Street XO Madrid – Restaurant Review

Street XO Madrid – Restaurant Review

Street XO Madrid

Situated just a short walk from the hustle and bustle of central Madrid, Street XO is three star Michelin chef David Muñoz’s side project and gift to the masses. If innovative and creative gourmet dishes served amongst a loud and theatrical environment and at reasonable prices are your thing, then Street XO is an absolute must when you visit Madrid.

Entry to Street XO Madrid

The entry to the restaurant gives you an indication of what is to come

While Madrid has its fair share of foodie restaurants, they often come with extravagant price tags and must be booked well in advance for that ‘special night’. This is how we found ourselves scouring the internet trying to find fine, but creative dining without a reservation in Madrid and by chance, stumbled upon Street XO.

Spanish wonder-chef Dabiz (aka David) Muñoz is well known within the culinary world for his three Michelin starred restaurant in Madrid, DiverXO. But his side project, the gourmet street food project Street XO, has rapidly gained the attention of the masses. This project aims to bring Michelin starred quality and flavour to everyday people at a price they can afford.

Crazy interior of Street XO Madrid

Not what you might expect from a Michelin starred restaurant, right?

Taking the elevators to the 7th floor of the El Corte Ingles on Calle Serrano (see the map at the bottom), you emerge into a real foodie heaven. The floor is a gourmet experience, as beside Street XO sits an artisan ice-creamery and a cool little cocktail bar for
pre-dinner drinks.

View of the kitchen in Street XO Madrid

The view directly into the kitchen where the magic happens

We joined the queue waiting for seats in the restaurant around 9:30pm (this is Spain after all) and a short time later we were seated inside with an unobstructed view to the kitchen and the organised chaos which ensued. We took our friendly waitress’ recommendations on cocktails (they were fantastic!) and started to peruse the many delights on offer on the menu.

Street XO Madrid cocktails
Street XO Madrid cocktails
Street XO Madrid cocktails

For the first course, we chose a sharing dish, the Pekinese dumplings and Pig’s ear with strawberry hoisin sauce. We were hooked straight away! The dumplings were fluffy and juicy and the pig’s ear, while a first for both of us, was paired perfectly with the strawberry hoisin sauce.

Pekinese dumplings and Pig’s ear with strawberry hoisin sauce

Our first course: Pekinese dumplings and Pig’s ear with strawberry hoisin sauce

So it was with much anticipation that we were delivered our next two dishes, served with excited explanations by the chefs themselves. The first dish: suckling lamb shanks, Jabugo soul glace with chilli garlic fried udon, vegetables and corn; and the other dish, skate ribs on banana leaves with Indonesian Sambal sauce and creamy, spicy ‘salmarejo’. The lamb shanks were roasted to perfection with meat falling off the bone and the skate ribs were basted in a tasty, but not too spicy sauce. Both dishes did not last long before we inhaled them.

Lamb shanks from Street XO Madrid

Suckling lamb shanks, Jabugo soul glace with chilli garlic fried udon, vegetables and corn

Skate ribs from Street XO Madrid

Skate ribs on banana leaves with Indonesian Sambal sauce and creamy, spicy ‘salmarejo’.

By now hooked on the amazing flavours, we decided to go for broke and ordered two more dishes: the Korean lasagne with old Galician beef and goat’s milk béchamel sauce, shitake mushroom wontons and spicy marinated tomatoes; and the roasted bone marrow with churros and an ‘almost jalapeno’ gazpacho.

Korean lasagna

This was amazing: Korean lasagne with old Galician beef and goat’s milk béchamel sauce, shitake mushroom wontons and spicy marinated tomatoes

Roasted bone marrow Street XO Madrid

Roasted bone marrow with churros and an ‘almost jalapeno’ gazpacho

We didn’t think our night could get much better, but we were so very, very wrong. The Korean lasagne was the highlight and skilfully mixed kimchee and Korean flavours with an eternal favourite, the traditional Italian lasagne. Although the roasted bone marrow was probably a little rich for our tastes, we enjoyed every mouthful and happily devoured every trace of it.

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eating at Street XO Madrid

Satisfied we had tasted our way through the very best that Street XO could offer, we departed content and very pleased with what had been a stunning introduction to Madrid’s gourmet food scene. In total, the five dishes plus four cocktails cost €110-120. Sure, it’s a little more expensive than your regular ‘Menu del Día’ at €10, but the food quality and overall experience is priceless. If you’re looking for a funky, creative food experience that won’t require a second mortgage, then be sure to give Street XO a try.

Street XO customers

Two very contented customers!!

Street XO has since changed their menu since we visited, but we are confident the food will be equally as titillating and delicious as the dishes we tried. Enjoy!

Where to find Street XO:

Calle de Serrano, 52, 28001 Madrid, Spain (on the 7th floor of the El Corte Ingles building – Metro – Serrano station)

Have you had a unique dining experience while travelling?

Tell us about it below!

Monaco – The French Riviera’s sparkling crown

Monaco – The French Riviera’s sparkling crown

Monte Carlo Casino in Monaco

Just a short day trip from Nice on the French Riviera lies the Principality of Monaco. Although well-known from countless Hollywood films, Monaco has another side which is rarely shown on the big screen.

Casinos and luxury yachts. Princesses and paparazzi. Film stars and Ferraris. These are my expectations as I arrive into Monaco’s grand train station from Nice. One of the world’s smallest but richest countries due to its extremely low income tax rate, this principality on the French Riviera is home to only 10,000 local Monegasque, as the locals are known.

I’m here to discover the genuine face of Monaco, the one hidden behind fast cars, dazzling pearls and high-end boutiques. A Monaco for the everyday traveller who doesn’t arrive into the city via private helicopter or yacht.

Changing of the Guard ceremony in front of the Princes Palace in Monaco

The changing of the Prince’s guard ceremony in the Place du Palais is attended by hundreds of people daily

The Prince’s Palace

We start our day with a walk up one of Monaco’s many hills, but I choose the one with a Prince’s Palace on top. The official residence of Prince Rainier of Monaco, the Palace is small by comparison to Buckingham Palace in London or the palaces of other European royalty. Nevertheless, it’s gleaming façade lights up the Place du Palais.

Around 11:15am, hordes of tourists begin to swarm toward the square hoping to find the best vantage point to witness the changing of the guard at midday. The Prince’s personal guard, who all swear to protect the royal Grimaldi family, are elaborately dressed in ceremonial white uniform.

The ceremony itself begins with the sound of a marching band, which leads the incoming guard from the other side of the square toward the Palace, before the teams pass responsibility from one to another. A truly historical ceremony, the changing of the guard has been conducted in this fashion for years and represents the traditional face of Monaco.

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The Cathedrale de Monaco
Walking down a street in Old Monaco
The Cathedrale de Monaco

The Cathedrale de Monaco in Vieux (Old) Monaco is where Grace Kelly is buried

Cathedrale de Monaco

Just a short walk down the Rue Colonel Bellando de Castro from the Prince’s palace sits one of the most stunning cathedrals in Europe. The Cathedrale de Monaco was originally built around the turn of the 20th century, but is probably most famous as the scene of the fairy-tale wedding of then-Hollywood star, Grace Kelly, to the Prince of Monaco. She is also buried in the cathedral beside her late husband.

Entering the cathedral, it’s as if no expense has been spared. Columns raise the eye to the high vaulted ceilings and passageways with small, minimalist vaults adorning either side. Perhaps the highlight is the organ on the front wall of the church, illuminated by stunning purple lighting.

An old, but architecturally modern building in 'Old' Monaco

Old Monaco’s streets have an undeniable charm to them

Old Monaco

Continuing down the Rue, the Aquarium of Monaco commands amazing views out over the Mediterranean on your right hand side. Now recognised as one the most important maritime collections in the world, the aquarium is an architectural masterpiece and truly brings the underwater world to life.

While small, Monaco’s old town has charming streets and alleyways reminiscent of any larger European capital. We wandered past many beautiful villas and homes, their brightly coloured flowers blooming in mid-June.

Noting Monaco’s reputation as a haven for the rich and famous before I arrived, I was pleasantly surprised by the reasonable, if not good value prices, which abounded. For example, our decision to stop for lunch at Restaurant Aurora on Rue Basse was rewarded by a beautiful pasta, bread and a glass of rosé for around 15 euros.

The view from a lookout on the Rue Bellando de Castro over the Mediterranean Sea

The view from a lookout along Rue Colonel Bellando de Castro in Old Monaco

Beautiful and rich cars lined up in front of the Monte Carlo Casino

The Monte Carlo Casino is the most prominent symbol of New Monaco

New Monaco – Casino and Monte Carlo

But Monaco truly does have two faces and one is perhaps more prominent than the other. Monaco has changed considerably since, in a bid to lure foreign investment, the principality cut tax rates. Although the city-state has grown rich off the back of this decision, most of this money can be seen in one place: Monte Carlo.

Today Monte Carlo consists of exclusive hotels, high-end fashion boutiques such as Gucci and Dolce & Gabbana, and of course the ever present red Ferrari’s which patrol the streets. But the magnet which draws the wealthy, like moths to a flame, is the famous Monte Carlo Casino.

Featured in many Hollywood films and TV series to imply the height of wealth and luxury, the Casino is quite a grand structure in and of itself. Although it’s free to enter the lobby to take a look and poke around, entrance to the actual Casino requires adherence to a strict dress code and €10 admission fee. This is Monte Carlo after all!

Perhaps the best ‘sport’ enjoyed by all is car and people-watching from the tables of the Café de Paris, right next to the casino. With a direct line of sight to the Casino’s grand entrance and tables within spitting distance of the passing supercars, this is certainly the place to be in ‘New Monaco’.

A red Ferrari sits in front of the Monte Carlo Casino

I was so lucky to find this spot right outside….   🙂

View of the front of the Monte Carlo Casino with beautiful cars lined up

The rich and famous line up their cars outside the casino, while us mere mortals can only watch on in amazement!

There is an undeniable charm to Monaco, a pleasant mixing of the old with the new. This city-state, with its prime location on the French Riviera and spectacular surrounds, has truly made itself a unique place for tourists and billionaires alike to enjoy. While you may not be able to berth your million-dollar yacht in the harbour or park you supercar in Monte Carlo, there is so much more to Monaco and it’s worth your visit to find out. Getting to Monaco is easy from the likes of Nice and other beach towns on the French Riviera, without having to break the bank. The train station is a convenient, short walk to the main attractions and the ride itself provides some pretty scenery along the way.

Have you visited Monaco? Give us your two cents worth by commenting below.

Marseille: Why it’s one of my favourite French cities

Marseille: Why it’s one of my favourite French cities

Marseille view from Notre Dame de la Garde

For as long as I can remember, I’ve had this unshakeable desire to visit Marseille in the south of France. Not to do anything or try anything particularly new though. In fact, I’d forgotten why exactly I even THOUGHT to travel to this gritty, rough port city with its accented French and notoriously tough reputation. And then I arrived. And it all came back to me…..

“Quoi?” – my teacher looked at me quizzically. I had tried to say “I want to go there” in my elementary French but probably managed to insult her in some way (not an unusual occurrence during my university days). On the screen was a picture of a beautiful Mediterranean port, with dazzling blue water and ships with tall masts. It was Marseille and it looked spectacular.

Marseille old port

Marseille’s beautiful old port is best experienced at sunset

Why go to Marseille?

France’s second largest city, Marseille is, and always has been, a melting pot of cultures, food and styles. Back in the old days the city belonged to the Greeks, Romans and countless others before becoming synonymous in the late 20th century with immigration from the former French colonies and there is now a large North African population. These days, Marseille is well-known for its musical scene and within France as the home of French hip-hop. And in 2013 the city was designated the European capital of culture.

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Marseille pinterest image
Marseille pinterest image

Kim-Ling and I had travelled from Nice to Marseille, where we met up with my brother and his wife for a couple of days to explore the city together. We’d decided to go for an AirBnB and that choice really paid off! We hired a loft apartment close to Marseille’s old port which overlooked a large square and with a rooftop view of the city. Good start Marseille, good start.

Marseille AirBnB accommodation

Marseille’s Old Port

There is something about ports that I just love, and Marseille’s old port is one of the largest and most beautiful I’ve ever seen. Our little group decided to meet around the port and took a good stroll, French-style, to both ends looking for food. As we walked along the edge, we were entertained by bands, perused knick-knacks at street stalls and stopped for a beer at one of the restaurants overlooking the water. The vibe is so casual and laidback that we often forgot that there was a city behind us!

Marseille street stalls

Street markets line Marseille’s Old Port

Marseille old port

The view of the Old Port is breathtaking

Notre Dame de la Garde

Eager to explore the city, we caught a bus from just north of the port (no. 60, €3,80), arriving at Marseille’s Notre Dame de la Garde church, which has killer 360 degree views over the entire city. These views come with a wind that could pick up small children, so hold on tight to your hats and belongings! The church in its current form was built in 1864, and is much loved by the locals, who believe that the Virgin protects the city. Battling cyclonic winds and fearing that if I flared my lats a little I might fly away (who am I kidding?), we moved inside to take a look at the interior of the church.

Marseille Notre Dame de la Garde

Notre Dame de la Garde

Marseille church statue

Notre Dame de la Garde

The interior of the church is magnificent. It’s extravagant, grabs your attention and won’t let you go. Make sure you give yourself time to explore the cavernous underground with its many shrines and cool statues, before making your way back up to the main cathedral chamber. Here you will find these golden cupolas running through the middle of the church and engraved statues adorning either side. There are also these candy red arches which will remind you of the Mezquita in Cordoba, Spain if you’ve ever visited.

Marseille Notre Dame de la Garde interior

Oh, and I should mention the view. Perched high up on the top of a hill, Notre Dame de la Garde overlooks the city and gives you majestic views of Marseille. You will not find a better vantage point in the whole of the city. Besides, entering the church is free and you can get a good sense of Marseille’s cultural history by giving it a visit.

view of Marseille

The Le Panier district of Marseille

We made our way back down into the city after a while and headed towards Marseille’s trendy Le Panier district. Filled with small cafes, street art and a funky bohemian vibe, it’s hard not to love this area. We stopped at one of the bars which spilled out onto the road to rehydrate and take in the atmosphere, but before long we were being ushered off into the kerb as a firetruck – yes a FIRETRUCK – came down along the road. It was a bit of a tight squeeze but literally as soon as it had passed, everyone came rushing back and not a drop was spilled during the whole operation!

Marseille Panier district
Marseille Panier district
Marseille Panier district
Marseille Panier art

MuCEM and Fort St Jean

Drinks complete we wandered off in search of two of Marseille’s highlights: the MuCEM and Fort St Jean. Wandering through some alleys we finally made our way around to the Museum of European and Mediterranean civilisations (or MuCEM for short). Wow, it instantly strikes you as a spectacular work of art/architecture. It’s a brand new building (2012) by architect Rudy Ricciotti and looks fresh, contemporary and cutting edge. It also makes for a stunning night shot!

Marseille museum of european civilisation
Marseille Museum of European and Mediterranean Civilisation
Marseille museum of european and mediterranean civilisations

Inside the museum is a bunch of cafes and of course art, sculptures, etc. They have a really good collection of ancient artefacts (Marseille has been a port for the Greek, Romans, Visigoths and numerous others throughout time) which provides a good overview of the city’s history. Entry is €9.5.

When you are finished at the MuCEM, if you head to the roof and cross the walkway you will enter Fort St Jean. This 17th century port has been restored and opened to the public and is a really cool attraction for visitors. It has this interesting mix of history with some contemporary art pieces and some pretty outlandish sculptures thrown in for good measure! Entrance is free to just walk around, etc.

Marseille Fort St Jean
Marseille public art
Marseille old port

Sitting just behind the MuCEM and Fort St Jean is Marseille’s Cathedrale Sainte-Marie-Majeure. There is something about churches in Marseille: they are just so cool! Take this cathedral for example, its striped, candied design is pretty unusual but looks amazing.

Marseille Cathedral

Palais Longchamp

If you are a fan of majestic French architecture and consider yourself somewhat of a romantic, then Palais Longchamp is for you! This 19th century monument houses a few museums and is surrounded by an expansive beautiful green garden, one of the finest in France.

Marseille Palais Longchamp
Marseille Palais Longchamp

La bouillabaisse and Marseille’s most famous dish

Of course, no self-respecting Francophile would visit Marseille and NOT gorge themselves on its world famous dish: La Bouillabaisse. Originally a fisherman’s stew consisting of at least three different types of fish, the rich flavours and fresh seafood became an instant hit and has since been imitated many times around the world.

So after some extensive research (literally 4 and a half minutes on Google in our apartment…), I decided to try out the offering at La Voille Marsellaise down in the port area. Now La Bouillabaisse is expensive (some reaching up to €100) but this place was around €40 or so. And it was spectacular! The sauce was creamy but not too overpowering, and the seafood was to die for. If you’re a seafood fan, you must try Bouillabaisse in Marseille! 

Generally, the food in Marseille was really good, reasonable prices (sometimes difficult to find in France) but all of exceptional quality. I inhaled one of the best burgers I’ve ever had at the port – (ask for the ‘charolais’ burger and thank me later!).

Marseille Bouillabaisse

Plage du Prado

While we were tromping around Marseille, we also decided to head outside the city to the beach, or Plage du Prado as its known in French. Hopping on the No. 19 bus to ‘La Plage’ will drop you off at a nearby shopping centre and you can then cross the road over to the beach. Though it was warm it was a bit too windy for our liking (like a freaking hurricane actually!), the beach was quite large and we were all a bit disappointed not to be able to enjoy it more.

Marseille Plage du Prado

Other things to do in Marseille (that we didn’t get to)

There was a whole heap of things we didn’t get to do in Marseille, but if you do have the time, be sure to fit these into your schedules somewhere:

  • Calanques are narrow rock formations on the coast which look like beautiful isolated lagoons and they have the most amazing blue Mediterranean water. They are mostly outside of Marseille city along the coast so you’ll have to organise a tour or hire a car to reach them. We’ll be back for these!
  • Cruising the harbour – Marseille is a port city so what better way to explore it than hire a boat to take you around. You’ll get stunning views of the port, forts and buildings on the headlands and even see some of the sights outside of the port and its surrounds.

The verdict

Hell, I loved Marseille! All of it. The city was buzzing and alive and much more enjoyable than other reviews had led me to believe. It’s also one of the most stunning French cities I’ve visited with just the right mix of new and old architecture, lively streets and natural beauty. Even the food was noteworthy, but then I never could go past fresh seafood…. What I’m trying to say is Marseille is cool and if you haven’t ever thought about visiting before, definitely include it on your wanderlust list for the future.

Have you visited Marseille? What are your best tips to get the most out of this city? Let us know in the comments below!

Iceland: 6 Experiences You Cannot Miss

Iceland: 6 Experiences You Cannot Miss

Bucket List Series

We’ve decided to start a new series on our bucket list destinations – places we haven’t been to yet, but would love to some time in our lifetime! Kicking off our series is the Land of Fire and Ice, Iceland

Iceland has been on our bucket list for a while now. A land of volcanoes AND glaciers, this destination has so much to see and experience, including one of my obsessions, the Aurora Borealis. Whilst we haven’t had the pleasure to visit Iceland (yet!), we’ve compiled a list on what we want to experience when we eventually visit there. Narrowing the best Icelandic adventures down to just 6 things is a difficult task. If you are like us, and like your holidays on the adventurous side, amongst Instagram-worthy scenery like no other on this earth, then Iceland is the place for you.

Iceland by Moylan Bren via Flickr (CC by 2.0)

1. Trek the Golden Circle

This covers 300km from the capital Reykjavík, around central Iceland and back around, going through Þingvellir National Park. This is a great first stop of any Iceland adventure. If you fancy seeing massive geysers (hot springs) erupt every 5-10 minutes, an impressive waterfall, a volcano crater, the hot spring town of Hveragerði, and a geothermal power plant, trek the Golden Circle.

Blue Lagoon at sunset by Lyssie

2. Bathe in The Blue Lagoon

This natural geothermal spa is one of the most visited sites in Iceland for good reason. It’s a pool in Grindavíc lava field that formed in 1976 from geothermal energy output, and became popular in the early Eighties due to the perceived healing powers of its warm, mineral-rich waters. Imagine relaxing in a steamy, warm lagoon whilst being surrounded by snow-capped mountains. This definitely is something I would love to experience. Plus the mud is said to be great for the skin.

Aurora Borealis by Lyssie

3. See the Aurora Borealis

The Northern Lights are a spectacular celestial phenomenon which an exclusive bunch of people will see in their lifetimes. You see, seeing the Northern Lights is like a space launch: everything has to be right, including the weather, visibility and atmospheric conditions. Iceland is a prime place to see this natural beauty; there are many viewing points such as the Grotta lighthouse near Reykjavík. The best thing to do is to check the Northern Lights forecast each night and wait for the clear skies. The clearer the sky and colder the temps, the better chance you have of seeing them. But be warned, if you are anything like me, one sighting will only leave you wanting more.

Iceland’s natural beauty by Lyssie

4. Explore Iceland’s Volcanic Activity

Iceland is famed for its high level of volcanic activity; from active volcanoes to dormant craters, fields of warm lava to glaciers, there are so many ways you can explore Iceland’s volcanoes. South of the capital, lies the empty magma chamber of þríhnúkagígur which has lain dormant for 4000 years, in which you can descend via cable lift.

6. Game of Thrones!

It’s no secret that we love Game of Thrones. I’d go so far as to say I am beyond obsessed, having read all the [released] books and watched all the episodes so far. I’ve gone to the exhibition and visited some of the filming locations, with the dream of visiting all of them eventually. So with that in mind, one of the reasons Iceland is on our bucket list is because that is where a lot of the scenes of the hit TV series were filmed. There are tours that take you around to different locations, or you can be adventurous and map out your own itinerary.

5. Discover the Ice Caves

Exploring the ice caves isn’t for the faint of heart – you’ll need to do your research, get an experienced guide, and make preparations for visiting, such as arranging travel and equipment. There are some amazing eerily palatial crystal caverns in the largest glacier in Iceland: Vatnajökull.

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No one will blame you if you’re feeling spoilt for choice planning your own Icelandic saga. There are also services like Exodus which have some great adventures in Iceland that’ll help you get your bearings.

Of course, this is by no means an exhaustive list of the many amazing tourist attractions that are abundant in this land of ice and fire, but hopefully it will inspire you. Iceland is definitely a place that should be on your bucket-list.

A special thanks to Lyssie from She Went to Spain for sharing her inspiring pictures for this post.

Have you visited Iceland? What was your favourite activity? Comment below to let us know.

Montpellier: Could this French town rival Paris?

Montpellier: Could this French town rival Paris?

When planning a trip to the south of France, you should definitely consider Montpellier. The city used to rival Paris as France’s pre-eminent city back in the day, but how does it compare today? Bustling with young energy, still with plenty of historical monuments to explore and easy access to a beach, Montpellier has a lot going for it.

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