In a nutshell: Ex-Babbo Head Chef goes it alone in Marylebone
Summing it all up: Carlo Scotto's first solo venture, on Thayer Street, will be a two tiered affair with a casual ground floor space XR and then a first floor fine dining experience Xier with a tasting menu.
Given Londoners' love affair with more casual dining it's perhaps no surprise that a new restaurant is aplitting itself in two to offer both a casual and fine dining experiences.
Xier in Marylebone, will be the first solo project of chef Carlo Scotto. Scotto - who was born in Naples, moved his way up the London restaurant scene, first working for Corbin & King, then being mentored by Angela Hartnett before moving onto the Galvin Brothers and then taking his first Head Chef position at Babbo in Mayfair.
His restaurant, which is taking over where the old Pizza Express was, will be a restaurant on two levels - both literally and creatively. So the ground floor will be a more casual dining spot XR, serving an a-la-carte lunch and dinner menu. Think dishes like Yellowfin tuna tartar with aubergine caviar, garden salad and taro chips or Hanger steak, pickled walnuts, shallots, parsley and baby aubergine.
But upstairs will be Xier - a space for 38 diners serving up a 10 course tasting menu every evening for £90. Here you'll find dishes like Obsi blue prawns served with wild fennel, wasabi caviar and fresh raspberry or Rose-cured salmon with foie gras, burnt figs, leaf oil and citrus dressing.
Hot Dinners caught up with Carlo to find out about his plans for Xier.
Why did you decide to split the restaurant into two parts - more casual and then fine dining?
"Fine dining is very important to me. It’s who I am as a chef, and where my experience lies. I still think there is a beauty in the sense of occasion that a fine dining restaurant offers. However, we appreciate that this isn’t what people necessarily want every day of the week. We wanted to accommodate both types of clientele – people who want a great, but more casual lunch and people who want something a bit more special. Then, when we found the site which is split over two floors, we thought the space leant itself perfectly to being able to offer both types of experience."
A 10 course tasting menu seems to be going against the trend in London for more casual menus - what makes your menu so special?
"The reason that we chose to do 10 courses is actually not so much about the menu, but about the story that I want to tell my customers. Xier is a place for me to share my personality, journey and the experiences that I have had in my life. It would probably take 20 courses to tell the story, but 10 is a good start. I want our customers to understand everything that I have been through, everything that I have experienced. I’m going to try and show that on the plate."
Why have you chosen to pair with the Rhug estate for much of your produce?
"Having spent the most important years of my career working in the UK, it was important to me that my cooking celebrated the fantastic British produce that is available. Because of this, I was always going to work with a British supplier, but The Rhug Estate is also an organic farm and I love the way they treat animals. They ticked all the boxes for me. I first came across them because they were highly recommended to me by a chef friend. I’ve been really impressed with the quality of their produce and their ethos. They really understand the standard that I want to deliver in my dishes, and their high-quality produce allows me to do that. I’m looking forward to working closely with them as Xier grows."
You've said that you regard Angela Hartnett as your mentor - what is the most important lesson she taught you?
"The truth is that she gave me confidence to decide what sort of chef I wanted to be. At the time I was working for her, I was a very young chef – the youngest in her kitchen. It could be an intimidating environment and I lacked some self-belief. One day, she put me on the meat and fish section – one of the hardest sections in the kitchen to execute perfectly. I wasn’t sure I could meet her standards, but she turned to me and said “if you weren’t good enough to work this section, I wouldn’t have put you here”. Those few words lit a spark in me, made me work harder than ever, and I’ve never looked back. She also taught me to trust my gut and be brave. I’m aware that I’m one of the only Italian chefs in London not cooking Italian food, but training under people like Angela taught me to be open and appreciate different techniques and cuisines. Xier is the culmination of that."
More about Xier
Where is it? 13-14 Thayer Street, London W1U 3JR
When does it open? 26 February 2019
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