Kol restaurant menu, chef Santiago Lastra and dining room in pictures


Kol, the highly anticipated London debut of Noma Mexico’s Santiago Lastra, finally opened at Marylebone last week – an Anglo-Mexican tasting menu restaurant in development for nearly three years. The pandemic, which has delayed its opening from May, does not appear to have diminished the scope of its ambition, nor deterred Lastra’s business-investor partners MJMK Restaurants to continue supporting and opening a 56-seat restaurant in a city center that can no longer count on a large number of office workers or tourists.

But bolstered by 36 months of accumulation, reservations and “support from the London restaurant community,” Lastra says MJMK has always applied a “do whatever it takes” attitude to opening the restaurant. “They treat us like family,” Lastra says. This spirit is underpinned by money, reputation and determination which together made a project that seems incongruous in our time.

But class and ambition alone cannot overcome the harsh realities of this unprecedented crisis. And strong as it is, Lastra is optimistic about the potential impact on business in the medium to long term. “It’s a worry and we’re doing our best to get through it in the most positive way, let’s try our best, it’s not the perfect scenario,” he admitted. “We are working very hard to be able to create a good experience and a good product, that everyone continues to work with us and at the same time be able to pay the bills with reduced covers, condensed hours. […] we work together as a family so that we can get around it without compromising the quality in any way.

Compromise, they won’t; convention, well, that can be torn up. While staples such as corn – for fresh tortillas, chocolate and chili peppers are imported from Mexico (to support indigenous producers), elsewhere a very conceptual menu favors British ingredients, often wild, where the lime is replaced by fermented currant; avocado leaf, which applies a sweet note to cooked beans, by wild woodruff; and cacti replaced by algae. Lastra has deliberately chosen to exclude avocado from his menu – an ingredient he says has become synonymous with Mexican cuisine around the world, but which he says is of lesser importance in Mexico itself.

Welcome to Kol

The seasonal British climate – which offers a diverse and changing range of products throughout the year, was one of the reasons Lastra decided to move to London, after completing her role as Project Manager for Noma Mexico at the high price of Rene Redzepi and Rosio Sanchez in 2017. He also wanted to be a place receptive to Mexican flavors, warmth and spices; a place that was also on the gastro-tourists’ map. “Central and accessible,” says Lastra. He wanted to be in a ‘multicultural’ city and over the years, at events he had organized in 27 different countries, he had always found British guests as his favorite.

But, he didn’t want to be in a place “tied to traditional Mexican food and its ingredients.” “I like to dream,” he says. “How to conceptualize? ”

While Lastra concedes that realizing Kol and navigating a high-profile London restaurant opening during a pandemic was “the most difficult of all the dreams I’ve had,” he explains that his concept eventually became simple enough, that ultimately it comes down to two things: quality and respect.

These are the core values ​​that Kol will measure himself against: whether in his treatment of staff, guests, Mexican traditions or British ingredients. Far from limiting himself to luxury ideas, or being “too cerebral,” and confined to the realm of fine dining, Lastra says he’s more interested in what he believes to be “true” – where research on Indigenous Mexican cuisine is practically applied to dishes that might only really be possible in its current time and place in London in 2020.

Chef Santiago Lastra in Kol's kitchen last week

Chef Santiago Lastra in Kol’s kitchen last week

Lastra credits Redzepi and the Noma tradition for introducing this philosophy. “Noma México and my work at Noma and Rene in general, I have been able to understand how quality and respect are pillars of what we do,” says Lastra. “The true meaning of quality is not something luxurious that most of the time ends up being unsustainable; quality is a matter of respect for our producers and producers, the culture, the environment, the team and the guests.

He adds that quality is also a matter of “traceability” and that Noma’s idea of ​​time and place “makes scenes for” Kol. “This country has a great diversity and incredible quality of ingredients, so we use what’s fresh and our biggest rule is that it has to taste Mexican.” This is where Kol is different from other Mexican restaurants in London, a scene that perpetually remains in the green shoots phase of evolution.

Lastra says it’s a process. “If we compare with Russia, Taiwan or China – if we do not count the United States – London is making an effort. It’s pretty good, ”he says. Without naming any names and without deliberately trying to condescend one’s ancestors – “it’s not about being better than anyone, it’s about being part and building a community” – Lastra added that there were chefs and restaurants “trying with their hearts and doing a good job,” those who “believe in making a sauce for three days – I appreciate it. And I appreciate that these restaurants will improve.

“But it’s really hard to cook authentic Mexican food outside of Mexico, which is why we don’t.”

To better understand what they are doing and in what environment Lastra will make her dream come true, Eater went behind the scenes with Kol’s team on the day it opened in London.


Kol's interior uses earthy tones, dark woods and soft furnishings, Santiago Lastra's new Mexican restaurant in Marylebone, central London

Kol’s interior mixes lively greenery with earthy tones, dark woods and soft furnishings

Kol's interior uses earthy tones, dark woods and soft furnishings, Santiago Lastra's new Mexican restaurant in Marylebone, central London

Kol’s interior mixes plants with earthy tones and dark woods

Kol's interior uses earthy tones, dark woods and soft furnishings, Santiago Lastra's new Mexican restaurant in Marylebone, central London

Kol central open kitchen

The pots around the restaurant were bought and shipped straight from Mexico, bought from a couple of architects, who Lastra says travel across Mexico in search of old forgotten pots that are left in backyards or large houses and age over time. Presenting them in the restaurant “gives them a second life and the opportunity to show that age marks are a hallmark of design and beauty”.

Traditional Central American ceramics at Kol, the new Mexican restaurant by Santiago Lastra in central London

Traditional Central American ceramics in Kol

Plates, cutlery and pots and pans at Kol, Santiago Lastra's new Mexican restaurant in Marylebone, central London

Lifestyle on the shelf: plates, cutlery and pots at Kol

Down in the mezcaleria, the walls are decorated with masks, in the folk traditions of Alebrijes, and which in Mexico are used during festivities, such as the danza de los abuelos.

Mexican masks decorate the walls of the mescal bar on the ground floor of chef Santiago Lastra's new Kol restaurant in Marylebone, central London

Mexican masks decorate the walls of the mescal bar on the ground floor

Seating in the mescal bar on the ground floor of Kol, Santiago Lastra's new Mexican restaurant in central London

Seating in the mescal bar on the ground floor


Pre-pressed masa balls into tortillas

Chefs prepare in Kol Kitchen, Santiago Lastra's new Mexican restaurant

The chefs are preparing inside the kitchen

Kol's interior uses earthy tones, dark woods and soft furnishings, Santiago Lastra's new Mexican restaurant in Marylebone, central London

Preparation area in Kol’s kitchen


Santiago Lastra’s expression of Anglo-Mexican cuisine, in two courses.

First, a “ceviche” of kohlrabi, pink mole, pumpkin aguachile and smoked beetroot.

Chef Santiago Lasta prepares a 'pink mole' of pine nuts, beets and smoked peppers at Kol in Marylebone

Chef Santiago Lasta prepares a “pink mole” of pine nuts, beetroot and smoked peppers

Pink mole contains pine nuts, beets, and smoked peppers. Elsewhere, the dish includes smoked beetroot, purple dew, and chochoyotes (small fried corn dumplings.)

Kohlrabi, pink mole, pumpkin aguachile and smoked red beets at Kol de Santiago Lastra in central London

The complete dish of kohlrabi, pink mole, pumpkin aguachile and smoked beetroot

Among the snacks, a pistachio mole, which replaces guacamole with Lastra. It consists of a pistachio praline with pine oil, cucumber juice and pickled onions with fermented gooseberries and charred habanero, served with raw vegetables and herbs sprinkled with kombucha aged three months. .

Plating of a mole snack with pistachio and pine oil, crispy corn and raw vegetables, Santiago Lastra's replacement for guacamole in Kol

Season a snack of pistachio and pine oil mole, corn crisp and raw vegetables, Kol’s replacement for guacamole

Santiago Lastra de Kol sprays a grain of pistachio

A snack made from mole with pistachio and pine oil, corn chips and raw vegetables, replacing Kol for guacamole and crisps. Here given a three month kombucha spritz


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