Sola opened in November 2019 in the heart of Soho, initially focusing on Californian cuisine though recently the cooking has looked further afield. Chef/owner Victor Garvey was born in Spain but has American heritage, and has worked in some serious kitchens around the world in his time, including a stint at three-star Michelin Ryugin in Tokyo. The restaurant received a Michelin star in the 2021 UK Michelin guide. Since my last visit there has been a noticeable upgrade in the already excellent ingredients used, as well as a new pastry chef, Megan Stafford, who worked at Michelin-starred Frenchie in Paris, Galvin La Chapelle and a training stint at three star Le Cinq. The head chef is Salvatore Greco, who previously worked at Atelier Robuchon in London. There were two tasting menus available, one at £89 and a lengthier one at £139.
The mostly Californian wine list had 53 labels and ranged in price from £42 to £600, with a median price of £82 and an average markup to retail price of 3.1 times. Sample references were Steve Matthiasson Tendu Cortese 2018 at £51 for a bottle that you can find in the high street for £20, Matthiasson Harms Chardonnay 2017 at £83 compared to its retail price of £40, and Au Bon Climat Knox Alexander 2016 at £144 for a wine that will set you back £44 in the high street. For those with the means there was Au Bon Climat Sandford and Benedict 2009 at £160 compared to its retail price of £47, and the glorious Ridge Montebello 1999 at £440 for a wine whose current market value is £316.
The meal began with warm Parmesan gougeres with a melting cheese centre, as well as delicate Parmesan straws. The Parmesan was top of the range 24-month aged Vacca Rossa, made from the milk of the Reggiana cattle of northern Italy, with 14 litres of milk needed for each kilogram of cheese (17/20). A series of further nibbles then arrived in a wooden box that gradually revealed multiple joys inside its cabinets. Mackerel tartlet, using mackerel that was killed using the Japanese ikejime method for maximum freshness then cured in miso and Okinawan black sugar, came with anchovy butter, Roscoff onion and parsley salad. The pastry was delicate and the anchovy flavour came through strongly. Spanish bluefin tuna was served with foie gras parfait.in a delicate sesame tuile with preserved truffle and tomato gastrique. Again the pastry was excellent and the tuna was lovely, possibly not even needing the rich foie gras parfait. Finally, there was cured kingfish (also caught using the ikejime method) rolled in pistachio crust topped with oscietra caviar from the top supplier N25. The high grade ingredients really shone through here (17/20).
Next was a refreshing dish of tomato and melon. Classy Jouno tomatoes from the south of France were skinned and marinated with buttermilk. Two further varieties of tomatoes from the southern France and also the Amalfi Coast were used in delicate tomato consommé and intensely flavoured tomato sorbet. Three varieties of melon completed the dish, along with coriander oil poured in the centre. Focaccia on the side, with a little Jouno tomato, was absolutely stunning with its feather-light texture (17/20).
I was particularly impressed with the next dish of Dartmouth confluence crab had brown crab meat, pea pod mousseline and a foam of miso dressing with yuzu and fresh jalapeno pepper, and a garnish of purple shiso leaves. The crab had lovely sweetness and the depth of flavour of the peas, sourced from the market in Ventimiglia was dazzling. I recall some years ago tasting peas raw from their pods from this fabulous market, which is just on the Italian side of the border with France. The overall effect was rich and deep with a gently peppery warmth from the jalapeno (19/20). Next was delicate tempura of soft-shell crab stuffed with white and brown crab meat with pea mousseline, shiso leaf and borage flowers (17/20).
This was followed by unusually large (XXL) Scottish langoustines from Keltic Seafare, flambeed in whisky. The langoustine tails were then transferred to a plate with wild mushroom tortellini braised daikon, quail egg, shiso and ginger dashi. The dried bonito for the dashi was imported directly from Japan and the dashi was a delicate foil for the superb, sweet and flawlessly cooked langoustine (19/20).A large Scottish hand-dived scallop was next, pan-fried and topped with excellent kaluga caviar from the same supplier N25. The scallop was delicately cooked, plump and sweet, resting in a pool of champagne and beurre blanc flavoured with the spicy Japanese condiment yuzu kosho (18/20).
Squab from Anjou in the Loire Valley was lightly smoked and then grilled over Japanese binchotan white charcoal. This was accompanied by morels stuffed with foie gras and chicken mousse and onion soubise sauce made with braised nashi pear. Braised nashi pear and pickled pear provided welcome acidity to balance the richness of the meat and the rich sauce made from a reduction of the pigeon bones and sansho pepper leaves (17/20).
A refreshing pre dessert was made from Sorrento lemon, shards of meringue, yuzu, nutmeg meringue and vanilla crème fraiche (17/20). The main dessert was a particularly pretty one involving dark chocolate croustillant coffee chibouste, a sorbet of Panama Geisha coffee and salted caramel sauce (18/20). Coffee was the superb Panama Geisha from The Difference Coffee, with Jamaican Blue Mountain also available. Geisha is a variety of coffee named after the village of Gesha in Ethiopia where the variety was first identified in the 1930s. The version grown in Panama is the costliest coffee in the world, fetching $1,300 a pound wholesale in the 2020 Best Of Panama coffee auction. Service at Sola was excellent and the bill came to £188 per person. This was a most impressive meal, with some absolutely top-notch ingredients on display.