30 October 2014

Zomato Meetup: Evoluzione at Hotel Xenia

Last night, I was royally treated along with sixteen other food bloggers from Zomato to a night out at Evoluzione at Hotel Xenia
We were warmly greeted by the team at Hotel Xenia and given a choice of welcome drinks at the bar.
Meanwhile we were serenaded by a pianist at this lovely transparent piano that also has a tablet allowing beautiful music to play at all hours for the pleasure of the guests and visitors.
It is a shame this piano is in the corner - so lovely.
At the bar, our bartender was making delicious and refreshing cocktails with a sprig of rosemary. 
As beautiful as the cocktail looked, I found it a bit too bitter for my tastes but others were requesting seconds and giving it high praise. 
Yours Truly, Her Fav Food & Matt The List
After a warm welcome from the duty manager we were ushered into the restaurant for our six course interactive dining experience.
I was delighted to sit down with fellow bloggers - The Halal Food Diaries, Her Fav Food & Thoroughly English.
You might be asking yourself what an "interactive" dining experience entails. Good question!
Michelin Star Italian Chef, Andrea Angeletti, was on hand to demonstrate and explain each dish before they were presented by the wait staff. You can imagine the excitement that a group of bloggers would have at this opportunity to witness this lovely chef up close and personal. Shutterbugs were a flurry.
First up, Chef Angeletti made a "self shaken zest" which were delivered to the tables in little shaker bowls. 
As you can imagine - the food paparazzi were in rapture. :) 
A glass of Lyricus, Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi, was offered to compliment the course.
This was probably my favourite wine of the evening and was decidedly dry and crisp - quite refreshing and a perfect pairing with the "Ying Yang Salmon" that was served.
The salmon was perfectly cooked - on one side only - o so tender and melted in the mouth.
Remember those "self shaken zest" bowls? Well after Chef Angeletti's presentation and all the pics were taken of the salmon, we were instructed to shake our zest and use it as a marinade for the dish. I had a little too much fun perhaps with the shaker? Hehe. Who doesn't love getting involved with the preparation of their meal? :D 
A choice of Italian bread was also provided to accommodate the salmon. 
Next up... Cheese Bread with King Prawn and Pecorino Sauce. The recipe was his grandma's and the sauce was so smooth and rich (I wanted a spoon to lick up the remaining sauce) and as Her Fav Food said, it could easily have been a pudding.
Dishes were whisked away and a glass of Vignaiolo Fanti was provided to compliment the main course.
Chef Angeletti told us that cannelloni needs to be eaten with one's fingers. A few amused looks passed amongst my table mates but we gave it a try.
Unfortunately the "Dry Cannelloni Stuffed with Ricotta Cheese, Porcini Mushroom, Veal and a Truffle Dipping Sauce" was perhaps my least favourite dish and the wine was overpowering. My entire table did not fancy the choice of wine, in fact, so it was not just my feeble knowledge of wine. 
If you are interested in Halal options - please stay tuned for The Halal Food Diaries' review.
Next was "Passatelli with parmesan fondue". Passatelli is from Chef Angeletti's region in Italy (For that matter - almost all the staff were Italian aside from the lovely Daisy in marketing) and apparently can stay in water for a long time - incapable of being overcooked.  The pasta was then cooked in chicken stock and the sauce was a mixture of cream and parmesan cheese cooked at seventy degrees (celsius). 
The dish was very rich and perhaps it was the combination of all the other rich foods earlier but I found myself wishing for more of that delicious Ying Yang Salmon. ;) 
Following the pasta, we had "Sea Bass cooked in olive oil with cream of potato and taggiasca olives". The sea bass was also superbly cooked and moist. 
Finally it was pudding time and we were presented with "Chiboust" and a glass of Greco di Bianco.
Again I was not impressed with the wine pairing but I am well aware I do not have a wide understanding of wines so don't go based on my comments. ;)
Now for the "Chiboust". As Thoroughly English pronounced, it was like a deconstructed creme brûlée. Couldn't have said it better myself. 
The creme was rich and yet moist, the pastry too tough and perhaps not enough of it (?) and unfortunately there were not enough berries to help absorb the richness from the meal. 
So what did I think? The food was delicious and my favourites were (in this order):
  • The Ying Yang Salmon (A++)
  • Cheese Bread (A+)
  • The Sea Bass (A)
  • Passatelli (A-)
  • Dry Cannelloni (B)
  • Chiboust (B)

All the dishes (aside from the Ying Yang Salmon) were very rich so keep that in mind when deciding what to eat earlier in the day. ;) But truthfully, it was a most delightful evening. The food really was delightful, the servers' faces were wreathed with the desire to serve and please - I told She Lives to Eat that I would not be surprised if one of the servers were to offer me the shirt off their back that's how accommodating and genuine they were, and the atmosphere was relaxing and would be excellent for spending time with a friend or perhaps a date night.
And as always I love these fabulous Zomato meet-ups because it means opportunities to meet fellow food bloggers. Thank you Alexandra, Chris and Yusef from Zomato! If you are a food blogger and haven't yet connected with the Zomato community, might I suggest you do! :)
Also what a pleasure to meet Chef Angeletti! What a generous man and definitely very talented. (Thanks The Halal Food Diaries for snapping this pic when my phone's battery died.)
If you are interested in visiting Xenia Hotel's Evoluzione Restaurant they offer a wide array of options to choose from:
  • Private dining
  • Luncheon (12pm-5pm; with an express lunch menu as low as £9.99)
  • Early Dining option (4pm-6pm; £15 per person for a 2-course meal and a glass of wine or a soft drink)
  • A la carte dinner from 6pm
  • Also, the Xenia Lounge - where my fellow bloggers and I first enjoyed our cocktails, is open daily and an Antipasti board at Aperitif O'clock is available from 5pm-7pm daily.
Lastly, if you enjoy a good cigar, there is the Living Wall Bar -- that is another vibrant cocktail bar and boasts a humidor and access to a heated Herb Garden. The atmosphere in the Living Wall Bar is snug and cozy, like being in a library or study.

So many options for how you can enjoy a visit to Evoluzione! And of course, if you're hankering for a place to stay during your visit to London, the photos of their rooms look delightful. For more information, you can visit www.hotelxenia.co.uk. I hope you enjoyed this latest review! And do have a look at my fellow bloggers' pages too.

Many thanks to Zomato and Hotel Xenia for their hospitality and the delightful evening. These opinions are all my own.

27 October 2014

ZSL London Zoo: Into Africa

As we continue our adventure through the ZSL London Zoo, take a peek with me "Into Africa", an exiting exhibit where not only yesterday's giraffes live but also zebras, African hunting dogs, okapis, and hippos.

26 October 2014

ZSL London Zoo: Giraffes

Into Africa at the ZSL London Zoo is where you'll have the chance to come face to face with those beautiful creatures we call Giraffes - who are in fact the tallest terrestrial animals! 

24 October 2014

Liebster Award

Thank you to Pascaline at 1001 Travel Ideas for my Liebster Award nomination. This is a very belated post but the Liebster Award is supposed to help others discover new blogs and promote blogs we like so why not? :D

So first, those o-so important rules:
  • Thank the blogger, who nominated you
  • Answer the eleven questions they ask you
  • Nominate eleven bloggers with less than 500 followers
  • Ask those eleven bloggers new eleven questions
  • Let those bloggers know, they have been nominated, so they can continue the chain
And here they are... Pascaline's questions (and hopefully I will be able to provide some fun replies):
1. Why did you start blogging? I love to write. I was a creative writing major at university and moving across the pond to London seemed to a perfect time to start a blog.
2. What do you enjoy most about blogging? I love getting to experience new things whether its the restaurant Zomato sends me out to review or the amazing Books About Town adventures I went on with Natasha and I love the opportunity to share those said adventures and experiences.
3. Why do you travel? Because the world has soo much to share! and there is so much history to dig through.
4. What did travel teach you? Oye... travel has always taught me about my own strengths as a person and the vastness of the world we live in.
5. Which countries have you lived in? US and UK.
6. Are you ever homesick? If yes why? Sure, loved ones may be a Skype call away but they are still "away".
7. Favourite time of the year to go travelling and why? Spring. I love going away right before the rush of summer tourists but after the winter has thawed.
8. Whats your favourite road trip movie? Does "Stagecoach (1939)" with John Wayne count? They did cross the country on the road. x
9. What’s your dream destination that you haven’t been to yet? Austria! Thanks in part to my fascination with Princess Sisi, Rudolf and the Austro-Hungarian Empire.
10. First thing you do when you get home from a trip? laundry and upload my photographs.
11. The person that moved you the most during one of your trip? JD! I purposefully went to Berlin in the spring to catch up with mentor JD... I've always wanted to go to Berlin but being with my buddy/mentor made it all the more wonderful.

Here are some fellow bloggers (with under 500 followers) I would like to share this award with:

And my 11 questions for them!:
  1. What made you decide to blog?
  2. What are your favourite ways to connect with fellow bloggers?
  3. What is your favourite holiday hot spot?
  4. What was the last good book you read?
  5. What is your favourite clothing brand?
  6. What is your favourite restaurant in London?
  7. What has been the most surprising part of blogging?
  8. What has been the hardest part of blogging?
  9. How do you market your blog?
  10. Name three of your favourite bloggers you look to for inspiration and advice
  11. What is one of your goals concerning your blog?
Hope you've enjoyed and be sure to check out my lovely fellow bloggers' blogs! xx

ZSL London Zoo: Tiger Territory

Continuing with my amazing journey through the ZSL London Zoo, follow me and my friend to Tiger Territory where four of the most beautiful cats live. No, not the cats you have at home but the largest breed of cat -- tigers, Sumatran tigers to be precise. There are two enclosures with Jae Jae the dad kept separate from Melati and her two cubs (born in February 2014).