Evoluzione Sicilian Evening with Michelin star Chef Pietro D'Agostino

March 12, 2015

Yesterday I spent a very pleasant Sicilian Evening at Evoluzione, the beautifully airy Fornasetti-wallpapered restaurant in South Kensington's boutique Hotel Xenia. This Sicilian Evening was one of Italian culinary expertise, with show-cooking and a pastry demonstration to accompany a Sicilian taster menu by Michelin-starred Chef Pietro D’Agostino.

I was there as a guest of my management - Nuffnang - who partnered with foodie app Zomato (I’ve only just come on board, follow me!) for this exclusive event. For this event, a first in the series, a select group of bloggers and press were invited to be the first to preview a series of six guest chefs to bring tastes and traditions from across Italy to London every six weeks throughout the year. Yesterday evening had Chef Pietro D’Agostino present a succession of traditional Sicilian ingredients, dishes and fine-wines before demonstrating – at Hotel Xenia’s dedicated show-cooking station – how each course of the evening had been prepared. 

Jesse at work.
Chef Pietro D’Agostino has had a illustrious career indeed - he spent the past ten years travelling the world, preparing banquets for the Sultan of Brunei at The Dorchester Hotel in London, directing a team of 28 chefs in the most renowned 5-star luxury Grand Hotel Mazzaro Sea Palace in the Ionian Sea: Il Gattopardo, and now with the opening of his own restaurant, La Capinera in Taormina, Sicily. Critics describe him as an 'imaginative interpreter of local cuisine', and he is recognised for his dedication to the richness of Sicilian cuisine, renovated with intelligent and innovative creativity. D’Agostino personally selects all the ingredients of his kitchen; with specific attention paid to organic and gluten-free food. Each dish prepared carries an underlying seasonal theme, creating inventive dishes of great harmony. 

Naturally, expectations were high. Us foodies - a notoriously tough crowd to please - settled in with some champagne and a well-presented platter of bread (which I struggled to do justice with my photography, the lighting was challenging and I thought of using my favourite aid for photographing in low light - my iPhone torch as an external light source - only when the amuse bouche was presented) to kick off our Sicilian Evening. 

Guests were presented with an amuse bouche by resident Chef Andrea Angeletti - Noodles Scallop with hints of orange and rocket. A morsel of scallop wrapped daintily with noodles, presented with a minuscule fork which was a nice attention to detail and scale.

Noodles scallops - with hints of orange and rocket
Our starter followed through with the artful presentation of the amuse bouche. The King Prawns, with onion salad, almond, and orange sauce which was a perfect balance of sweet and tangy, and the visual effect of the orange sauce and flower petals was as pleasing to the eye as the flavours were to the palate.

King Prawns - with onion salad, almond, and orange sauce.
Our first dish however, in my opinion, did not live up to the artistry of the starter. The Black Cod could've have been more flavourful - the capers marsala wine which the fish was marinated in did not come through - and the potatoes had a strange texture, to me it brought to mind the blandness of nata de coco cubes.

Blac Cod with potatoes, lettuce, and capers marsala wine marinated.
The second main, by resident Chef Andrea Angeletti, made up for the disappointment of the Blac Cod. Plates of seafood ravioli was brought to the table, and a rich, bisque-like sauce poured over into it, adding an element of anticipation to the dish.

The flavours were hearty and added a distinct seafood element to a modest pasta dish. I only wished there was more of it, as I am not a fan of cooked fish - itself the main element of the evening's menu - and could've done with more pasta.

Just Pasta - seafood ravioli, capers, Sicilian wild fennel, and pistachio from Bronte.
The third and last main course on our tasting menu, the Turbot, was brought out. I hoped that it would redeem the Blac Cod dish. 

Turbot with artichoke, calamari, and aubergine roasted
Certainly, it was beautifully presented, with roasted aubergine, artichoke flower, asparagus, and calamari artfully arranged around a chunk of turbot. Unfortunately the fish was a bit of a hit-and-miss - Christian's turbot was cooked throughout, and Jamie's fish was somewhat undercooked inside, but my turbot was downright raw in the middle. I imagine it is difficult to maintain the same standard for a dish that is being prepared for a room full of diners, and perhaps their fish was better cooked than mine, but as far as what was on my plate I had to say that the turbot dish was not something I would order again. The selection of accompanying vegetables however were well-chosen, and well prepared, and I imagine that with a bit more care to attention this dish could be a winner.

Bloggers at work - Jamie being aided by Jesse in the pursuit of the perfect photograph. Yes, that's two iPhone flashes illuminating one Instagram snap. Let it be known that beneath the picture-perfect facade of the glossy images, blogging is hard graff - much like a swan gliding along the lake; while it's all serenity and grace on the surface the legs beneath are working furiously.

A glass of red (which I can't drink anyway, I'm allergic to wine - but not champagne, yayooo) for the bloggers, because creating content under the glamorous guise of being wined and dined is tough work.

We deserve desserts. Plural. So pre-dessert and dessert it was, by pastry Chef Manuele Francesco from Siracusa. 

And what a beauty our first dessert was! Feast your eyes on the perfect simplicity of our panna cotta topped with almond, artfully glaced with caramel... 

...which we bit into to reveal a delightful frozen centre of something citrusy. A wonderful surprise of flavour, temperature, and the perfect texture, delivered in a little package - proof that good things come in small sizes. 

Which paved way for the 'proper' dessert, itself tasty enough but outshined by its predecessor - a sponge cake with raspberry and the most potent liquer chocolate.

To recap the evening: the amuse bouche by resident Chef Andrea Angeletti was a wonderful start to the evening, followed by a wonderful starter by Chef Pietro D'Agostino which demonstrated his artistry and skill. However his renown as a chef was not reflected in his two fish mains - while the Blac Cod was agreed to be bland by my table; the Turbot was a hit and miss, and I was unlucky to have received one of the misses thanks to the uncooked centre of my dish. The pasta dish by resident Chef Andrea Angeletti was a welcome interlude that added some variety to the fish mains, and I wished there was more of it - perhaps I don't 'get' Sicilian cooking. However, I thoroughly enjoyed the sweet offerings from pastry Chef Manuele Francesco - his panna cotta was my personal highlight of the evening. 

And so concluded the first of Hotel Xenia's Guest Chef events. Hotel Xenia will be arranging this series of culinary events every 6 weeks, each time inviting a different Italian ‘Guest Chef’ who will expertly take all guest diners on a journey through different Italian regions, tastes and traditions. Each ‘Guest Chef’ will provide their audience with unique creations and combinations that will be available to taste for one night only. The next event is on 21st April with Chef Mario Demuro from Basilicata, and I am curious to see how the dishes of that region compare with my experience of Sicilian cooking. 

Thank you to Nuffnang for the invitation; Jamie, Jessie, and Christian from Zomato for being such wonderful dinner companions, and here's wishing Alexandra from Zomato (who was busy working throughout dinner and left her dessert untouched, which Jamie and I promptly poached) safe and wonderful travels for her month in India! x

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  1. Gorgeous photos!!! Your hard work with the lens swaps paid off :) Lovely to meet you last night xo

  2. Alexandra KalinowskiMarch 12, 2015

    ha haa glad you and Jaime vacuumed up my dessert...dessert is ALWAYS the best. We'll have to get together when I'm back from India and you're more settled in London again.

  3. Ooh it looks up my street as there's so much seafood, I love the look of the scallop noodles it looks like a really inventive dish. I've had lunch here and I also found the food hit and miss but definitely more good than bad.
    Lots of love,

    SilverSpoon London

    1. The scallop noodles was brilliant but the winner of the evening was that panna cotta! You should definitely go for dinner! x

  4. It was lovely to meet you and have a good chat about cameras and lenses. Your pictures are beautiful so you have certainly nailed the art of using your camera. The Turbot on our table was wonderfully cooked so it must have been cooking for so many always a challenge. The desserts were a personal highlight Lucy x

    1. Thank you Lucy! Ah! Your turbot was perfectly done - I'm jealous! And curious as to what I missed out... x

  5. Not sure how I missed this post (stupid degree) but a Sunday morning catching up on blogs means I've now found it and WOW does this food look good! I mean, I might need to go and get some second breakfast kind of good...!

    Lauren xx

    Lauren | The Lifestyle Diaries

  6. Second breakfasts are ALWAYS a good idea! x

    Jasiminne | Posh, Broke, & Bored