KOL. London. 14th of October 2021

I have known Santiago Lastra, the young chef behind the Kol restaurant in Marylebone, London, for more than 6 years now. (You can read more about him here). In December 2015 I have for the first time tasted Santiago’s food and fell in love with his creative approach to ingredients (more here) and the amazing flavours he created. After that, his cooking evolved even more and I experienced the first highlight when he invited me on the 3rd of May 2019 to his home, where he had his test kitchen to experience what he intends to cook at Kol. It was an intimate dinner with Santiago, his brother Edoardo, me and my plus one. Santiago and Edoardo cooked up a storm. It was one of the best meals I ever had. So intense, beautiful, complex and yet so balanced and delicious. Santi’s energy was in his dishes. I will not show the dishes from then but the videos where Santiago explains them. Those give much more insight into his personality as well as a beautiful insight into Santi’s cuisine.

The story of Santiago is a story of a young guy who left Mexico to discover the world and to hone his talent, passion and skills learning from the best. Already when super young he had an incredible dedication and discipline. He is fun to be with, a beautiful relaxed soul full of warmth and love for food and the people around him, but at the same time, he has always been super hardworking, determined and with lots of perseverance which allowed him to reach his goals already at such a young age. He is one of the nicest people you will meet and the creator of some of the most delicious foods you will taste.

I was so happy when Santi opened Kol. I was excited about being invited to the soft opening but somehow the food experience didn’t come close to what I knew he was able to do, which was somehow logical. Santiago had a new team that still had to get used to working together and they had to serve a huge number of guests at the same time. The team had to learn and become a connected organism. Santiago was not pushing them hard at the beginning – he wanted them to feel good and become confident and happy first. Food was the next step. And this step now happened. The meal we had this week was mind-blowing! Just look at it!

Chilpachole. Fermented beetroot, arbol chilli and mezcal broth

A delicious start. Warm broth of fermented and fresh beetroot without the heavy flavour of earthiness that’s so typical for beetroot. Laura said it tasted like damsons. It really does – it was fresh and fruity and delicious and lightly spicy, with just a very slight earthiness and minerality of beetroot. What followed was a series of super accomplished, utterly delicious dishes that warm the heart and awaken every single part of the palate. A pure joy!

Enoki and Cornish crab chalupa, pistachio, fermented gooseberries
Nicoatole. Corn and yellow pepper custard, British caviar
Calamar. Squid, cashew mole, cauliflower, beach herbs
Taco. Lobster, smoked chilli, cucumber limes
Mole. Purple carrot cecina, fermented blackcurrant, truffle
Tostada. Chalk stream trout, pasilla Oaxaca, courgette, berries, pine

Tostada was actually my favourite. The most subtle and intense at the same time. It has united a whole universe of flavours with the pine adding a very special accent to it. So many intense flavours put together but with an incredible balance shining in a wonderful unity.

Santiago came to the table to cut our octopus and have a chat. This was our main dish. Octopus was cooked to perfection. Super tender and delicious. Look below what an amazing dish it was!

Santiago ready to cut our octopus with scisors
Pulpo. Whole grilled octopus, bone marrow, potato, seaweed macha. The serving
Pulpo. Whole grilled octopus, bone marrow, potato, seaweed macha. Ready to be eaten
Nieve. Squash sorbet, rattle snake chili, mezcal

I knew this already from the test kitchen. It is something I could easily enjoy every day. The pumpkin used instead of mango. Half fermented, half fresh and then enriched with the oil of rattle snake chilli. So so good!

Tamal. Brown butter tamal, figs, buttermilk

This tamal was so delicious too! The one at the soft opening was good, this one is divine. Soft, moist and tasty. So moreish!

If you haven’t been at Kol yet, it’s time to go. If you have been there already, it’s time to return. I will be back too. Again and again.

Andreja Lajh

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