The birth of Kol
The embryonic bones of Kol were formed in an unassuming semi-detached house, on a residential street in Acton, West London, where Lastra set up his test kitchen. Many journalists who arrived there were often found shyly conferring with each other and checking map apps on the drive outside, looking confused, until Lastra would invite them in for a thrilling, mezcal-drenched feast.
The restaurant was ready to go and the site secured, but then the pandemic struck and the restaurant endured a period of stop-starting akin to a learner driver wrestling with a slippery clutch pedal.
“Opening a restaurant from scratch can always be a struggle, long nights and lots of hope have made this dream a reality, especially considering we opened a restaurant during the worst time in history,” Lastra says. “This has meant that the team is very close, they are not only hardworking and amazing at their jobs, but they make my dream come true and protect the quality whilst putting their own soul into the project.”
Circling back to the restaurant’s ‘Mexican soul’, Lastra says he’s most inspired by the indigenous people of his homeland who “keep traditions alive”, while working with the British seasons is “a great opportunity to discover what hyper-seasonal Mexican food might look like”. Despite his nomadic lifestyle, Lastra’s connection to Mexico remains steely.
“The dishes represent our take on seasonality and the concept of Kol," he says of the recipes embedded in this article, taken from the restaurant's late winter menu. "The UK has distinct seasonal changes whereas Mexico is pretty consistent throughout the year in terms of accessible ingredients. Even though we’re using winter ingredients, we are representing Mexico by creating colourful, and fresh dishes."
You’ll also find, below, two cocktail recipes from the Kol Mezcaleria, a shrine to agave in the basement underneath the restaurant, where cocktails are infused with “wild British botanicals”.
Kol’s mezcal margarita recipe
50ml Good-quality espadin mezcal
15ml Muyu Chinotto or another high-quality triple sec
20ml Verjus (sour grape juice)
15ml Sugar syrup
Salt rim – 75% salt, 20% sugar, 5% citric acid
1. Salt half the rim.
2. Add all ingredients to the glass you’ll be drinking from.
3. Add ice and stir well (at Kol, the margaritas aren’t shaken).
4. Top with a little more ice and serve.
Kol’s paloma recipe
Photo: Charlie McKay
50ml Volcan Blanco Tequila
7.5ml Muyu Vetiver
100ml Grapefruit soda
A pinch of salt
1. Pour the 60ml of alcohol over ice in a salted highball glass.
2. Fill with ice all the way to the top and pour in the soda.
3. Mix through quickly and serve.