Five Questions For Santiago Lastra & Maxim Schulte

Words by Hannah Felt

05 October 2021


We speak to the Chef and Bar Manager of one of our favourite London restaurants, KOL.

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.

Maxim Schulte: The Mezcaleria is a place where you can relax like you would in someone's living room in Oaxaca. Entering the room will transfer you to a happy place, with a great sense of escapism. Of course, you will find a wide variety of Mexican spirits with a focus on Mezcal/Agave, as well as seasonal cocktails with spirits from around the world.

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.

MS: The food and drinks are inspired by the British seasonal calendar and the beautiful products that grow across the British Isles. The idea behind the menu is to highlight this produce and make drinks with and without agave distillates closely related to familiar classics.

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.

MS: It's not easy to highlight a favourite. However, our guests' choice seems to be the Cucumber & Pine Martini. It is an excellent twist on the classic, using Tequila, fresh cucumber and douglas fir pine. It has become so popular that I don't think we'll ever be able to remove it from the drinks list!

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!

MS: I have many favourite bars, it depends on the day and mood. Great bars in London are KWANT, The Connaught, Satans Whiskers, Tayer & Elementary, Three Sheets, Little Mercies, to name a few. The beauty of London is that there is almost too much to choose from.

What's next?

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.

MS: We've not been open that long, so everything is still new and exciting. Right now, we are working on the drinks list for the last few months of the year, which I am excited about. Autumn and Winter offer a lot of great flavours that we cannot wait to put into our drinks.

Please enquire about reservations and group experiences.

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