It was one of those grey, wintery days. The rain was drizzling in that particularly damp London-ish manner, but it didn’t matter. Inside Evoluzione at Hotel Xenia in Kensington, Shikha and I had a tabletop full of Italian sunshine.
Disclaimer: We were invited guests of Hotel Xenia (An Autograph Collection Hotel), but my thoughts and terrible puns are all very much my own.
Behind the traditional Kensington facade lined with meticulously trimmed, fairy light-filled box hedging, there is an oasis of Italian cuisine. The kitchen at Evoluzione is headed up by Michelin Star awarded Italian Chef Andrea Angeletti, bringing his distinctive flair to Hotel Xenia in the Autograph Collection.
I love that Andrea has created a delicious array of dishes based on Italian culinary traditions in the Marches region, which have been revisited through his own creative intrepretations and unexpected flavour combinations, using top quality Italian ingredients.
I’m not normally a fan of tapas or grazing menus, but this was one where we could have ordered almost everything it sounded so delicious – oh, and I like Shikha enough to share the delectable treats with. That helps.
We ordered all of our picks at the start, and our lovely waitress explained that dishes would come out as they were ready, which was perfect for us. We began traditionally with the vegetarian Arancini Balls which were scrumptious – a perfect crunch with a moreish centre – and the mini burger buns with smoked duck breast and rocket salad which were a glorious, light twist on sliders.
We thoroughly enjoyed the delicately grilled scallop with celeriac sauce, and the semolina gnocchi with butter and sage elicited hums of approval from both of us simultaneously. The perfect antithesis to the cold grey weather outside.
The forkfuls of roasted prawns served with truffle potatoes and porcini sauce took both of us wanderlusters to pastures abroad, and we loved the Passatelli with tossed with Parmesan and truffle. We especially enjoyed the back story of this humble, delicious dish – it’s pasta formed of bread crumbs, eggs, grated Parmesan cheese (and regionally lemon and nutmeg) and comfort food personified.
But, two more dishes were yet to come – the tantalisingly named Parmesan ice cream with crispy bread, and the beguiling ‘selection of Italian cheese and meat’ which excuse the pun was a cut above usual offerings. The Parmesan ice cream was a treat for the senses – and our waiter told us of how it used to be served alongside soup, and how much he loved the combination.
No wonder Evoluzione was named ‘Best Contemporary Restaurant’ by the Luxury Travel Guide in November 2018.
I loved this quote, “It may seem a little nostalgic, but my cuisine finds its roots in that of my grandmother and my mother too. Clearly, I have also worked and learned a great deal from top chefs that I hold in esteem, among which are Vincenzo Cammerucci and André Jaeger, known for having influenced generations of top chefs. I believe that cooking traditions are the foundation for fusion cuisine.”
It shows – we had such a lovely, relaxing lunch and loved all of our choices.
Totally overshadowed by the grazing dishes, we finished on a sweet note – Shikha trying the hazelnut semifreddo, whereas thinking festively, I chose the almond brandy snap basket filled with chantilly cream, floating in a couli of fruit.
We then went for a wander through the hotel itself, which embodies the #ExactlyLikeNothingElse spirit. Dressed for the festive season, Hotel Xenia is flamboyant, fun and rather plush.
I can’t want to go back in summer and sit in the secret herb garden.
We especially adored the bar – I can just see beautifully dressed fashionistas sipping cocktails in this cozy space.
In fact, I can definitely see myself back here when entertaining friends.
We can’t wait to come back again to Hotel Xenia – I hear they have fun cigar + whiskey masterclasses, not to mention a bottomless brunch that sounds rather intriguing…
What is your favourite Italian dish? Pizza, pasta, gnocchi, semifreddo, tiramisu…?
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