StreetXO in Mayfair
A prominent writer once proposed banning chefs under a certain age from visiting the Fat Duck, lest their head be filled with lofty ideas they lacked the skill to execute. Most sane diners would expand that restriction to the work of Adrià also: the two having inspired an entire generation of often shaky imitators; inspired by the potential of molecular gastronomy, they share the same fault, missing the pair’s manic enthusiasm. Instead, it’s replaced with lashings of po-faced seriousness that eschews the playfulness that can only come from absurd, almost surrealist cooking.
Thankfully, that’s not something you can accuse David Muñoz of. Rocketing to stardom with his exhilarating (and three-Michelin-starred) offering DiverXO, the rock star Spaniard frequently blurs the line between brilliance and madness, pretension and elation. His two StreetXOs, one in Madrid and this one in London, are no different, serving up his slightly madcap take on food at a more affordable price.
To enjoy any of the trio, you have to be willing to leave your seriousness at the door. If you do, you can something truly unique. An extensive drinks list is full of wacky sounding mixology. We opt for a Cloud of Goa, a fusion of citrus and marshmallow, topped with a cloud of cotton candy. It shouldn’t work, but the result is an oddly triumphant mix of sweet and sour. It’s akin to a liquid starburst and manages to be one of the few sugar-filled cocktails we’ve ever actually enjoyed. And of course, it’s served in a large glass cloud.
Foie Gras and Kimchi Ramen is the main event here, and it certainly deserves that billing. It’s the best savoury dish that we eat, its heart a smoky, silky broth that we could eat for days. It’s one of those delightful dishes that somehow feels both unbelievably luxurious and remarkably light, in a way that Asian cuisine seems especially skilled at. Think truffles with yuzu, or the thinnest slices of Kobe beef.
Then comes a Mushroom Carpaccio. The mushroom is delicate, the tomatoes bursting with the sweet freshness of summer. It’s a simple dish, almost overly so, but it does beautifully highlight the quality of the ingredients. As does a very simple dish of mackerel with yuzu and soy, the sharpness of the sauce a beautiful compliment for the sometimes pungent fish, three potent flavours in balance. It’s not all brilliant, though. Potstickers with Peanut Satay are solid enough, but don’t dazzle. The expected kick of chili to cut through everything is particularly missed.
Not that we care once we get stuck into our dessert. Spicy Strawberries and Cream is enigmatic enough on its own, but what turns up is a polystyrene case, topped with a little strawberry sponge. Break it open and the result is a maelstrom of textures. At its base, there’s a layer of preserved strawberries with a hint of ginger: subtle and delicious. Then comes a luxurious blanket of cream that to the kitchen’s endless credit, hasn’t been whipped into something frothy and prettier.
Little stars of strawberry mousse litter the surface, as do candied jellies, both added some much-needed tartness. Popping candies add an interesting contrast but it’s the tiny leaves of Thai basil that tie the entire thing together, peppering the dish with anise fragrance and freshness. Desserts like this are so often a triumph of ideas and “variety” over actual flavour, but here every element feels relevant and delicious. We’re quietly impressed.
For anyone without a sense of humour, the experience is likely to prove tortuous but if you can appreciate both the cultural significance and relative absurdity of the modern food scene, StreetXO is a winner.★★★★★Food ▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮Drinks ▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮Service ▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮
Photos: Daniel Masters (except featured)
To book a table at StreetXO, 15 Old Burlington St W1S 3AJ, call 020 3096 7555 or visit their website here.