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Kol

London

Modern Mexican gastronomy spotlighting exemplary British produce

Kol

On the Pass

Santiago Lastra

The backstory: Mexican chef Santiago Lastra launched Kol in late 2020 with a vision to produce authentic Mexican food using predominantly UK ingredients. It was no little task, considering that fundamental Latin American produce such as citrus and avocado does not grow within Britain’s shores. As such, after many research trips scouring all corners of the UK, Lastra devised innovative replacements – like sea buckthorn in place of lime – giving a distinctly British nuance to his cuisine. The only products the restaurant imports are true Mexican essentials: corn for the tortillas, chocolate and native chillies.

Mexico to Marylebone: Lastra spent many of his formative years as a chef in Europe, working at the likes of 50 Best heavyweight Mugaritz. However, arguably his career-defining moment came when René Redzepi asked him to set up 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.

And the food? On the ever-evolving tasting menu, Lastra’s signature langoustine taco has been the only mainstay 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 seasonal highlights include the tamal colado, served with pig’s trotter, radishes, kohlrabi and caviar, and the nicoalote made from a technicolour of British peas varietals, fermented onion custard and plantain, topped with hawthorn blossoms.

Don’t miss the bar: 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 embracing Kol’s Mexican heritage. Its old fashioned, for example, is created with a corn by-product from the restaurant’s tortillas, alongside mezcal, brandy, chamomile and bitters.

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