6th November 2016
There is nothing like StreetXO in London. It's a rare breed. A unicorn. Not a pretty, tidy, fine dining unicorn. You wouldn't propose to your girlfriend at StreetXO. It's a unicorn with massacred teddy bear tattoos, slightly deranged; the type of unicorn that introduced his peers to weed at 13, and fistfights at 15, yet carried on to be brilliant though a combination of talent, irreverence and thousands of hours of grafting.
Muñoz has three Michelin stars for his Madrid restaurant, DiverXO. StreetXO is his casual, street-food remix of his award-winning fine-dining restaurant. every publication that writes about the DiverXO restaurant in Madrid shares an anecdote about someone who couldn't get a table there - the Spanish monarchy, the Barcelona football team, probably also the Pope and Elvis's ghost (no doubt they planned to dine together).
There’s a reason for that. Every dish is an enigmatic re-imagination of something wonderful. Much of it is delicious, all of it pushes the envelope.
Red and black tones hold the decor together through an onslaught of disconnected styles, bric-a-brac, and exaggerated industrial piping. The result is slightly garish, but at least we’re having fun. Baroque light fixtures sit alongside 2016 design fave, globe lights. There's a tack-tastic neon fish above the open plan kitchen, suuggestive of both sushi and strip clubs. Pedal-operated sinks in the bathrooms are a symphony of burnished copper pipework.
Even the cocktails are a little wacky. Tokyo Jerez cocktail comes with a prawn on a stick and instructions akin to a hazing ritual for a new members of Salvadoran street gangs: suck the prawn head, dump it’s body in the glass, eat it, then drink the cocktail. Liquid Madrizzz is a lilac fairy fantasy in a goldfish bowl of a glass. The white chocolate cocktail would sufficed for dessert. It was essentially liquid candy and came served in a plastic bag.
Muñoz is reshaping the menu for London. Half way through dinner, we were invited to try a snack-size, off-the-menu dish.
"I quite like your table " said the manager, as an invitation to try his mystery dish, "tell me what you think this is".
A procession of waiters arrived, howling "lemon chicken lemon chicken" like football hooligans. One waiter, trussed up in a rubber chicken head, bore a tray of Chinese take away boxes. We took one each.
Like a mermaid fantasy, a fried meaty chunk sat on top of bergamot foam, housed in a scooped out lemon half. Full of small, crunchable bones and juiciness, it did indeed taste like chicken.
"Chicken feet" we guessed, when the manager returned to judge the results of his foodie party game.
"No", he said. We were incredulous. "It's frog."
If presented with the opportunity to go off the menu and into the wild, you should take it. This was declared the best dish of the evening. Yes, take the red pill at StreetXO. Live a little.
We adored the Pekinese dumpling. Served on greaseproof paper attacked with strawberry hoisin sauce like a Pollock painting, we received three pairings of dumplings and pig's ear, glued together with ali-oli and anointed with pickle, spring onion and sriracha. It came with instructions to eat with our hands, to dip and smear the strawberry hoisin splatters. We were left speechless, fingers dripping, with new identities as Muñoz acolytes.
StreetXO continued to give the finger to fine dining for a further two, cutlery-free dishes.
Paris chilli style crab turned out to be a sculptured soft shell crab, wearing a shao shin noodle necklace, clothed in toasted butter sauce. Steamed club sandwich was deceptively simple on its half-bun, a hunk of pork topped with a fried egg, and seriously sauced up - ricotta, mayo, and unbelievably, spicy mayo too. Fresh coriander and chilli combined with egg - cloudy with a chance of Indian? I liked it.
Canton Galicia Mexican octopus came with tomatillo sauce served three ways, sliced across with squid ink chips that were not to be dunked or dipped or combined with anything, lest it mask the flavours. That perfect tentacle was outfoxed by a bank of enoki mushroom noodles to the side, their woody, fruity flavours exaggerated with added sweetness and soy.
Two micro bowls of ramen defeated us like an imperial army. Heavy and densely flavourful, with each bite revealing something different - a hint of black garlic, a won ton, an al-dente soy bean. It put our stomachs to sleep. I wish they'd served it last, as we struggled to eat the remaining dishes afterwards.
Zucchini flower salad was disliked but respected, not because it was a strange concept or poorly executed, but because we couldn't get on board with the flavours, nor the furry stoma.
We finished with a La Pedroche croquette, featuring a full-blooded creamy interior with hearty jamon. A toro blanket added a most gentle and welcomed caress to both the flavour and texture. I can't think of anyone who wouldn't love this.
Open for just a week, the dessert menu is still under construction. We were relieved - that ramen still had us by the balls. We hear the patisserie chef may trial some new ideas in a fortnight. Save room. We had eight dishes between three of us, including the lemon chicken, and it was too much food.
Service was excellent, across all levels in the restaurant. The chefs are frequently on the shop floor. My dinner buddy recognised our waiter from his Park Chinois days - and not only did he remember her too, but also all the details of the conversation they'd had almost eight months ago during service. What a man! And what a bow tie! If Tim Burton wrote a version of Phantom of the Opera, he could repurpose the staff uniforms as the cast costumes.
In case it wasn't obvious, the cuisson is on point. Apparently now we're supposed to say snatched, but the teenage cousin in charge of keeping me cool has been too busy to teach me how to use snatched in a sentence. You won't love everything, but you'll enjoy the adventure.
How to book: 020 3096 7555 or online here. No reservation needed to eat at kitchen bar.