Fitzrovia, London

After years spent playing gatekeeper to Michel Roux Jr both as firm-but-fair peroxide judge on MasterChef and sous chef in his kitchen at two-star Le Gavroche, Monica Galetti cut the apron strings and branched out on her own with Mere in 2017. Her restaurant – opened with sommelier husband David, another Gavroche lifer – sits at the quieter end of London’s Charlotte Street behind a facade so unassuming that it’s easily missed. The food is less easy to bypass. Galetti’s French training comes through in every dish, with flavour packed into each element on the plate. A duck starter featuring smoked breast, confit gizzard, hazelnut praline and kumquat is a perfect balance of sweet, savoury and sour, while pumpkin agnolotti with mushrooms and Marmite sauce boasts umami by the bucket. Lobster is pick of the mains. Delicately treated to bring out maximum sweetness, it comes with a peanut sauce that doesn’t overpower, rather flatter. It’s a showcase of skilled cookery that reveals a lightness of touch and respect for ingredients. It’s not cheap, but food of this calibre rarely is.

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