Xenia: (Greek: ξενία, xenía, trans. “guest-friendship”)
the ancient Greek concept of hospitality, the generosity and courtesy shown to those who are far from home.
Although I may not have been far from home, Hotel Xenia London, a quick five minute walk from Earls Court station, embodies the meaning of its name down to a tee. The Hotel’s owner, Hassanain Al-Nakeeb, tells me he flicked through an Oxford English dictionary one morning and came across the word. In that moment he knew he’d found the name for his hotel.
In the name of hospitality (and incredible food), Hotel Xenia are holding a guest chef series where, every six weeks, skilled Italian Chefs from different Italian regions are invited to host a one-night only tasting menu. Starting in Sicily Michelin Starred Chef Pietro D’Agostino was the first to kick off the guest-chef series.
With over ten years of prestigious culinary experience, Pietro is described by critics as an “imaginative interpreter of local cuisine” and he personally selects all ingredients and prepares each dish according to the seasons.
Everything about Evoluzione had me saying “wow.” It was by far the most used word of the night, and I don’t use it lightly. The hotel owner spoke about how he’d thought of everything to do with the restaurant’s decoration. He’d sourced a specific style of chair in recognition that people want to relax whilst the eat; just as he’d wanted to do when he was a child.
Our menu celebrated the fresh fish that Sicily, as an island, is famous for and was washed down with some of the best tasting wines I’ve ever had.
After some Proseco and canapés, our meal started with an introduction from the Maitre D’ and a chance to meet Pietro himself, as well as Evoluzione’s resident chef and pastry chef who prepared some of the evening’s courses.
Tasty warm Sicilian bread started the evening with my particular favourite being the walnut and cheese bread. The perfect accompaniment to any good bread is true Italian olive oil. The smell of a good olive oil alone is enough to transport me back to family holidays in Tuscany where olive oil and Pecorino tasting was the usual activity. This was accompanied by DaEtna Bianco from Costantino.
A single tasty scallop boosted my tastebuds in to action, ready for a night of delicious, creative Italian cooking.
An onion salad with an almond and orange sauce topped with a succulent king prawn was our first starter, followed by black cod with potatoes, lettuce and capers marinated in marsala wine. Capers are often far too sharp in flavour. But these, marinated as they were in marsala wine, were extraordinary tasty and I could have eaten them on their own.
No Italian dinner would be complete without some form of pasta dish and for us this meant seafood ravioli with capers, Sicilian wild fennel and pistachio from Bronte. Perfectly cooked al-dente pasta complimented by the most delicious broth which the waiter poured over the pasta just after serving.
Next up on our Sicilian food journey was Turbot topped with calamari, artichoke and roasted aubergine. The edible flowers made this dish look exceedingly pretty. As you would expect from a Michellin Starred chef, the calamari was far from the greasy, over-battered sort you’d get by the basket load in pubs. And, although that’s tasty too, this calamari stood out. Washed down with the tasty red wine: DaEtna Rosato.
After all those courses and wine I was pretty stuffed. Next on our menu was the ‘Pre-dessert & dessert’, because who needs one dessert when you can have two?
Our first dessert featured a delicious mango sauce and creamy pudding with a lovely biscuit-y base.
The second a more cake-y dessert. Usually I’m no fan of dessert wines but the Mandorvin Bianco aromatizzato alla mandorla was delicious. Smelling and tasting like marzipan, you’ll be a fan if you’re partial to some amaretto.
and of course there were chocolates and cake, just for good measure…Unfortunately I had to leave before the cake was dished up (I don’t think I could have managed it anyway!). However, I’m confident it was just as tasty as the rest of the dinner.
I’m not exaggerating when I say I said “wow” each time a new plate of food was put in front of me. I haven’t eaten food this pretty of tasty in a long time and I’d go back in a heartbeat.
Xenia perfectly fits the meaning of its name. Staff are friendly and address you as “madames” and “messieurs.” Everything from the wallpaper to the style of the past a I and the chairs has been taken care of to ensure maximum comfort. All you need to do is eat.
Luckily, the guest chef series runs until 25th November so you haven’t missed out. In fact, it’s just getting started…
*My meal was provided free of charge,
however all words are my own and I’m already planning by next visit.