How would you describe KOL and KOL Mezcaleria to someone who hasn't been?
Santiago Lastra: KOL is a restaurant in Marylebone where we approach fine dining more flexibly. We want to represent the quality and depth of Mexican culture through the lens of British ingredients and seasonality. KOL's design is inspired by the grand houses in Mexico, paired with Nordic minimalism and brought to life through British craftsmanship. We have a completely open kitchen, where the chefs can cook for and interact with the guests, plus a Chef's Table and Mezcaleria downstairs. The Chef's Table has its own private kitchen, which doubles as our test kitchen, experimenting with new dishes.
The KOL Mezcaleria starts where KOL ends, and this idea is reflected in how the drinks and snacks are created. The Mezcaleria is a cocktail bar where we highlight Mexican spirits and British ingredients, with Maxim Schulte and his team creating amazing cocktails, which we offer alongside snacks called 'antojitos', that are inspired by Mexican street food.
Matthias Ingelmann: The Mezcaleria is a homage to the magic of Mexico’s mezcal bars, where we marry Mexican spirits with British ingredients. It’s very intimate, dark, moody, and a place where we try to showcase the diversity of Mexican spirits in a modern setting with a rotating cocktail list
What inspires your menus?
SL: Mainly memories of my travels around Mexico and the UK, and flavour in general. The ability to discover flavours within local ingredients that remind me of home is one of the most inspiring moments for me to create a dish. Seasonality is a big part of it; I guess working seasonally is a bit like fashion. You work around the needs of the guests when they come to eat. Maybe in the summer, that's something light and refreshing, whilst it's nourishing and cosy food in the autumn and comfort food in the winter.
MI: The drinks are inspired by British seasonality, Mexican spirits, classic cocktails, and first and foremost, flavour. We always try to create cocktails that are easy to understand in concept and bold in flavour, but at the same time interesting, challenging and obviously tasty.
Do you have a favourite dish/drink on the current menu?
SL: I think I love them all the same because they are like my kids, but I think the langoustine tacos are one of my favourites because they were the first dish I cooked for my business partners to help them decide to raise the capital needed to open the restaurant. Drinks-wise, I love the new Paloma that Maxim created and pretty much all their experiments. I think the drink they do with pineapple weed, ants, corn liquor, and mezcal is one of the best things I've ever drunk.
MI: The Fig Leaf & Pine French 75, based on Sotol. Still relatively undiscovered, Sotol is the distillate of an agave also known as Desert Spoon, found mostly in the states of Chihuahua, Durango and Coahuila. It adds super interesting green and mineral notes to the drink, paired with a syrup made from spruce tips, some fig leaf and topped up with mead (honey wine).
Aside from your own, what are your favourite restaurants and bars in London?
SL: I love Davies & Brook, Maos, Da Terra, The Laughing Heart, The Sea The Sea, Koya, Som Saa, Xu, Lyle's, Clove Club, Flor, Sager and Wilde, Bao… I mean the list is long, it depends on the type of food that you want. London has pretty much everything!
MI: Bar Termini for Italian aperitivo, coffee and service; The Sun Tavern for a good time and Irish Whisky; The Auld Shillelagh for the best Guinness; Koya for noodles; Brawn for British food; The Bull and Last for gastro pub; and Norman’s café for breakfast.
SL: I want to do this [KOL] right at the moment. A hundred per cent just thinking in the present and continuing to discover what we can do with our team, and keep learning and developing. I am sure this is just the beginning, and there's a whole world of possibilities to explore in terms of what we can do.
MI: We want to explore more mezcals from outside of Oaxaca and more Mexican spirits besides mezcal. At the same time, we want to highlight our own KOL Mezcals more and help spread the word about the fascinating world of agave spirits.
Image credit: Eleonora Boscarelli. Quintessentially’s exclusive chef’s table at KOL will take place on 12th October; please contact your lifestyle manager for more information.