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Restaurant review: Xier

Chef Carlo Scotto’s new fine-dining restaurant serves creative, clever and skilfully prepared cuisine — all that’s missing is a little restraint.Sunday, June 16, 2019

By Samuel Muston
Canapé.

This is a review about jam — in part, at least. Specifically, the overuse of it by otherwise clever chefs. And the head chef of Xier, ex-Babbo headman and Angela Hartnett-mentee Carlo Scotto, is very clever. 

His new restaurant is a double-decker affair on Thayer Street in Marylebone: on the ground floor is casual-ish XR, and above it is Xier, a 38-seat, £90-a-head fine dining restaurant.

We’re in the upper room, beginning our ‘experience’, as they call it. A piano version of Wind Beneath My Wings is playing on the stereo, and I’m slightly uneasy about the pair of waiting staff positioned two paces from our table. It feels like I’m a member of the Victorian aristocracy, who were forever hissing, “Not in front of the servants!” when conversation got a little fruity. And so, we find ourselves restricting our chatter to innocuous observations — about the shade of paint on the walls, for example (greyish white, in case you were wondering).

The food can be mixed and matched from two tasting menus: vegetarian and meaty. There are eight courses in all, including four that are essentially amuse-bouches. We start with a beetroot and goats’ cheese canape that comes out amid a cloud of dry ice, but things properly get going with the next dish, a bowl of stracciatella cheese with taro and honey. The cheese is wonderfully creamy, but it’s overwhelmed by the honey.

On that (sweet) note, we come to the jam. In short succession come three dishes that should be exquisite — they’re prepared with surgical skill — but are lost in a sea of preserves and purees. Red prawn crudo in diaphanous slivers is topped by too much raspberry jam. Stupendous rose-cured salmon is ingeniously paired with foie gras, but third-wheeled by globules of rhubarb. A breaded lamb sweetbread is rich as Croesus and cooked with precision, but could have been improved with less kohlrabi jam.

The next two courses, though, are much better. Umami-rich black cod in caramel miso comes with a mini baton of asparagus, and flakes pleasingly under the fork. The beef cheek is a mound of soft meat served with bone marrow and chard. 

After a Swedish cheese course, which comes with ‘fizzy grapes’ that seem exactly like the standard, non-fizzy variety, we come to the finale. I ask the waiter what ‘sweet tooth’, means on the menu. “You’ll soon see,” he says. We’re served four plates of perfectly decent desserts: chocolate sabayon (an Italian dish made with egg yolks, sugar and a sweet wine), peanut tart, tonka ice cream and some miniature macarons. Thankfully, no jam.

There were certainly high points during my meal at Xier, but after three hours, I’m ready to leave. This is a restaurant that sets the bar incredibly high, but unfortunately doesn’t quite reach it. Tasting menu for two, without wine, £180.

Published in issue 4 of National Geographic Traveller Food

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