Tell me a story: Mexican chef Santiago Lastra launched Kol in late 2020 with a vision to produce authentic Mexican food using predominantly British ingredients. It was no mean feat, considering that fundamental Latin American produce such as citrus and avocado does not grow in UK shores. As such, after many research trips scouring all corners of Britain, Lastra devised innovative replacements – like sea buckthorn in place of lime – giving a distinctly UK nuance to his cuisine. The only products the restaurant imports are true Mexican essentials: corn for the tortillas, chocolate and native chillies.
About the chef: Lastra spent many of his formative years as a chef in Europe, working at the likes of 50 Best heavyweight Mugaritz and Nordic Food Lab. However, arguably his career-defining moment came when René Redzepi asked him to setup and run Noma’s Mexico pop-up in Tulum in 2016. Such was its success, it helped Lastra find backers for his solo project, which fast became one of London’s hottest tickets in the city’s post-pandemic restaurant renaissance.
What’s the food like? Among the tasting menu courses arriving in the form of snacks followed by larger plates, Lastra’s signature langoustine taco has been the only mainstay on the menu since launch. The taco arrives pre-assembled and ready to roll, with the crustacea head served separately, designed to be squeezed onto the dish for added umami depth. Other highlights include the purple carrot mole with fermented blackcurrant and the excellent steamed halibut with kelp butter and pine nuts.
For a nightcap: The restaurant features a subterranean bar, The Mezcaleria, which houses one of the UK’s finest collections of agave spirits. The cocktails here are taken as seriously as the food upstairs, with classic drinks taking a Mexican bent. The Martini, for example, is served with blanco tequila, dry vermouth, cucumber and pine distillate.