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Moreno at The Baglioni: a tasting.
I was recently invited to a bloggers’ dinner at the newly-opened Moreno restaurant in the Baglioni Kensington, named after head chef Moreno Cedroni - an established restaurateur in Italy (where he has 4 restaurants) which have picked up a couple of Michelin stars. This is his first overseas venture in what he calls “the best city in the world for restaurants”.
Chef Cedroni’s big idea of fusing classic Italian cooking with Japanese elements had my mouth watering (having in the past lived for several months as a student in both countries); but also left me a bit wary since I didn’t want to see two of my favourite cuisines messed with…
We were led through the grandiose luxury surroundings of the lobby into the restaurant and began to hungrily peruse the menu, noting the especially intriguing range of options available for seafood lovers. We liked how each dish’s year of creation was displayed, with some going back decades while others were brand new. This showed a a touch of wit that would become a recurring theme as the evening progressed.
After being served some regional Italian breads (including the crispy Sardinian flatbread previously sampled during our cocktail tasting at Brunello) and a cleansing Parmesan mousse to whet our appetites, we were licking our lips with anticipation as the starters rolled in.
The signature Italian susci/sushi kicked things off in style, showing a deft touch and measured creativity that bode well for the rest of our meal.
Sushi rice is replaced by Italian carnaroli rice and soya sauce with colatura di alici (a type of fish sauce) to add variety and depth to the classic sushi flavours. But this is executed with great subtlety and skill so as not to detract from the refreshing smoothness of the fish, which remains the star.
The balance was so fine that one felt that this dish had been refined over many years of practice. I cannot see this unique, vibrantly colourful plate being copied and it’s worth a visit to Moreno even to taste this alone.
Our starters also included a sharing plate of tempura scallops with black cuttlefish ink, embellished with clam and zucchini sauce, which quickly disappeared down our throats. But my favourite was the classic tuna tataki salad, gracefully enhanced with a Campari and pink pepper sauce. It was utterly simple and yet exquisite…raising your spirits with every mouthful.
For the mains we chose three very diverse dishes and, as often occurs at blogger dinners, ogled longingly at each other’s plates when they arrived!
My gnocchi was comfort food at its best and reminded me of some of the best “mamma-style” pasta I’ve enjoyed on numerous Italy trips. Gnocchi happens to be my favourite pasta and this came bathed in a luxuriant meat and tomato sauce well-complemented by crisp florets of broccoli. Divine.
One of my dinner companions had a gorgeously-presented warm sea bass carpaccio with lime mash and rocket sauce which she described on her blog as follows: “The medley of flavours melted in my mouth”. Do read the full Lady in London review to find out her overall take on the same evening.
The fritto misto ordered by the other member of our party also looked very appetising judging by how quickly he polished it off!
But our colourful culinary extravaganza was far from over. We were then served a surprise Nutella and ginger ice cream before the main dessert to prepare our palates for the next round. An interesting combo which didn’t quite work for me though I’m sure Nutella addicts would have adored it.
As I looked through the dessert menu, my eyes lit up as I saw the cheeky “fruit and vegetable salad” and knew this was one not to be missed. I wondered though how far it would really push the envelope.
I loved this dessert! It had as much vegetable as fruit, including strips of fennel and thinly-sliced raw carrot to complement the sweet fruits. The mix of textures was amazing. It was an intelligent move too to include a scoop of sorbet in the midst of it all, which helped to balance the flavours and infuse the whole medley with an extra zingy freshness. This was one of the few occasions you could actually feel virtuous after taking a dessert!
One of my companions had the “Funny” dessert (as if anything could be funnier than a dessert with raw vegetables!), apparently modelled on a fragrance by Moschino. It contained violet ice cream and Bergamot flower water with some crunchy spiced crumble bits to add a little bite.
The chef himself then came to say hello and we quizzed him on his culinary philosophy. I particularly liked that he’s attempting to source local ingredients whenever possible – telling us he didn’t finalise the menu until he’d met with UK suppliers. Such open-mindedness and focus on quality is great to see. We were impressed by Chef Cedroni’s warmth and humility.
Finally, we were provided with another little surprise: after-dinner chocolates from different regions of Italy presented to us on little maps!
The little playful elements that had been added made our evening at Moreno both fun and satisfying. The witty aspect is particularly refreshing in a fine dining establishment at a 5 star London hotel.
Our dinner took place only a couple of days after opening, so we were expecting glitches but there were none. The service was as friendly and well-judged as the food was inspiring.
Moreno is a welcome addition to the London restaurant scene. Try it by October 3oth if you can because they have a special offer of 3 courses for £25 – an amazing deal for this level of quality but only available for a few more days. You can reserve through the Moreno at Baglioni webpage, maybe combining dinner with a night in one of their London luxury suites.
You might also want to check out LHI blogger Andrea’s post about her Italian drinks tour at the Brunello bar adjacent to the restaurant.
Photo credits: London Hotels Insight, Baglioni Hotel London.
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