13-14 Thayer Street, London, W1U 3JR www.XierLondon.com
Many chefs bang on about harmony but it’s rare to come across such a master of flavour balance as super-talented Carlo Scotto.
Dove grey walls, classical piano playlist, just 40 covers and one sitting… it’s no surprise that Xier’s relaxing ambience makes you want to move in.
And that’s before you’ve even tasted the food from Carlo Scotto, mentored by Angela Hartnett at Murano and award-winning head chef at Babbo.
With this kind of culinary pedigree, our expectations were high. But from the outset, it was clear that Xier is a thoughtful menu, every element meticulously planned.
To prep our palates, a tiny glass of pine, lemon, mint and cucumber palate cleanser was as effective as a spin in the dishwasher on intense.
The tasting menu kicked off with creamy stracciatella with pollen crisps and honey (Carlo’s Italian roots favouring that classic Italian pairing of cheese and honey).
It was accompanied by Canard-Duchene Champagne (oh, go on then, just the glass), a delicate counterpoint to the richness of the cheese.
Beetroot and goat’s cheese macaron – earthy-sweet and very savoury flavours are always a winner – was presented on a bed of liquid nitrogen, followed by a real highlight: red prawn crudo with raspberries, caviar and yuzu, garnished with tiny star-like wild fennel flowers.
Perfect balance again with just enough citrus/sour elements, plus subtly salty caviar to offset the creaminess of the prawns.
Rose-cured salmon with a quenelle of foie gras under a blanket of beetroot powder with rhubarb purée was an unusually bold pairing that shouldn’t really have worked.
Carlo explained, “Everything is on the edge in my menu, so every element is a little bit more pronounced than it should be. The balance between salmon and foie gras is precise – each dish has to have the same weight or the dish will be ruined.”
Alongside the salmon were three dots of Bramley apple sorbet. Carlo says, “Even the Bramley apple has to be three dots, not two. You’re looking for the right amount of acidity to cut through the richness of the salmon.” The dish was a triumph.
Lamb sweetbread with kohlrabi jam and pickled kohlrabi was exceptional too, followed by cleansing cucumber, gin and tonic sorbet. By now the standard had been set; it was no surprise that pigeon, foie gras, beetroot, purple potato and hazelnut crumble was cooked to perfection.
Fizzy grapes (macerated in dry ice) with Swedish cheese preceded a bite-sized smorgasbord of desserts, Sweet Tooth. Rhubarb poached, sorbet and crisp on an almond biscuit, with nougat parfait with pistachio was a standout, as was tonka bean ice cream and salted caramel peanuts.
After dinner, we were intrigued to find out where Carlo’s intensely creative cooking comes from. “My food is Modern European with global influences… we wanted to have the same balance throughout the menu with food that’s accessible but not muddled. It has to have total consistency – there’s no random pairing of flavours.”
Unusually for a Napolitan, there’s no Italian dishes in sight. “I love Italian food,” he says, “but after travelling around SE Asia, Europe, New York etc I thought ‘Why should I just concentrate on one type of cuisine?’ Cultures around the world are my ingredients and the world itself is my kitchen.”
After 16 years in the UK, Carlo is passionate about celebrating British produce in season, hence the emphasis on beetroot, rhubarb, Bramley apples. “People are waking up very early to make sure they deliver us the best ingredients, so we chefs need to see how we can celebrate those things, supporting local artisans. Mother Nature gives us the food – we just put it together.”
The tasting menu is £90 for 10 courses, with casual dining on the ground floor at XR.