Kol: Recreating Mexican Flavours with Seasonal British Produce

Chef-owner Santiago Lastra of the award-winning Kol in London is making waves with his innovative Mexican dishes prepared with seasonal British produce.

20 January 2024

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Photo Caption: Kol restaurant in Marylebone, London  | Photo Credit: Kol Restaurant

Since opening its doors in London’s Marylebone in late 2020, Kol has quickly become one of the top dining spots in London, bagging a string of accolades in the last few years including its first Michelin star in 2022 and the #23 spot on the World’s 50 Best Restaurants 2023 list.

Helmed by chef-owner Santiago Lastra, who cut his teeth at several world-class restaurants including Noma, under the legendary René Redzepi, and Mugaritz in San Sebastian, Kol serves refined Mexican cuisine prepared with fresh, seasonal British produce.

Photo caption: Wagyu Tostada |  Photo Credit: Kol Restaurant

The idea to launch Kol came after Lastra’s stint at Noma, where he helped Redzepi to launch Noma Mexico. “The fact that you can build a community around a concept really appealed to me. Opening Kol in London gave me the opportunity to showcase the quality and substance of Mexican culture and cuisine to the world. I’ve enjoyed building this community not only with people who work at Kol, but also in collaborating with all the great farmers, fishermen, winemakers, and craftsmen that have helped shape Kol into what it is,” Chef Lastra says.

An Inspiring Culinary Tour Through Mexico

Photo caption: Chef Santiago Lastra Plating His Signature Langoustine Tacos |  Photo Credit: Kol Restaurant

More than just a chef dishing up Mexican cuisine, Lastra can be regarded as a culinary alchemist, who has successfully brought the vibrant and authentic flavours of Mexico to the UK with minimal carbon footprint. He does this by recreating flavours found in Mexican dishes using seasonal ingredients sourced from all over the UK – think sea arrowgrass to replace coriander, sea buckthorn as a substitute for lime and more.

“We don’t use ingredients if they are not in season. But with Mexican food, almost every dish has lime, avocado or tomato, so we try to get local ingredients to taste Mexican,” Chef Lastra explains.

  Photo caption: Fresh British produce at KOL |  Photo Credit: Kol Restaurant

As you go through the tasting menu, it becomes evident that Lastra has an immense understanding of flavours and textures. While some replacements are obvious, other ingredients are a little more complex to replicate like mango and avocado. At Kol, the former is recreated using butternut squash, cooked to a specific temperature and then blended to achieve the same experience when one eats mango – sweet, a tad tangy, floral and fleshy. At the same time, the latter is reimaged using Scottish pine oil and pistachios to evoke similarities with guacamole.

A notable dish that every guest should try at Kol is Lastra’s signature Langoustine Tacos paired with smoked chilli and sea buckthorn, boasting freshly caught langoustine from Scotland encased within tortillas made with local grains. This exceptional dish pays homage to his two sources of inspiration: Mexico, where he came from, and the UK and its wonderful produce.

  Photo caption: Chef Lastra’s Signature Langoustine Tacos |  Photo Credit: Kol Restaurant

Paving The Way For A New Generation of Chefs, Artisans and Producers

  Photo caption: Chef Lastra and team in the kitchen |  Photo Credit: Kol Restaurant

Beyond running an award-winning restaurant, Lastra is on a mission to build and strengthen a community, as well as support and uplift his staff with a progressive working environment. He wants to showcase diversity and help people as much as he can. To support local farmers, he brings in corn, native chillies and chocolate directly from Mexico, and in the UK he works closely with craft makers, foragers and small farmers, ensuring traceability while supporting local communities.

  Photo caption: Chef Santiago Lastra  |  Photo Credit: Kol Restaurant

His efforts to make a meaningful difference have garnered him a spot on The World’s 50 Best’s 50 Next List, where he was named a ‘Hospitality Pioneer’. This category recognises chefs, bartenders and R&D wizards at the forefront of change in dining and drinking.

“I want to be part of a new generation of restaurants that work in a better way with their staff, giving them a great work environment, without compromising the quality of what we do,”

Author: Michelle Yee

A content and communications professional, Michelle spent more than a decade creating content for several leading media titles including Lonely Planet Asia, Yahoo Singapore, and Wine & Dine. After leaving the media industry in 2019, she has been honing her craft at a global communications agency where she helps develop and drive publicity campaigns for brands in the consumer and corporate sectors.

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