Marylebone, London

Mexican chef Santiago Lastra’s London debut has been a labour of love, but the result is one of pure joy


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Former Noma Mexico chef Santiago Lastra worked the London restaurant circuit before finally opening his debut solo venture KOL after a number of false starts due to the Coronavirus pandemic, most notably cooking at residency restaurant Carousel. Yet while he gave diners a taste of what was to come, he also cleverly held back, because a meal at KOL is still able to throw up many surprises.

KOL has a Mexican soul using British ingredients and this isn’t a stance to which Lastra merely pays lip service; with the exception of the corn used in his tortillas, chillies and chocolate – which can be shipped over with minimal environmental impact – every other ingredient comes from the UK, with the chef-patron deftly swapping out ingredients such as lime juice for homegrown sea buckthorn.

Crucial to this is that there is no compromise on flavour – if anything Lastra’s cooking is all the more interesting and exciting with the subtle changes to dishes his sourcing policy brings. KOL offers two set menus of six and nine courses with diners given the somewhat tricky choice between confit pork cheek or whole grilled octopus to accompany their tortillas for the main dish. Other than that you are in Lastra’s very capable hands with memorable dishes that often have a lick of fruity, spicy habanero or the tang of a fermented fruit or vegetable to them.

The wine programme is no less striking, with KOL choosing to list the often overlooked but increasingly fashionable wines from countries including Slovakia, Croatia, Georgia and the Czech Republic. The restaurant has even worked closely with the Slobodne winery in western Slovakia to create four exclusive and relatively affordable wines (white, skin contact, rosé and red).

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