David Munoz – owner of 3 Michelin stars for DiverXO in Madrid, has brought its little sibling StreetXO to London. With the original branch in Madrid established and much praised since 2012, this has been long awaited after its arrival in London was announced way back in 2014.
With a selection of dishes taking us through their menu and featuring some of their classics, things kicked off with some of the cocktails. From one featuring cotton candy to another being served in a wine glass as large as a fishbowl (literally, it was bigger than my head!) - it sets the tone for a dining experience unlike any other.
My cocktail featured jasmine, coconut shrub, lime, ginger and violet candy nectar. Where the description sounds like it could be overwhelming, the final experience of it wasn't. The flavours work well together with nothing quite overpowering the others, and drinking from the large bowl wasn't just for style – by doing so I was forced to stick my head in the bowl, muffling my other senses apart from smell and taste. A great start to my meal, though other cocktails weren't quite as well thought out: a cocktail being served in a large replica of a heart; another in a strange boat and one simply in a glass with no props.
The food kicked off spectacularly, with their signature dish of Pekinese dumplings served with strawberry glaze, a fried pigs ear, gherkin and more sauce drizlzed on top. It is served on paper (of course...), with chefs liberally spraying and splattering strawberry sauce all over it to create a serving plate that's part art, and part utterly delicious dumplings. It's an extremely messy dish, with diners encouraged to grab a dumpling in their hands and wipe it across the paper to soak up as much sauce as possible. And it's absolutely worth it!
Next up was their “club sandwich” - featuring suckling pig, ricotta chilli mayonnaise, and then a quails egg placed on top. Again, messy eating leads the way with instructions to flip the quails egg yolk down into the bun, then eat. The bun is so light and fluffy it almost disintegrates under the weight of the ingredients and by merely being picked up. Again – bold flavours in careful balance make this a brilliant follow up to the dumplings.
This was followed up by one of my favourite dishes of the evening. Hot smoked scallops with citrus ponzu, coconut-kaffir lime and apple blossom, that is testament to the skills of the chefs here. Huge flavours to play with here that could easily have led to one overpowering the others, but end up in perfect balance that made this dish outstanding. This works again with the next dish, Carabineros in a tom yum soup which was superb (a “simple” recipe the chef told us, and then took 5 minutes to explain how to make it)
Unfortunately, such careful handling of flavours doesn't seem to be at play across the whole menu. Lamb shank in a tamarind glaze was dull and almost cliché in its presentation; a papaya salad with seafood, while fresh, was lacking in flavour and spark when sat next to the scallops and prawns; the Korean lasagne had far too much going on in one mouthful and was overwhelmingly sweet; and the Carbonara XO didn't feel like one coherent dish, with fantastic wild boar feeling like an afterthought to udon noodles and olives. More a stir fry than a carbonara I thought, and disappointing in comparison to either classic dishes.
Things improved with the new dessert menu, with various flavours of ice cream being served up in polystyrene boxes, with lids being lifted to carefully placed additions littering the surface like pieces of art. All of them were great, with the strawberry flavour in particular being a favourite of mine.
Overall, the experience here was a very mixed bag. The dishes are works of art, with silence inducing plating that stuns and wows diners. The flavours are there to back it up, largely, but at times it feels as if style is prioritised over substance on both the food and cocktails.
The last few dishes I ate weren't necessarily bad or poorly cooked. Perhaps the bar had been set so high with the first dishes that I was bound to find some disappointing flavours in the menu? However, on telling the chef our thoughts he discussed how flavours can either complement, or contrast each other much like wine. I totally agree, except as with all things, finding the perfect balance is crucial, and is something lacking from some of the dishes.
It could have been very easy to have a poor or disappointing meal here, especially at the price point they charge. On average, dishes are around £14 to £18, and will generally consist of 4 bites before they're finished. Dishes are certainly filling given the rich flavours they play with here – but a few unfortunately ordered dishes and it could easily turn a night of excitement into disappointment.
I would definitely come back again, even if it was just for the dumplings, scallops and club sandwich. They're also looking to run a lunch menu, with a choice of 4 dishes of 6 for £25 – well worth the money for the overall experience and a chance to try some incredible looking and tasting, food! Tip – sit at the counter to get a full view of the chefs plating up and cooking the food!
Dishes range from £11 to £18 per plate.
15 Old Burlington St