Word on the street is that you can get an Express Lunch Menu for just £25 at Street XO London, Nick hurried round
There are so many police cars around here, there must have been some terrible terrorist outrage in Old Burlington Street. ‘There goes my lunch,’ I think sadly with my usual selfless concern for others.
In fact, it’s simply because there’s a big police station here but if there was trouble, StreetXO would be a good place to hide; the entrance is made from the doors of a steel sea container.
After the doors, it’s a few steps down to the basement, past the bar and into the glowingly neon-lit restaurant proper. At night, when really busy, it must be quite a sensory and visual experience. At lunch, and quieter, it has the slight sense of a nightclub at closing time.
We sit at the kitchen ‘counter’ as it seems more fun. One of the pluses of sitting at the counter is that you see and hear what’s going on, and the chefs present you food with the minimum of fuss, but with interesting information. If you’re an Instagrammer there’s good light for your happy snaps.
In Madrid, DiverXO is a three-star Michelin under Chef Dabiz Munoz. Here in London he creates sharing dishes that cheerfully mix European, Asian and South American cuisines in a street-market kind of way. It’s not street market prices though, but the lunch Express Menu is just £25 for three courses and that’s not a bad price at all.
There are in fact two menus - the Express and the XO Socarrat Paella menu, so we go for one each, mix and match a bit, and order a couple of things from the a la carte that we rather fancy
First up is a dish that’s one of the restaurant’s signatures, “Steamed XO Club Sandwich” - suckling pig, ricotta, quail egg and chilli mayonnaise on an open bao bun.
The Spanish do love adding eggs to things. Here, once the egg was broken the whole thing became a luscious mix of flavours catalysed by that golden yolk. The chili was just enough and the pork perfect.
Are any scallops not hand-dived, Hot Smoked Scottish Scallops with creamy citrus ponzu and coconut- kaffir lime reduction were indeed sustainably sourced.
Some people might have found the melange of flavours too much, too dissonant, and yet for us it works. That ponzu is electric and the lime sharp and lively against the sweet coconut and scallop meat. A small spoon allows for thoughtful small mouthfuls as we watch the chef cabaret.
The roe has been left in, which is both good to see and taste, and the smokiness is a pleasant waft, and not a great big bonfire as often seems to happen in restaurants that smoke. It’s a filthy habit.
‘Galician Octopus who spoke Indian’ turns out to be hunks of octopus in a ‘curry sauce’ - a roasted tomatoes butter masala and all served with some squid ink crackers standing in for poppadoms. These fly like black sails above the plate, needing only a skull & crossbones for full piratical effect.
This pretty much is classic StreetXO I guess, things put together that were many miles apart. The octopus is excellent, perfectly tender, and the masala very smooth, very buttery and rich.
I munch the crackers and ponder whether this one all came together. I am not sure; the individual elements are very good, but perhaps best not eaten ensemble.
After that rich sauce some freshness is needed on the palate and before our very eyes a chef constructs a ‘Green Asparagus Salad with green olive emulsion, oranges and spicy chlorophyll acidulated oil’.
Passing it over he recommends we destroy the teetering structure and mix it all together, This we do and create a really fresh and vibrant, palate cleansing plateful.
The orange segments make for little bursts of flavour and the asparagus benefits from its brief visit to the grill.
Made for Instagram, Irish Oysters on Holiday to Acapulco is in fact oysters chargrilled on the Josper and filled with a gazpacho of jalapeño and tomatillo verde, plus chlorophyll olive oil. This is not part of the lunch menu, but I had heard good things, so we tried them.
Gone in a few seconds, but a few seconds that will live on. The oysters are first-class examples, deep and plump and when bitten they release a tsunami of saline, A remarkable dish in many ways, visually and texturally
And what of the paella? As chef explains the rice had been allowed to caramelise, almost burn on the bottom of the pan, creating a skin called a socarrat which is something that paella enthusiasts regard as the mark of a master paella chef.
This is wrapped around the rest of the rice before being served, the result looking rather like a crepe.
I am in two minds; the socarrat gets stuck in my teeth a bit, but then my teeth are by no means perfect. The main body of rice is just on the edge of being undercooked, but gets away with it, and the langoustines perched on top are delicious doused in a white miso sauce.
Dessert today are a chocolate creation in a kind of takeaway box called Seven Textures of Chocolate, with black mole and gianduja mousse, white chocolate ganache and spheres and chocolate ice cream.
That’s a lot of chocolate going on and P can't finish it all, but happily paddlesaround in her box going back frequently for ‘one last spoonful’.
Sharper and lighter is the Amarena Kakigori - shaved ice doused in amarena cherry, raspberry, roses, crème de Cassis and cherry syrup. Really refreshing and nice and icey.
I forgot to mention earlier my house cocktail in an enormous fake heart, not for the faint hearted but fun.
And fun is a big part of StreetXO, the cooking may well irritate some who like to be irritated, but I enjoyed it for its savvy playfulness and bold and brave flavours all for an accessible price.
Photos ours (the bad ones) and StreetXO's