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Wednesday 17 July 2019

Believe the Hype - Xier London’s 10-Course Fine Dining Menu is FANTASTIC!

Where: 13-14 Thayer Street, London, S1U 3JR, http://www.xierlondon.com/

Cost: In the upstairs Xier London, the 10-Course Fine Dining menu (a Vegetarian Menu is also available) is £90 per person, or £175 with a wine and cocktail pairing. For more casual dining, with shared dishes, XR on the ground floor is the thing, with an a la carte menu for lunch and dinner, and a set lunch at £25 for 2 courses, or £30 for 3. There is also a Royal XR Brunch menu offering a selection of starters plus cocktail, a choice of main course plus a glass of wine and a dessert for £30pp.

About: Xier is a new London restaurant in Marylebone, opened in December 2018, and led by Chef Carlo Scotto (formerly of Angela Hartnett, Murano, Galvin La Chapelle and Babbo). Xier offers modern European cuisine with influences from the Scotto's travels in Scandinavia and Asia and particularly from Japan.  Open for lunch and dinner, the menu at XR changes every two weeks according to seasonal produce availability. 

The ground floor bar serves a selection of small to more substantial dishes to go with a range of wines and Champagnes by the glass of bottle and cocktails, including lamb sliders with gruyere, foie gras mayo and truffle fries (£15), an Iberico ham board (£10) or enoki mushroom truffle arancini (£4).

What We Ate: We opted for the 10-course fine dining menu which kicked off with a canapé of stracciatella cheese with wild strawberry, kalamansi and organic honey deftly blending acidity and astringency with richness and sweetness.  This was a fabulous start.

Lemongrass tart with borlotti bean cream came in a ultra-delicate pastry case, beautifully presented, this was another expert blend of Asian and European flavours.

I don’t normally write about bread baskets when I review but Xier’s is definitely worth the mention - freshly baked rosemary and potato sourdough, it was made on the premises and served with churned coffee and oak-smoked butter with Espelette pepper. It was outstandingly good and replenished whenever necessary.

Red prawn crudo (raw) with red caviar and yuzu (Japanese citrus) was cleverly presented - paper-thin sheets of raw red Sicilian prawn, topped with trout caviar, shavings of lime zest (not yuzu though), and specks of fresh raspberry that gave a refreshing lift of acidity and fruitiness to the dish.

Best of all starters for me though was the rosewater and beetroot-cured salmon, served alongside a quenelle of foie gras coated in beetroot powder.  The salmon was topped with macerated Gariguette strawberries, fine discs of Bramley apple and micro-herbs. With firm salmon, a rich buttery textured foie gras and a delicately refreshing acidity from the raw green apple, this was a stunning melange of flavours and textures that really made the dish sing.

"Europe meets Asia" was a warming dish of pan-fried beurre noisette and tarragon gnocchi, topped with enoki mushrooms and chives, served in a hot kombu dashi (Japanese vegetarian stock), speckled with finely diced fresh ginger.

As a palate-cleanser, a gin and tonic granita, with apple basil sorbet was as every bit as refreshing as it looked.

The tasting menu has a choice of two fish and two meat options.  As there were two of us, happily we were able to try all four.  Red mullet served over a carrot escabeche, burnt aubergine puree with squid ink, and a complex leche de tigre of pineapple, ginger, garlic, coconut milk and bright green chlorophyll, topped with plankton powder, was nothing short of stunning.

Better still was the second fish option of grilled black cod in caramel miso, topped with shredded cured duck, served with asparagus, Jerusalem artichoke, cauliflower puree, and perilla-infused oil.  I loved the combination of buttery black cod with salted duck, while the duck was as gamey and flavourful as jerked beef - a revelation.

The two meat courses followed.  The beef cheek, with bone marrow, wild hops, apple and nettle puree, was as soft and unctuous as butter, richly aromatic and served with a side of pulled beef with dates, Parmesan and chives.

The pigeon was also wonderfully tender, served with beetroot puree, foie gras, purple potato, hazelnut crumble with a pigeon jus. It came with a rich, sweet side dish, served in a beef marrow bone, of pulled pigeon legs with dates, Parmesan and chives.

Swedish cows milk cheese - Wrangeback - was deliciously dense, a bit like a Comte, served with sweet red wine jelly and surprisingly fizzy red grapes made by "marinating" them in dry ice.

The dessert course, described as "sweet tooth" was a medley of the restaurant signature sweets for sharing. Given the choice, I nearly always go for savoury dishes, but the dessert course at Xier was one of the highlights of our meal.

Rhubarb 3 Ways had almond biscuit, nougat parfait, pistachio and rhubarb coulis.

Salted caramel and peanut tart with banana biscuit and coffee ice cream was bursting with intense coffee flavour while being light and creamy.

Chocolate Piemonte was the last dessert - chocolate mousse, chocolate sable and chocolate sponge cake with a glossy coating as smooth and shiny as a mirror, combined with chocolate ice cream, chocolate crisps and Espelette creme Anglais. Again, the use of texture contrasts was daring but successful, the skill of the pastry chef was manifest, and the hint of chilli in the creme Anglais was divine.

Some very fine petit fours followed - chilled chocolate truffles, and dainty hazelnut financiers were just what we needed with our coffees.

What We Drank: The wine list is extensive, with a focus on Europe but with options from the New World too.  The entry level wines, both at £39, are an Argentinian Torrontes from Bodega Norton, while the red is a Domaine de Peras from Languedoc. Pine and lemon water, blended by the Chef, was a refreshing non-alcoholic palate cleanser served to all guests.

From the cocktail menu, and included in the wine flight, we started with Xier Spritz (£14) - a blend of Beluga Nobel vodka, with kumquats, physalis, mixed with Canard-Duchene Champagne and elderflower.

The Botanical Julep (£14) blended Chivas Extra with Antico Formula Vermouth, fresh ginger, basil leaves, lemon grass and shiso syrup. Commendably, cocktails are served with a reusable 'straw' made of stainless steel.

With the fish courses, we had a glass of Sauvignon Blanc, "Aromatic", from Pays d'Oc. Refreshing and grassy like a New Zealand SB, this had good acidity.

With the red mullet, the meat courses and cheese, a Pinot Noir - "Cruel Mistress" 2017 from South-Western Australia, had smooth tannins, strawberry fruit and a touch of spice.

The wines were perfectly acceptable, but two wines for a 10 course meal is not what I would describe as a 'wine pairing', and at £85 per person for a cocktail and two glass of wine each, I would far rather choose my own wine and save a lot of cash.

Likes: Chef Carlo Scotto’s cooking is of an exceptional standard, and I am sure he will bag one or even two Michelin stars in no time. The dessert course was outstandingly good. The staff know the menu inside out and are both knowledgeable and friendly without being overbearing.  The dining room is a harmonious and elegant spot decorated in white, cream and grey. 

Dislikes: The wine pairing is not up to the exceptional quality of the food. I would rather choose my own wines from the extensive list.  With a cocktail and only two average wines for the whole tasting menu, this was a missed opportunity.

Verdict: Xier London’s 10-course menu is, without a doubt, one the best meals I have had in 2019. It is rare that I like everything on a menu, yet I could not fault a single dish, it just got better and better with every course. I loved Chef Carlo Scotto’s impeccable understanding of Japanese and Western flavours bringing both together perfectly into his tasting menu dishes. Very highly recommended.

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