Entering the Baglioni hotel restaurant is like walking into Nancy Dell’Olio’s boudoir, all shimmering gold, shiny black artefacts, and a room which screams ‘luxe’. It all starts with the imposing and slightly scary black lacquered candelabra that dominates the room, flourishing gothic spikes and curls. This is a five star hotel with a restaurant that isn’t shy about making a statement from the kick off.
It all feels very grown up and as we’re seated into plush chairs with bouncy cushions, I just about manage to resist the urge to bounce up and down in the seat to test the springiness. The only sensible way to remind myself that I’m supposed to be a proper grown up is to order a glass of Franciacorta from Lombardy, one of Italy’s finest sparkling wines, and instantly I’m back in the realm of the adult (for the moment, anyway).
Moreno Cedroni has recently arrived at the Baglioni Hotel in Kensington with a big reputation garnered from his two Michelin starred fish restaurant on the Adriatic Coast, La Madonnina del Pescatore. He was also given a spot in a list of the top ten fish restaurants in Europe last year in The Wall Street Journal, and this year has taken the step to throw his oar into the fervid atmosphere of high profile London restaurant openings.
We start with a palate sharpener amuse of parmesan mousse with balsamic jam, alongside some bread and peppery olive oil which is namechecked as coming from the wine producing region of Valpolicella. The first clue that these chaps have a serious wine offering. There are booming voices on a table behind us, talking high powered chat and high level meetings. The man dining alone next to us casually mentions to his waiter that he was the man who brought Gallo risotto rice into the UK. See? A restaurant full of proper adults doing big and important things.
Moreno’s salted cod served with cherry tomatoes and black olives
We start to see some impressive moves from the kitchen with the first dishes to come out. ‘Moreno’s Salted Cod served with its own ‘mayonnaise’ is a dish Moreno created in 1994 (every dish has a number beside it, denoting when it was created) and is an exercise in restraint and balance. Delicately salted, the fish falls away in beautiful chunky flakes, added texture coming from a few grains of wild rice. An emulsion made from the cod’s own juices and olive oil is the ‘mayonnaise’, and a scattering of wonderfully sweet cherry tomatoes makes for a pretty picture on the plate against pearly white cod.
Slow cooked veal served with sweet and sour couscous, raspberry and ginger sauce
The slow cooked veal breast with sweet and sour cous cous, raspberry and ginger sauce, had to be ordered because, well, it just sounded bonkers. What arrived on the plate wasn’t quite bonkers, but rather an avant garde take on a kind of Vitello Tonnato without the anchovy and caper spiked mayonnaise. The crazy sounding raspberry and ginger sauce was only a subtle echo, so no need to be freaked out, but the cous cous beneath the veal seemed to need a little kick up the rump with an injection of flavour. Moreno is a chef happy to fuse elements of modern and traditional in pretty eye-widening ways, and this dish was nothing if not ‘experimental’.
White seafood lasagne, cocnut and parsley sauce, lime peel
There is a skill in writing a restaurant menu, a way that can entice the reader in, maybe even challenge. The dish of white seafood lasagne, coconut, parsley sauce and lime peel, seemed to be shouting ‘come and have a go if you think you’re hard enough’ – we were up to the challenge. A lasagne it certainly was, made with impeccable silky pasta, filled with tiny chunks of squid, flourishes of squid ink, and a few chunks of lobster. This nailed the pasta test, but it was the sauce with its echoes of a Thai green curry that began to widen the eyes and excite. On the page this read like a car crash. On the plate it was the highlight of our meal and inspired us to look over the other pasta options on the menu, and we saw the following: ‘Tortellini filled with twenty-four month aged liquid Parmesan, finely chopped raw beef, tomato and balsamic’. Now, that’s a menu item of sheer poetry. We decided instantly that we would order this on another visit. Is Moreno a Professor of Pasta?
Warm seabass carpaccio, lime mashed potato and rocket sauce
A warm seabass carpaccio, lime mashed potato and rocket sauce was a different riff on a classic carpaccio, lime in the potato stepping in for a drizzle of lemon juice, but we were still thinking about that stellar lasagne.
The wine list is something of a an Italian wine lover’s wet dream, with a complete vertical of the Tuscan wines of Sassicaia, alongside the greatest hits from other regions, as well as a sharp selection from the rest of the world, taking in fine names like Felton Road from New Zealand and Catena Alta from Argentina. Prices are what you would expect from any hotel restaurant, and are punchy. The 1985 bottle of Sassicaia at £5,100 would have to wait for another time. An experienced sommelier team is led by the charming Federico, and you’d be wise to call on his knowledge to navigate the list for where the value lies. The wines of Terlaner from Alto Adige are a good place to start.
Italian cassata with pine nuts, candied fruit and raspberry sauce
“Chistopher Columbus”: little profiterole, little tirami su, Italian cassata
For dessert we chose the ‘Christopher Columbus’, a tour around classic desserts, each one a mini-version of the full size versions on the menu. ‘Castagnoli’ fried profiteroles filled with chantilly cream were wonderfully light despite the kiss of the fryer, and a cassata with pine nuts, candied fruit and raspberry sauce.
A cute, perhaps cheesy, final touch are the petit fours placed on a mini-map of Italy, a little bauble placed on Campania, Sicily and Piemonte, to denote where each has been inspired from.
Moreno Cedroni was in the kitchen on our visit, busily overseeing his new project. We managed to grab him for a quick chat, and he excitedly ran into the kitchen, returning with a piece of fresh pasta for us to examine – the pasta from ‘that’ lasagne. “The texture is like the skin on the back of your hand”, he told us. He’s proud of his pasta.
We booked ourselves in for another meal the following week as we walked out. That’s the ultimate compliment any restaurant can be paid.
Moreno at Baglioni
60 Hyde Park Gate, Baglioni Hotel, Kensington, London, SW7 5BB