I once claimed to be a punk because I wore two studded belts, had one way tickets to Camden and cut my hair into all sorts of ragged fashion with a Bic razor, but a look does not a punk make. Punk is a feeling and punk is a movement, so how does a restaurant in London live up to that kind of rock 'n' roll hype?
With menus toting mohicans and chefs working the space in straitjackets, sitting on a worktop by the open-kitchen meant we were right at the forefront of the theatrics that StreetXO had in store, and theatrics they are.
While this is a plush Mayfair pad that has spared no expense in the glittering of neons, the sultriness of dark corners, toilets as black as night and the smattering of skull designs, it's not actually the venue that hails as the most impressive part of StreetXO. Slick and clearly geared to a long-pocketed Mayfair audience that sees the likes of street food as more novelty than necessity, it's the ostentatious appeal of the plates that appears to win out here.
The Food and Drink
If you've had a stroll through the myriad of StreetXO photos on Instagram, you'll know the cocktail list was made for social media. Coming in everything from floating clouds to glassy, crustacean-like bowls with a dry-ice finisher, StreetXO's drinks have plenty of upfront attitude, but not all flavours hit (I never have and never will need a curry cocktail). While my favourite creepy custodian of the night came in the shape of the aptly named XO Blood! in a giant anatomical heart boasting water melon, bitter almonds, citrus and galangal, it was a simple plastic bag that hosted my favourite flavours of Brazilian white chocolate, Yuzu and mango chutney for an overtly drinkable dose of liquid sugar.
Alongside our cocktails was a seafood-based degustation menu that was due to give us a full-bodied roundup of StreetXO's techniques, flair and flavours. While the Prawn Suquet Stew with robata carabiñero, dried shrimp powder and baby shrimp cracker was for me too pungent and lacked actual flavour within the prawn (only a musky seaside aftertaste), three dishes showed that some of the plates at StreetXO weren't wasted on decoration alone.
While the hot smoked scallops with creamy citrus ponzu was a melt in the mouth moment that came served in a shell, and is sure to have a entire novella written about it, the Hamachi Usuzukuri-carpaccio “fish and chips” was presented the most boldly of them all. Boasting no plate, 10 pieces of delicate fish were placed upon paper alongside a topping of Ají Amarillo and Yuzu, that once folded on top with chopsticks, became a heaven of silky fish and true umami valour. Closing with the Pad Thai XO**, Enoki mushrooms disguised as noodles worked perfectly in sync with the sweet chilli, peanuts and omelette skin.
The toilets may be of a deathly black and there may be many a skull emblazoned on many a surface, but StreetXO isn't made for the same kind of audience that sell photos of their tousled green hair on Camden Bridge. And while not all dishes impressed, and not all cocktails landed, those with the buckets, upon quite a few buckets full of cash to spare will enjoy the exaggerated plates and showy demeanour that StreetXO spells out with their 'art-cuisine'.