EXPERIENCE STRAWBERRIES THE STREETXO WAY!
Words and photo by Ann Evans
Strawberries don’t always have to go with cream! If you’re something of an adventurous cook, why not combine them with asparagus, coconut, truffle or how about with grilled squid?
These were some of delights on the menu at one of London’s newest and most talked about restaurants, Street XO in Mayfair. The Seasonal Berries team had joined up with StreetXO and its Executive Chef, Manuel Villalba for an artistic food workshop where we were to discover the vibrancy and versatility of strawberries in cooking. An opportunity not to be missed!
StreetXO is the latest venture for three-time Michelin starred, Spanish chef, David Muñoz who opened his first restaurant. DriverXO in Madrid in 2007. By 2013 it had gained 3 Michelin stars, an impressive reputation and an 8-month wait for a table. Muñoz second restaurant is also in Madrid, which his Mayfair restaurant took London by storm when it opened in October 2016.
Upon arrival it’s soon obvious that the almost modest exterior belies a striking interior. You’re met with bizarre wall art, gold and glitz, then subdued lighting and neon lights; lacquered reds and blacks, mirrors and bare brick. Decor that is certainly out of the ordinary. Not that you should expect anything ‘ordinary’ in a restaurant created by the man they call ‘Spain’s new culinary enfant terrible.’ His style of cooking has put Spain on the culinary map, with his unique styles.
There’s music, chefs in straight-jacket style whites, a cocktail bar to outshine any cocktail bar I’ve ever set eyes on, a 100-place restaurant and open kitchens where you can watch the chefs at work. It is stunning!
It was also incredibly friendly, which is always good when you find yourself out of your comfort zone. And to make us feel even more relaxed we were invited to choose from their range of cocktails. With the influence of Muñoz who has the ability of combining the most unusual of ingredients and turning them into taste sensations, I chose a rhubarb based one with a kick of spice and a foamy peak which was delicious, but nowhere near as outrageous as one that came with a shrimp’s head on a stick, and another that came in a glass the size of a goldfish bowl.
As part of the special workshop organised by Seasonal Berries, we were allowed into the open kitchens where we worked in small groups with chefs. Teamed up with Executive Chef Manuel Villalba, who like his mentor, David Muñoz sports a Mohawk-style haircut although Manuel’s is a vibrant red, we embarked on grilled squid with strawberries, sour and spicy hibiccus dressing, peanuts, fine herbs and lime pesto with a shot of Thai Rebujito. Fortunately I only had to chop some strawberries.
Laurence Olins, Chairman of British Summer Fruit said, who was at the workshop had earlier spoken of how good Spanish strawberries were these days, and how this was the ideal time to indulge in them, for their taste and for their price.
Diners at StreetXO can book a place at the counter for their meal, and see directly into the gleaming kitchens where chefs are preparing their intricate masterpieces. Around 80% of the staff are chefs, and all seem happy to talk to the customers as they work, clearly enthusiastic about the food they are preparing.
Many of the dishes are served in a tapas style, small bite-sized pieces on sharing platters – not that there’s anything rustic about this food. It’s sophisticated, it’s unique, and best of all it’s packed with flavour. Take for example, what you might think is a simple asparagus dish. But here you have green and white asparagus, Spanish strawberries with green olive emulsion, oranges and spicy chlorophyll acidulated oil. What that is I’ve no idea, and you probably can’t get it down the local supermarket. But together it’s very nice.
For something more out of the ordinary, I’d recommend the Pekenese dumpling, with crunchy pig’s er, strawberry hoisin, Ali-oli and pickles. These little packages come of a white sheet decorated in the strawberry hoisin sauce splattered on like a Jackson Pollock painting. The idea is to eat each dumpling in one bite smothered in the sauce which you scoop up – but it took me five or six bites. Possibly it was the thought of eating pig’s ears that made me hesitant or maybe I just wanted to savour the absolute tastiness of it.
The chefs also explain the best way to eat each individual item and in this case we each got little spatulas to scrape up any left over sauce. And after serving cold shabu-shabu of strawberry gazpacho with sweet and sour tomatoes confi and black truffle which comes in half a young coconut, you could then polish off all that tender coconut too.
Executive chef, Manuel Villalba said that he has learnt all he knows from David Muñoz. “I’ve worked with David for most of my working life and learnt everything from him. And here at StreetXO you can come and have a fine dining experience or you can come for a more fun evening with drinks at the bar.”
It has to be said that dining out at Street XO is more of a unique – maybe once in a lifetime experience rather than a place to go because you’re hungry. Strawberries however can be enjoyed as often as you like.
15 Old Burlington Street,
STRAWBERRIES ARE SO GOOD FOR YOU
Nutrition coach and personal trainer Ollie Frost reminds us of the benefits of eating strawberries.
- A cup of strawberries only contains 43 calories, so they will fill you up without the additional calories.
- Strawberries can help boost your physical activities. They contain a compound called nitrate which increases blood flow and oxygen around the body and stops your muscles from feeing tired.
- Strawberries contain essential vitamins and minerals which include vitamins C, B6, K, fibre, folic acid, potassium and amino acids. Blast your berries into a smoothie for a nutritious and delicious drink.
- Snacking on fruit that contains dietary fibre will help maintain a healthy digestive system. Foods which are high in fibre such as strawberries, can help lower cholesterol and help promote regular bowel movement.
- Try fruits rich in anti-oxidants to keep the skin looking young. Strawberries contain one of the highest amounts of ellagic acid, which Is an anti-oxidant that protects the skin from breaking down, helping to promote anti-aging.