Editor's note: In December 2020 it ws announced that Street XO would close. It may reopen at another site in the future.
StreetXO is the creation of David Munoz, the Spanish chef who runs the three star Michelin DiverXO in Madrid. He has a StreetXO restaurant in Madrid too, a casual sister of DiverXO, and this is his London take on that more casual format. David Munoz is known for his Mohican haircut, controversial promotional videos and bold flavours that blend Spanish and Asian influences. This restaurant opened in late 2016 after interminable building delays (I recall a press release announcing its opening in June 2014).
It is in a basement in Mayfair, with twenty counter seats arrayed around the open kitchen and a further eighty at conventional tables. There is a separate bar that you walk through to get to the restaurant. The head chef is Manuel Martinex, who worked for some years at the mother ship DiverXO. The atmosphere is quite lively, especially if you sit at the counter, where the chefs present you with the dishes directly. The loud music was a bit of a distraction, especially when the chefs tried to explain the dishes – even across the counter it was sometimes hard to hear them.
The menu has various tapas-style plates, ranging in price from £8.50 to £19.30. I had a tasting menu option at £65, with smaller portion sizes of several of these dishes. The wine list ranged in price from £30 to £5,500, with labels such as Albarino Adegas Valminor 2015 at £42 for a bottle that you can find in the high street for £16, Marcel Deiss Pinot Gris 2012 at £62 compared to its retail price of £19, and Figari Blanc Vermentino Clos Canarelli 2012 at £92 for a wine that will set you back £30 in a shop. There were some prestige bottles available too, such as Didier Dagenau Silex 2011 at £250 for a bottle whose current market value is £86, and the glorious Salon champagne 2002 at £680 compared to its retail price of £389. As can be seen, mark-ups were not aggresive by the extortionate standards of Mayfair.
A scallop had been smoked and was served hot in its shell along with a creamy citrus ponzu sauce, coconut cream and kaffir lime reduction with a garnish of apple blossom. This was very enjoyable, the scallop quite sweet and nicely balanced by the sharpness of the kaffir lime and ponzu (15/20). This was followed by a Peking style dumpling, presented on a large white paper square that had been painted with strawberry and hoisin sauce. The dumpling contained crisp pig’s ear, gherkin and onion, and was fine in itself, though the sweetness of the sauce was a little jarring. I wondered in this case whether the striking visual appeal of the sauce was the reason for its choice, rather than as an optimal flavour accompaniment to the dumpling (13/20).
No such issue with the next dish, chilli king crab served in its shell with chipotle and paprika sauce, shaoxing (Chinese wine) spaghetti, marinated and fried softshell crab with butter and champagne emulsion and fried curry leaves. This was quite a complex set of flavours, but the crab stood up well to the spices, the tempura working well with the bite of the chipotle. The champagne emulsion may have been lost somewhere in the mix, but overall the blend of flavours worked well with the shellfish, and had plenty of spicy kick (15/20).
This was followed by a little takeaway box in which was notionally “chicken” but was actually frogs leg with a chilli and garlic sauce. I confess that I find these “aha, you think it is x but it is really y” culinary practical jokes a little tiresome; yes, frog leg tastes a bit like chicken – so what? Just serve the frog leg, for goodness sake. It was pleasant enough, the chilli and garlic providing most of the flavour (13/20).
After this was a “club sandwich” that used a steamed bun instead of bread, with suckling pig, ricotta, chilli mayonnaise and a fried quail egg on top. This was very pleasant, the pork and ricotta combination working surprisingly well, the mayonnaise adding some bite (14/20). I preferred a little wrap of a lettuce leaf containing pork belly that had been slow cooked and then finished in the Josper grill, along with pickled mussel and kaffir lime leaf. This was served with a pair of pickle jars, one with gherkins and the other with pickled mushrooms, as well as a chilli sauce. The idea was that you add the condiments as you wish and then envelop the mussel and pork belly in the lettuce and consume. This was very enjoyable, the pork belly having good flavour and the pickles excellent (14/20).
Even better was a croquetta of tuna belly, kimchi and sheep milk topped with three garnishes: bottarga, Lapsang souchon tea and finely chopped chives. The tuna was seared lightly just before serving, giving a smoky taste element and adding a caramelised sweet flavour note. The tuna went really well with the sourness of the kimchi, and the croquetta’s texture was excellent (16/20). An interpretation of paella had a base of noodles rather than rice (so strictly speaking is a fideua rather than a paella), these coloured with squid ink. On this base were “noodles” of squid, prawns and little fried prawn heads, with dots of kimchi and herb aioli. This was excellent, the prawns and squid tender and the noodles having good texture, the fried prawns providing a textural contrast and the aioli good (15/20).
This was followed by a fairly complex prawn dish. At the base was a prawn tom yum soup, with coconut cream. In this rested a har gau Chinese dumpling, then a red carabinero prawn, all topped with a prawn cracker with saffron aioli. On this occasion the dish seemed a bit too clever for its own good. The prawn was of good quality and I really liked the tom yum base, but the cracker was so delicate that it fell apart and was hard to eat, and the dumpling’s texture was not improved by resting in the soup. This was enjoyable enough but seemed to me unnecessarily complex (13/20).
Better was octopus with “noodles” with oyster sauce, with a tomatillo and green apple mole sauce with a separate jalapeno sauce, the slices of octopus separated with rice crackers. It is very difficult to cook octopus well; here it was steamed for about an hour and then finished in the pan, and avoided the chewiness than can so often afflict it. The noodles were actually made of enoki mushrooms and tasted great, while the spicy sauces worked really well with the octopus (15/20).
The final course was pigeon that had been marinated in miso and sweet achiote (aka annatto, a condiment with a mild sweetness and earthiness that also imparts orange colour). And then cooked on the robata grill. On the side was migas manchegas, the traditional dish of leftover bread soaked in water, garlic and paprika, but here prepared using steamed bread cubes, paprika and garlic butter along with chorizo and lily bulbs. The pigeon had a pleasing smoky flavour note and its marinade worked well, the bread cubes a suitable contrast for the richness of the pigeon and its sauce (15/20).
No desserts are offered here. The bill came to £89 with just water to drink, plus service. The chefs were very friendly, patiently explaining the dishes as they served them. I like StreetXO. This is a long way from the molecular excesses of Spain: the kitchen here was full of pots and pans, grills and steamers rather than test tubes and chemicals. Although one or two dishes were a tad over complicated, the key is that the flavours are bold and coherent. Kitchen technique was solid, as shown by the tender octopus. This is a restaurant that opened to reviews that even an estate agent would describe as “mixed”, and I deliberately held off reviewing it for a time to let the kitchen settle down. Personally I like the mix of Asian flavours with Spanish dishes, even though it may not be to everyone’s taste. If you chose items from the menu and drank wine then a typical bill per head might come to about £85 or so. This is not cheap, but you are in Mayfair and there is a lot of effort going on to produce those pretty plates of food.