Tasting menus are like Marmite: you either love them or hate them. The eight to ten courses can be a minefield of petri-sized dishes that can be a surprise for the taste buds, or have you inhaling the whole bread basket and swinging by a fast food joint on the way home in order to curb the hunger. Tasting menus do not allow for a quick drop in dinner; its multiple courses served over two or so hours with wine pairing, and dishes presented with its own verse and prose, and breakdown of ingredients. Certainly not for diners on a parking meter.
Xier, the first solo project of Carlo Scotto, is a restaurant that offers two different dining options. On the ground floor XR operates at a leisurely place, knocking out casual dining Italian fare to well-heeled Londoners. With a fortnightly changing menu, dishes range from burrata to pulled beef cheek and parmesan risotto. Upstairs is a vastly different setting. Xier is refined and sleek, a fine dining restaurant that serves 10 almighty courses with flavours spanning Asia and Italy with a heavy global influence (£90 per person).
We kicked off the tasting menu with a basket of warm potato bread served with a trio of butters (the smoked butter being a particular highlight). After devouring half of the loaf – and keeping the other half close just in case we needed to load up on carbs – we were presented with the first course. Goat’s cheese macarons were served on a bed of dry ice: a similar feeling to being in a remake of Stars in Your Eyes, or some ‘90s reality show. Overlooking the dry ice, which was neither needed or necessary, the macrons were exceptional – light, cheesy, morsels of deliciousness. Xier offers two tasting menus, a standard and a veggie, with some dietary requirements taken care of as the kitchen chopped and changed the menu without any fuss.
We soon rattled through the starter courses, the beetroot tartare with crispy shallots was a vegan dish that boasted the texture of beef, while the truffle arancini was executed with aplomb. It’s hard not to love a ball of rice spiked with cheese and covered in a thick blanket of truffle and breadcrumbs.
The beurre noisette gnocchi was a left field dish, served rather interestingly, in a bowl of warm kombucha tea. The Europe meets Asia course was soul-satisfyingly wonderful with the final product a bold, modern take on a classic Italian number.
Heartier dishes came in the form of beef cheek with bone marrow, blueberry salsify, apple and nettles purée. The beef was beautifully tender and rich, and was worth the dinner reservation alone. And the combination of sweet and bitter in the apple and nettle purée accompanied the cut of meat perfectly. It was the pigeon, the two-legged gamey bird, which had me dumbfounded, however. Served with, beetroot, foie gras, purple potato and hazelnut crumble it was overwhelmingly rich, but in the best possible way. The pigeon was slow cooked with a real depth of flavour. A knock out dish.
After inhaling the slivers of Swedish cheese with fizzy grapes, the menu finished on the ‘sweet tooth’ course. Not giving too much way on paper, the members of staff soon filled our table with an impressive selection of five desserts. We dipped and dived our spoons into a rhubarb tart, a dome filled with chocolate mousse and covered in a thin layer of chocolate, and a peanut and hazelnut pudding that was so damn good after we had finished ours we were eyeing it up on the next table.
By the time we had finished our meal, three hours had past. We arrived during early evening and left just as Fitzrovia was gradually coming to life. Tasting menus are not everyone’s cup of tea – they can be a long-winded, stilted dining experience, but Xier promises something different; substantial plates of carefully choreographed flavours and ingredients.
Xier can be found at 13-14 Thayer Street, London, W1U 3JR.