Last week I attended the first evening of boutique Hotel Xenia’s guest chef event series at their South Kensington restaurant Evoluzione. The restaurant will host a different Italian ‘Guest Chef’ every six weeks to guide diners on a journey through different Italian regions, tastes and traditions, with each menu available for one night only.
The first in the series saw Michelin star-awarded chef Pietro D’Agostino take on Sicilian food with specific attention paid to organic and gluten-free produce.
Sicily, Italy's most southern region, is a melting pot of all the different cultures that have occupied the island. One of the most important aspects of Sicilian cuisine is the quality of the ingredients used. Sicily, like many other areas of Italy, still follows the seasons very closely. It is virtually impossible, for example, to find non-seasonal fruit or vegetables in most greengrocer's. The result is that ingredients are fresh, fragrant and nutritious.
We were delighted, therefore, that our meal began with a beautiful olive oil from Sicily. The intense, full flavor and grassy aroma of the oil comes from the mineral rich soil the olives grow in, which has been fertilised by volcanic eruptions throughout history.
Amuse bouche by resident Chef Andrea Angeletti - Scallop Noodles with hints of orange and rocket
Although we couldn't taste much orange or rocket we enjoyed this novel dish. Served with a raspberry sauce, it was a tasty bite that set the tone for the evening.
King Prawns with onion salad; almond and orange sauce
Easily the best meal of the night, the king prawns melted in the mouth. Decorated with edible flowers, the dish was a pleasure to both eat and admire. The smooth almond sauce is something that I will remember for a long time - delicate, creamy and well balanced. The onion salad was refreshing and light with a hint a sharp citrus zing.
Black Cod marinated in Masarla wine with potatoes, lettuce, capers
A delicate piece of fish like black cod really needs nothing but a grill or a pan. The simplicity of this dish was divine, and the addition of the olives and capers gave the dish a much needed salty injection, whilst the potatoes gave texture.
Just Pasta - seafood ravioli, capers, Sicilian wild fennel, and pistachios from Bronte.
A true taste of Sicily - this dish incorporates everything the region is notorious for: pasta, seafood and pistachios.
Sicily is the only place in Italy where pistachios are grown, and have become quite expensive due to their limited production. The city of Bronte is perched at the top of slope of volcanic rock, located about half a mile northeast of Etna. The Arabs, who once controlled the region, are responsible for bringing pistachio trees to Sicily from the Middle East.
Turbot with artichoke, calamari, and aubergine roasted
A well balanced dish with contrasting textures. The calamari was extremely fresh with crisp, light batter. Unfortunately my Turbot was raw in the middle, although what I did eat was delicious.
Desserts by pastry Chef Manuele Francesco: Panna cotta and traditional sponge cake
The evening finished with almond and orange infused sweet treats accompanied by wine. Throughout the meal we were served Sicilian wines, which are known to be strong and syrupy, like Marsala. The rose served with the fish dished in particular was extremely refreshing.
To conclude, the evening was a relaxed affair which offered great insight into the Sicilian way of life.
Details of upcoming Guest Chef events can be found here - at £65 they're an absolute steal.