A Taste of Puglia in London

It’s no secret that I’ve recently fallen in love with Italy and the diversity of Italian cuisine. After a recent trip to Tuscany (more on that to come, but see my Instagram in the meantime), that love has only grown. There really is more to Italian food than pizza and through a series of guest chef events, Evoluzione, Hotel Xenia’s in-house restaurant are showing the best of the country’s varying cuisine. I was lucky enough to be invited one of the first events in the guest chef series last week. Teresa Buongiorno, a michelin star chef from Osteria Gia Sotto L’Arco in Carovigno, came to show the beauty of the food from her region of Puglia. I took Rob along for the experience.

Table Evoluzione Hotel Xenia Guest Chef Series

Welcome: Champagne & Canapés

We were welcomed with a glass of champagne, some amazing canapés and a little chat whilst a piano played in the background. We got chatting to the marketing manager for Hotel Xenia, Victoria & listened in awe to her epic Marathon des Sables story! Huge respect for anyone who can put themselves through a week of consistent marathons in the desert. I thought my half marathons were epic enough.

After chatting for a while in the bar, we moved into the restaurant where we met the resident chef, michelin star awarded Andrea Angeletti, who was a great character and explained to us how he made the first course,Fave e Cicoria, before meeting Teresa Buongiorno and her husband, who, despite not speaking a word of English, were extremely warm & welcoming people and very pleased to be in London for the event.

typical dish puglia

Course 1: Fave e Cicoria
(Broad Beans & Chicory)

This was really interesting. Angeletti had made a sponge out of the vegetables. It was like a savoury cake. Really innovative.

burrata typical dish puglia

Course 2Burrata in Pasta Kataifi su Salsa di Pomodoro, Capocollo di Martina Franca e Pomodori Secchi
(Burrata in pastry with tomato sauce with capocollo cold cuts and sun dried tomatoes)
Wine: Salento Chardonnay IGT – Due Palme – 2013

At the risk of sounding like a totally, unprofessional reviewer – OMG, this was amazing! I mean, I love burrata on any day, but this dish was one of the best that I have ever eaten. The accompanying chardonnay was floral, light and delicate. The cheese was slightly warm from being in the strips of pastry, which made it even richer than it would have been normally but the tomato sauce balanced out this richness and I just couldn’t stop eating it. I would love to know how to recreate this.

Orechiette typical dish puglia

Course 3: Orecchiette Cozze e Piselli
(Orecchiette pasta with mussels and peas)
Wine: Locorotondo DOC – Leone De Castris – 2013

It is so easy to make this pasta. I actually went up to the counter and learnt how to shape a piece of orecchiette pasta with Teresa, which was fun. She made fun of a few of us who didn’t do that well with the ear-shaped pieces, although I think I may have made the master piece in the end as I got a round of applause, but people may have just been getting hungry, so I won’t get my hopes up. The dish itself was spectacular. I absolutely loved it. And it was so simple to make. I was not only inspired to learn more about Italian cuisine, but I also want to get back in the kitchen. The accompanying wine was a stronger, more acidic flavour than the previous chardonnay, which was better for the heavier dish.

red snapper typical dish puglia

Course 4Trancio de Dentice su Crema di Patate e Julienne di Verdure
(Red Snapper with mashed potato and julienne vegetables)
Wine: Askos Susumaniello IGT – Li Veli – 2014

I really like red snapper. I didn’t actually expect to find it on an Italian menu, if I’m honest. I used to eat it a lot freshly grilled in the beach restaurants of Costa Rica but I didn’t realise that it was typical of Puglia. I really enjoyed it. It was very meaty and the vegetables were great with it. I wouldn’t usually have red wine with fish, but I really enjoyed this wine – well balanced, ruby red with berries and deeper hints of spice – and needed a break from the white, so it was welcomed. At this point, I was getting really full. I didn’t want to leave too much of this so I gobbled it up and prepared myself for the dessert!

ricotta cake typical dish puglia

Course 5: Tortina de Ricotta con Cioccolato Bianco e Frutti di Bosco
(Ricotta cupcake with white chocolate and fruits of the the forest)
Wine: Mandorvino (dessert wine)

Rob is not much of a dessert person, but he declared outright that this was the best dessert he had ever had. I had to agree that it was pretty good. The white chocolate was a pleasant surprise in the sponge and the fruit gave the dish a lighter feel. It was one of those dishes that I wanted to last a really long time, even though I was pretty full. Teresa said she made it as one of her favourite comfort foods and that it would be perfect for the girls in the room. Although, from the noises that Rob was making – I’d say he was pretty comforted by it too!

group hotel xenia guest chef series

Sad you missed out? You should be. Luckily, Hotel Xenia are arranging this guest chef series every 6 weeks throughout the rest of 2015. So far confirmed are:

24th June Luca Collami (Liguria)
14th July Andrea Incerti (Emilia, Romagna)
8th September Donato Episcopo (Veneto)
21st October Paolo Barrale (Campania)
25th November Stefano Masanti (Lombardia)

Price: £65 (includes a welcome drink and all course-matched wines)

About Hotel Xenia

Hotel Xenia is a 99-roomed design-led boutique hotel located in Kensington which opened last year. Situated in an artfully-restored Victorian building with contemporary interiors, Xenia comprises a destination restaurant, bar with outdoor terrace, and private dining and events spaces – including a roof terrace – in addition to its bedrooms and personalised service.

For more info on Hotel Xenia, visit www.hotelxenia.co.uk

Thank you so much to Hotel Xenia & Evoluzione for their hospitality.