Specialising in Mexican food re-imagined with British produce, Santiago Lastra’s KOL has been one of the most perenially hyped restaurant openings for over a year now. Its original opening date was supposed to be sometime in May 2020. That grand opening was, quite obviously, pushed back to a much less grand and much more cautious November start date opening (featuring more hand sanitiser and less handshaking than Santiago probably envisioned when he first decided he wanted to open a restaurant) thanks to the impact of Covid-19. But, even then, KOL was only allowed to be open for a few weeks before it was forced to shut up shop.
KOL is a restaurant that’s been closed for much longer than it’s ever been open and it’s safe to say that the global pandemic, just like it did for the rest of the hospitality industry, ever so slightly ruined Santiago’s master plan. But the talented chef – whose stacked CV cites stints at Mugaritz and NOMA and pop-ups all around the globe – hasn’t let the stuttering stop and start of his first solo restaurant slow his momentum or his ambition. Especially now that KOL is in full swing and bookings at the shit-hot restaurant are getting increasingly hard to make.
Mexico has a food culture that's rooted in both tradition and innovation and Santiago has made it his mission to introduce local eaters to the flavours of his home nation using local British ingredients. That sense of Mexican soul is evident in everything from the superlative cocktails and small plates available at the restaurant's attached Mezcaleria to the delicate, traditional-ish dishes like the purple carrot mole you can find served at the Chef’s Table.
We spoke to Santiago about how he got into food, finding out why he chose London as the city to open up his debut restaurant, and whether or not he gets annoyed as constantly being touted as a former NOMA Mexico chef. The answer is: "kinda". Here's what happened when MOB met Santiago Lastra...