Around a month ago on a miserable rainy weeknight, my spirits were lifted when I was invited by Zomato to attend a food-tastic interactive event at restaurant Evoluzione at Hotel Xenia. What a treat to be able to meet Michelin-starred chef Andrea Angeletti and sample six courses from his Italian menu inspired by his grandmother’s recipes. An added bonus was this was the first time I was able to socialise with other food bloggers in the flesh and what a treat to not be reprimanded for taking photographs of all my food!
The event started with cocktails (mocktails for me!) served at a beautiful round bar in the Xenia lounge. The barman quickly rustled up a refreshing virgin mojito which I sipped next to the stunning colourless grand piano.
Canapes of deep-fried olives and mozarella and mini bruschetta circulated the room as we got to know each other better. The lovely Yusuf from Zomato introduced me to Alexandra and Chris (also from Zomato). I met Matt the List whose photography I’m always drooling over. Her Favourite Food was a bit under the weather but I’ve been following her blog for a while so was really happy to finally put a face to the name.
The Halal: The Zomato team had thoughtfully remembered me for this event because the menu featured many vegetarian and seafood dishes. Chef Andrea Angeletti replaced the one dish containing veal with a vegetarian alternative. After the event, I spoke to the team at Hotel Xenia who said that they would be able to pre-order halal produce with advance notice. Alcohol is served at Evoluzione and Hotel Xenia.
The Place: Hotel Xenia is a boutique hotel situated near the iconic National History Museum in Kensington. Hospitality and warmth are core to Xenia’s ethos. Andrea Angeletti has previously held a Michelin star to his name and is the new chef. His menu originates from the Marche region in Italy where he grew up.
The Food: The dining room was arranged around a live cookery station and chef Angeletti spoke to us about the inspiration behind his food and how each dish was made. I was lucky enough to be sat on a table with The Joyous Living, Her Favourite Food and Thoroughly English who were fantastic company throughout the night.
The first course was named ‘Ying Yang Salmon’, for reasons which soon became obvious. Two thin fillets of pink fish were half-seared and presented on the plate in the traditional Ying Yang shape. The salmon came with a dressing of ginger, chilli and olive oil served in a plastic sphere which shook and poured over the fish. The dish was my favourite of the night. Chef achieved a balance in many ways: hot and cold, cooked and raw, sweet and spicy. The interactive element brought a fun twist to the start of the meal.
Next we had cheese bread with king prawn and a pecorino sauce. The strong cheese aromas filled the room and whilst smelly cheese strikes fear in the hearts of some, I was pleased to mop up all that yumminess with my soft bread bowl.
Round three was a dry cannelloni stuffed with ricotta cheese and porcini mushroom. The stuffing had veal for everyone else but it wasn’t halal so I had the vegetarian alternative. The cannelloni was served cold with a warm truffle sauce and eaten with our bare hands! Chef wanted us to be transported back to our childhood when we used to eat with fingers rather than cutlery.
Following the cannelloni was a bowl of passatelli pasta served with parmesan fondue and artichoke crisps. I’ve never tried passatelli before and found it to be quite a rich and dense pasta. It’s made from breadcrumbs, nutmeg, eggs and olive oil and cooked in stock. Passatelli cannot be overcooked, no matter how long it is boiled for. Chef had fond memories of this dish being eaten by his family on Christmas day.
The penultimate dish was a delicate sea bass cooked in a bag with olive oil, peppercorn and onion and served on a bed of grilled asparagus, creamed potato and taggiasca olives. I loved the technique of cooking that he demonstrated. It was a cross between confit and sous-vide. This method intensified the flavours and the sea bass was cooked perfectly.
The final course was a dessert called ‘Chibouste’. This was a pastry cake filled with cream and sprinkled with caramelised sugar and a strawberry coulis. Thoroughly English declared it to be like a deconstructed creme brûlée and she wasn’t far off! For my taste though this was far too sweet and a very heavy ending to a rich meal.
The Price: Our special tasting menu was designed especially for the event but several of the dishes feature on the main menu. Starters and pasta dishes are priced between £10-15. There are more substantial mains of seafood and game priced between £15-28 and desserts are £9 each. There is an express lunch menu which is very reasonably priced and has a variety of pastas, salads and Italian small plates.
The Verdict: I had an incredible time at Evoluzione. Chef Angeletti’s inspirations gave a new dimension to his cooking and it was amazing to try so many new and authentic Italian flavours during a single meal. The ingredients were of a very high quality and the service was impeccable. My only criticism would be that the combination of these six courses was too heavy for one sitting but I suspect this was to show off some of their best flavours!