★★★★★ | Xier, Marylebone, London
Behind the frosted glass windows and the outdoor flowers around the entrance is Xier – a restaurant that is a feast for the eyes and the taste buds – a feast so unlike any other I have ever eaten.
Entering the cosy looking restaurant on Thayer Street in Marelybone, we were led upstairs to a brightly lit room – rather posh I would say. This is where the Xier experience starts. From there we were taken on a culinary journey, led by a very knowledgeable staff who all knew what they were serving, from the exotic drinks to the even more exotic food. We were guided by them through a 10-course tasting menu accompanied by a selection of wines and cocktails chosen to enhance the food and the experience. And what an experience it was. The food was very different yet extremely delicious!
Herewith is a breakdown of the 10 course meal we had (the courses on the menu are subject to change according to seasons and what is available):
1.) French Kiss. A glass block with literally a red kiss on it, made up of passionfruit, pistachio, and fennel with Japanese pumpkin. I imagine that this is exactly what the color red tastes like if it were food. And what an explosion of taste! It’s the best kiss I’ve had all year (thankfully the year is still young!) This is served alongside:
2.) Kabocha (Japanese squash) Crispy Pancake topped with black truffles (delicate and delicious and to die for!) and chestnuts resting on a bed of pumpkin seeds (not to be eaten). It was small but sumptuous. Then came
3.) Orkney Scallop Crudo, Cured Duck with Caviar swimming in an absolutely stunning Soy Dashi (Japanese stock soup) and Malabar sauce (sprayed) served, cleverly, in a large sea shell over a bed of black rocks. And to top it off, to get the full effect of the dish, a bowl of moss is delivered with liquid nitrogen poured onto it, releasing an earthy-smelling vapour across the table, the perfect accompaniment to the rich flavours of the dish. It’s one of the many actions of the evening that is very theatrical which enhances the experience. The scallops were just divine, as was the sauce. All in all an incredible dish and perhaps one of the best dishes I have ever eaten! The scallops literally melted on my tongue and the tiny bits of black caviar were just heavenly.
4.) Rose Cured Salmon, Foie Gras, Kumquad, Yuzu and Hazelnuts topped with coriander leaves and passion fruit puree, with beetroot was next. Hard to top the scallops, this small block of salmon – one of Xier’s signature dishes – where the salmon was solid – was a extreme combination of flavors all packed into a very small portion – yet it worked very well. Next was
5.) Gyoza dumpling (consisting of edamame beans) with hints of pepper, ginger, shallots, and spring onions – to be eaten with chopsticks – and served swimming in a stunning red cabbage tea – which was so unique and flavourful that one was not enough. Bravo for this dish – it was divine.
6.) Cleanser. Time for a break from the food. A Mandarin granita with Blue Curacao sorbet in a small glass cup served on top of a bed of ice in a white glass bowl on a white glass plate was just what was needed to clear the palet for what was to come next – more incredible food!
7.) Black Cod in Caramel Miso, Walnuts, Pistachio, Celeriac & Pear. The cod was so delicious, cooked well done on the outside yet tender and moist on the inside. Xier’s second signature dish – it was beautifully cooked and served with Burnt Kiwi leaf oil and celery Pear Puree. This was preceded by the amazing
8.) British Beef Cheek and Pickled Beetroot, on top of Collard Greens and topped with Bone Marrow. The Beef – sourced from the UK – was tender, moist, and literally falls apart on the dish and on your fork. And the red wine grapes au jus is just icing on the beef – the best beef I’ve had in many years. This was the last of the main courses and it was a high to top all highs!
9.) Swedish Cheese and Fresh Fizzy grapes were a nice delicate touch to wind down the meal. This is served alongside small ginger bread snaps with three jellies that consisted individually of white wine, red wine and walnut & pear. So many tastes – your taste buds will thank you!
10.) The final course was, of course, dessert, called Sweet Pleasure on the menu. And these were normal portions, but we realized bigger doesn’t necessarily mean better. Four desserts were delivered to our table – Chocolate passionfruit Mousse (funny looking but with delicious banana crips); very good banana ice cream; an unusual chestnut parfait on a bed of blackcurrant sauce with mandarin segments and topped with a nice hazelnut cracker; and a small slice of pear cake. The mousse wasn’t our cup of tea, it didn’t have a great taste, and the pear dish was too sugar-coated, but credit is given for the mousse – it was unusual, unique, and visually appealing.
Drinks come at price – of course. You can choose to have the wine & Cocktail Pairing for an additional £85 or alternatively the Deluxe Wine Pairing at £190 extra, or better yet just order drinks from the drinks menu separately. One drink I recommend is the Mango Tiki served in a pineapple tin cup. Mouth watering with rum, papaya, mango with orange juice and topped with Mango foam. Stay away from the Apricot Tai – too too sweet. Of course Xiers’ wine list is very very extensive – too many to mention here, but my dining companion had a Vodkatini – which he very much enjoyed – as well as a few glasses of wine which were all very very fine, even though the pour was small.
In each and every bite of the food we can taste the hard work done in the kitchen to prepare, cook, and serve all these amazing dishes. Xier, the first solo venture from Italian Chef Carlo Scotto – has rewritten the rules on fine dining with Xier. The menu is from his culinary experiences, with aspects of his travels through Europe, Scandinavia and especially Japan, which you can tell had a huge influence on his skills as a chef.
I had commented to my dining companion about halfway through our meal that I felt the courses were too small and that I would probably need more food on the way home, well that was not the case after the tenth course. We both were comfortably full and were just taken aback with the whole experience.
Open for only one year, the room has clean lines, is very minimalist, stylish yet very much on the quiet side, with the excellent staff hovering about to make sure you know what you are eating. They do explain, in lots of detail, when the food is delivered what you are about to eat, otherwise you’d have no idea. Downstairs is XR, which offers prestige A-La-Carte dining. So it’s up to you to decide what you prefer. But the ten course tasting menu is just absolutely divine, and worth every penny of the £95 you will be charged. And with this menu being changed from time to time – it will be interesting to know what type of dishes Scotto will be dreaming up next. But guaranteed they will be amazing and out of this world.
Tim Baros writes film and theatre articles/ reviews for Pride Life and The American magazines and websites, as well as for Hereisthecity.com, Blu-RayDefinition.com and TheGayUK.com. He has also written for In Touch and TNT Magazines, SquareMile.com and LatinoLife.co.uk. He is a voting member for the UK Regional Critics Circle and the Gay & Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association (GALECA – of which he is the UK representative). In addition, he has produced and directed two films: The Shirt and Rex Melville Desire: The Musical.