In the 19th century, a daring shoemaker by the name of George Wombwell would travel around Britain with what was considered to be one of the first travelling menageries; he realized that there existed people who lived outside of London, and that these people were, surprisingly, of similar needs and enjoyed seeing exotic animals without having to travel all the way to the capital. This is indeed what restaurants can become at times – a way for us to “travel” to other places and countries with no more than a tube ride – and it is especially refreshing when that journey is enhanced by events that cater for this sort of exploration.
Chefs: Mario Demuro (Guest) & Andrea Angeletti
Camera: iPhone 6
To give a little background to my insane ramblings about animals and menageries (I promise I haven’t been playing any Prince of Persia lately), Hotel Xenia is hosting a series of guest chef events at their restaurant with the idea of exploring different regions of Italy. A different chef every six weeks, who, alongside Andrea Angeletti – the resident – attempt to demystify the geography of the country as well as provide for a wonderful, more personal sort of evening. I was invited here for my first Zomato Meetup (yay for me trying not to be a lone hermit); would this have been a spy movie, the meeting would essentially be a way of measuring the competition. Or is this just an Eastern European cold war mentality? I will ponder on that.
This isn’t a restaurant review per se – whilst the resident chef did indeed partake in the cooking process, the event is more about showcasing recipes and ingredients that represent the area the guest chef comes from. It is, however, a great opportunity (since there are 6 more such events in the future) to delve deeper into Italian cuisine, which often tends to be dominated, in London, by some of the more mainstream dishes (lasagna…).
The guest chef for this particular night was Mario Demuro, whose main restaurant is Villa Cirigliano in Basilicata.
The five course meal was also one of the few occasions I have had to try “modern Italian” (with high-end restaurants often being more focused on modern British or modern French, and Italian being generally treated more traditionally), such as the traditional pasta, cozze e fagioli mousse (pasta-mussels and beans) aperitif which was an excellent deconstructed take on the original recipe.
(What does “deconstructed” mean? It’s modern cuisine lingo for changing the form the ingredients are normally served, in this case making a mousse out of some of them. You can see an extreme version of this in molecular gastronomy and especially Heston Blumenthal’s food)
The ingredients were clearly of high quality, and it was a pleasure to witness the excellent technical skills that chef Mario Demuro had in the other (deconstructed) dishes as well; even more, what was quite nice, is that he was constantly there to explain to us what inspired each dish, what ingredients it had, and (at this point I had already started eating – seriously if you put nice food in front of me it’s just a reflex) how to make them. The event did feel this way much more intimate and offers a chance to interact with the team behind the food that is rarely offered.
PS: excuse the shit quality of the pictures, I was having a day off from lugging my camera with me everywhere.