Chef Santiago Lastra will open his hotly anticipated debut solo restaurant in London this October, having originally planned to open in May. Kol will open at 9 Seymour Street in Marylebone on Tuesday 20 October, offering what has become a trademark of ambitious London restaurants looking to insulate themselves against the novel coronavirus pandemic’s impact on dining: set menus.
Five courses at £55 and seven at £70 will revolve around an increasingly common juxtaposition in London dining: international cuisines, British ingredients, or what Lastra calls “Mexican soul, British ingredients.” In practice, dishes like short rib flauta with quince mole; kohlrabi ceviche; and plaice tacos fulfil that ethos, and echo with fellow Noma Mexico alumnus Jose Luis Hinostroza’s project at Arca in Tulum, with both restaurants seeming more in fealty to Noma’s time and place ethos (which, contrary to popular opinion, is movable) than to yoking together cultures and cuisines in the service of being on trend.
The restaurant will also be anchored by a mezcaleria, which will open later in the year and function as a standalone bar — a tougher prospect to open in line with social distancing requirements than a sit-down restaurant.
Lastra’s feelings on the delayed opening are perhaps surprisingly positive, but with the heavyweight location, ambitious menu, and ability to retain his staff, it’s clear that his investors have backed him despite current conditions, a luxury not many restaurants, particularly unopened ones, may have:
It was a huge knockback when the restaurant was unable to open in May, but we saw the situation as a positive and spent time further refining, researching and fully immersing ourselves in the Kol vision. We are now more ready than ever before. I believe that the opening of Kol, at this time, can bring a little hope to the hospitality sector, for people to think, okay – the industry is not totally stalling, new restaurants can and will open, and there’s still something to be salvaged from this crazy year. Something to look forward to.”
Lastra, who has previously cooked as one of the rotating guests at Carousel in Marylebone, and hosted pop-up dinners in Borough Market last October and November, has also worked at Mugaritz, near San Sebastian, and Bror in Copenhagen. His appearances at Carousel were big hits, where he served dishes such as chilpachole de jaiba — crab and tarragon in a mezcal broth. Those pop-ups were in very different times, and Kol is opening with its ambition apparently undimmed — any success could point to some resilience in the particular space it occupies, even if the global dining experience-chasers it might have attracted aren’t going anywhere right now.