Monday, October 8, 2012
The London Restaurant Festival is in full swing. Restaurants across the city are celebrating in various ways, from offering special deals to serving inventive meals. But so far my favorite part of the festival has been unrelated to it: the opportunity to eat at the newest dining establishment in London, Moreno restaurant at the Baglioni hotel in Kensington.
Moreno, which is run by two-Michelin starred Italian chef Moreno Cedroni, opened last Wednesday. I was invited to dinner there on Thursday to sample his famous cuisine in the brand new restaurant on Hyde Park.
Upon entering, I was greeted by the same people I met when I went for cocktails at the hotel’s Brunello Lounge a few months back, and shown to a table in the intimate dining room.
When my party was seated, we were brought menus and glasses of Bellavista Franciacorta sparkling wine. As we sipped, we looked over the starters, mains, pasta courses, and desserts. Each one had a number next to it, which we later learned corresponded to the year Moreno created the dish.
After we made our choices, we enjoyed an amuse bouche of a creamy, if a bit dense, Parmesan mousse with Parmesan chips. A bread basket full of beautiful Italian focaccia and other selections was also furnished along with some light, fruity Bonamini “Passioni di Verona” olive oil.
Soon after that our three starters arrived: the chef’s famous “sushi and susci”, tempura scallops with black cuttlefish ink served with clam and zucchini sauce, and Albacore tuna tataki with quinoa salad and a light broth of Campari and pink pepper.
The sushi platter, which consisted of eight Italian-inspired pieces of sushi, was chef Moreno’s signature dish. From rock clams to scallops to tuna, each piece was served in a different way with accompanying elements that brought out the best in the main ingredient. The result was a beautiful, delicate mix of complimentary flavors and textures.
The other two starters were top-notch as well. The tuna tataki featured both fresh fish and a nice hint of spice from the pepper. The scallops were also inventive, wrapped in rich black squid-ink parcels.
For our mains we went with fish and pasta, as Moreno’s specialties lie on the seafood spectrum. I chose a warm sea bass carpaccio with lime mashed potatoes and rocket sauce. The medley of flavors melted in my mouth, and the portion size was just enough to leave me wanting dessert.
And it’s a good thing, too, because there were two. Well, sort of. The palate cleanser of Nutella and ginger ice cream was the perfect precursor to a dessert I had my eye on: the Funny. Yes, there was a dessert called the Funny. Want to know what it was?
I’ll tell you. It’s a fragrance by Moschino. It’s also violet ice cream, spiced crumble, and Bergamot flower water. I was a bit hesitant to try it after the server told me that women love it, as that kind of dessert tends to be too sweet for my liking.
But I went with it anyway. It did turn out to be sweeter than I would have preferred, but I appreciated the foodie take on the fragrance. The dish was both aromatic and intensely flavorful, and there was a nice blend of textures in the smooth ice cream and crunchy crumble.
At the end of the meal we had an extra treat, which came in the form of a tiny map of Italy with chocolates corresponding to three regions: Piedmont (traditional), Campania (basil), and Sicily (pistachio). Educationally delicious, it was just on the right side of gimmicky.
In another special surprise, chef Moreno himself came to the table to welcome us to his new restaurant. As we congratulated him on the food and service, he modestly quipped that it was only his “second day of school”. If everything was running that smoothly on day two, I can only imagine that the restaurant will be a quick success.
And that’s not all. For the soft opening, Moreno restaurant is offering a deal of three courses for £25. Beat that, London Restaurant Festival.