds of metal champagne caps and layers of resin. When you stand back to admire the main piece it looks like you’re swirling a glass of champagne and the caps are bubbles rising in the glass. Champagne is my favourite drink.
What or who are the greatest influences for your dishes on Mere’s menu?
Monica – The restaurant is named after my mother – pronounced like Mary. The menu is about ingredients I like to use from my travels about the world using some French techniques and influences from Samoa and New Zealand. We had dishes like Boil Up and Doughboys, which is a big, hearty New Zealand dish, I’ve tweaked and refined it somewhat to suit our restaurant. At the moment I have a take on my favourite chocolate biscuit from NZ with Hokey Pokey ice cream!
What advice would you give to a Chef looking to open their own restaurant?
Monica – Don’t do it! Kidding… just make sure to invest in key members of the team and training early on.
Have you always known that you would find yourself behind the bar perfecting the art of mixology?
Laurent – I actually started out as a chef in France, and for me there’s a lot of overlap between the bar and the kitchen. You need to mix the herbs, the ingredients, the flavours, but I prefer to be behind the bar because when you’re a chef you create it but don’t serve it, but as a bartender you serve the drink and have the feedback straight away, and get to meet the people who enjoy your creation.
From your cocktail list at Mere, we understand that there is a story behind one cocktail in particular, ‘The Sharky’ – can you tell us the inspiration and how it came about?
Laurent – It’s inspired by a good friend of David and Monica’s, his surname was Requin like mine, which means shark in French, which is where the nickname Sharky comes from. The cocktail has flavours of basil and lime juice inspired by the South of France, ginger and pomegranate which add sweetness and a slight kick, and a sloe gin base, all topped off with champagne.
Aside from the classics, the cocktail scene is ever evolving and pushes the boundaries by introducing us to unique flavour combinations. How do mixologists always remain innovative without relying on gimmicks?
Laurent – I’m always fascinated by trying different flavours, and every time you try something it adds to your repertoire. I think the trick is just constantly trying things, tweaking, experimenting with new flavours so there’s always something new.
We will happily take up the task if not, but do you try out your new cocktail recipes on the Mere team, family & friends before they make it onto the list?
Laurent – David, Monica and Nico (Front of House) try it first. As a barman I’m always coming up with new flavours and combinations, making my own infusions and mixes, so once I’ve got something I’m happy with I bring it to them, and Chef Renee and Albi also try it and have their input. Then once we put it behind the bar everyone on the team needs to try it so they can talk about it!
What’s been the most memorable moment to date since Mere opened its doors earlier this year?
Monica – One of the most memorable and moving parts for me has been having old peers from the industry and seeing familiar faces in our restaurant. It’s something that’s been such a long time in the coming, and it’s an amazing moment to see them here at Mere enjoying our food.
Laurent – For me it’s the opening, the 6th March. I started in January so I saw the restaurant growing up, saw all the build up before the opening, so when it finally opened it’s doors and we started serving cocktails, the first customers came through the door, that was just amazing.