Columnist and Restaurant Reviewer Riccha Grrover in an interview with Carlo Scotto, Chef-Owner of XR, Modern European cuisine with Asian influences showcasing restaurant in the heart of London’s fashionable Marylebone neighbourhood. An exclusive for Asian Lite International.
With over 15 years’ experience working in some of London’s top restaurants – including several Michelin-starred kitchens – Italian-born chef Carlo Scotto opened his first solo venture, Xier and XR in Marylebone, in March 2019.
Through this menu, Scotto’s signature creativity shines through with dishes marrying unusual flavours and experimental techniques. Whilst the menu uses mainly organic British produce, Scotto takes influences from Japan and Scandinavia, where he has travelled extensively.
When not in the kitchen, Scotto travels as much as possible. For him, travelling is less about uncovering new ingredients, and more about discovering the cultures behind the ingredients, and bringing this to the table through his theatrical and experimental cuisine.
With an ever-changing A-la-carte menu, XR champions fresh produce and vibrant flavours in a comfortable and welcoming environment. XR offers a casual version of Chef Carlo Scotto’s formal fine dining menu that he serves in the upper part of the restaurant called Xier. XR pays homage to seasonal produce sourced from organic farms across the British Isles.
RG- What are the top dishes you would recommend a first time diner to try ? How would you describe the food at XR in 3 words? What can diners expect when the book to have a meal at XR?
CS- Everyone who dines with us loves the truffle pasta – it’s a best seller for sure and really delicious, so would be great for a first-time diner. Otherwise, one of the sharing dishes – like the 1kg tomahawk would be a good choice.
The food at XR is seasonal, impressive and delicious.
When diners book at XR, they can expect top quality food in a relaxed and informal yet stylish setting. The team are incredibly knowledgeable and friendly, and always on hand to answer any questions about the menu. I also think it’s fairly safe to say there’s something on the menu for everyone, no matter what they’re in the mood for!
RG- Do you have a seasonal menu too or is it always a fixed ala carte menu? Where does your menu take its inspiration from?
CS- We have a few core classics that remain, but yes we absolutely change the menu regularly to reflect the best produce of the evolving seasons.
The menu is modern-European, but with a few Asian influences too.
RG-Tell us about the decor, interiors, drinks selection, music and the overall vibe you have created- how does it compliment the meal experience at XR?
CS- The vibe at XR is relaxed and casual, yet still very chic and stylish. The interiors are elegant and inviting, with blush pink walls adorned with deep blue panels for the perfect contrast, complete with bold statement artwork. During the week we keep the music fairly casual, and at weekends it’s more of a party vibe thanks to our Bottomless Champagne DJ Brunch. In terms of drinks, our Head Sommelier Fillipo Carnevale is in charge, with a wine to suit any taste, as well as an extensive cocktail menu.
RG-Tell us about your sharing mains like salt baked sea bass and other dishes by the kilo- tell us about its exclusive visual appeal of being served by the chef at the tables and how do discerning diners feel when they see a visually appealing freshly made to order sharing mains?
CS- I firmly believe food tastes its best when shared with loved ones, so that’s why I incorporated these dishes into the menu. The 1kg seabass and 1kg tomahawk do look very impressive when presented on a diner’s table, and I think it just adds to the overall experience and makes it that bit more special.
RG- What advice would you give budding chefs and restaurateurs?
CS- Be prepared to work incredibly hard! The restaurant industry is a challenging one, now more than ever and if you want to succeed you need to understand it’s not going to be an easy ride, you need to be fully determined and dedicated. I’d also say find a mentor if you can, someone you admire and who can help keep you on the right path. Never stop learning…
RG- How is the modern European cuisine different from other restaurants in this genre- what makes it unique?
CS- I think our sharing dishes are pretty unique. They are designed to be wow factor dishes and I think we achieve that! In terms of the rest of the menu, we focus on relatively simple dishes, but just done extremely well and using the best produce.
RG- How has the pandemic affected the meal experience at XR? How have you kept the restaurant going and what changes do you need to incorporate in your restaurant safe and enjoyable for diners in a post covid era?
CS- The pandemic has not been an easy time at all, and it has hit us hard, as it has done with every hospitality business. We’ve reduced our cover numbers to ensure for plenty of space between tables, we’ve increased our cleaning regime and introduced hand sanitisers throughout the restaurant. Our team also of course wear all the required PPE when working, as their safety is paramount, along with that of the customer. Other than that, we’ve tried to keep things as normal as possible, as part of the joy of eating out is it is a touch of escapism from the everyday, and I think we need that now more than ever.
The menu at XR is made for sharing, with plates that are perfect for get-togethers with family or friends. Influenced by global flavours, particularly from Scandinavia and Japan, enjoy classic dishes from Chef Carlo, elevated by his innovative use of ingredients. Showstopping mains such as sea bream with fennel and orange salad; and autumn black truffle and basil pizza, are sure to impress. Larger dishes – designed to be shared between two or four – like the whole sea salt crusted seabass is surely to write home about!
Attentive service and delectable food in a stylish, elegant ambience are sure the right ingredients to make it a favourite jaunt!