Sola, set in the heart of Soho, is run by Victor Garvey, who previously ran tapas bar Rambla on the same site. The style of cooking is notionally Californian, though there is plenty of classical French technique on display. Mr Garvey trained in Las Vegas at Picasso with the gifted Julian Serrano, who served me many fine meals at Masa in San Francisco in the 1990s. Victor later worked at Noma and was head chef of Blakes in London. His head chef is Salvatore Greco, who previously worked at The Garrison in Bermondsey. Sola received a Michelin star in the 2021 guide. The format is tasting menu only, with a choice of short and longer versions, the shorter version being priced at £89. We went for the longer version at £139.
This latest meal began with two sets of canapes. The first set comprised warm gougeres with a liquid centre made using 24-month aged Vacche Rossa Parmesan, delicate Parmesan straws and almonds. Bread was a really excellent focaccia, made from scratch in the kitchen and with light, fluffy texture. These were followed by a further canape trio, presented in a little set of wooden drawers that unveiled the successive nibbles. The next set featured three different treatments of wild salmon from Northern Ireland. Wild salmon is a rare thing indeed to find these days, and its flavour is incomparably better than the mostly flavourless farmed salmon that we have become used to in England in recent years. The first variation was a cured salmon roulade with freshly grated wasabi, pickled Roscoff onion and crisp sweet potato and was a thing of beauty. Next was smoked salmon crusted in pistachio and topped with salmon caviar and salsa verde made with anchovies, capers, lemon and herbs. This worked very well, the salsa verde complementing the richness of the smoked salmon. Finally, there was a salmon mousse tartlet with N25 caviar, herbs and powdered yoghurt. These were classy canapes, elaborate and well balanced, with the salmon flavour a revelation (18/20).
This was followed by a tomato and melon dish that used three different tomato varieties. Tomato water was extracted from Fascione tomatoes from the Amalfi coast, cherry tomatoes from Jouno in southern France were peeled and marinated, and ox heart tomatoes from Provence were made into a tomato sorbet. The melons that complemented the tomato elements were Cavaillon and Piel de Sapo (toad skin melon). The flavour of these very high-quality tomatoes was impressive, and this was a light and refreshing summer dish (17/20).
Dartmouth confluence white crab was the next dish, the white meat dressed in kani miso (Japanese crab paste), and the brown crab meat toasted and mixed with miso. The crab was then covered in pea mousseline using lovely peas from Ventimiglia in north western Italy. The dish was completed with tosazu (dashi vinegar) jelly and yuzu and pea air, topped with Japanese sansho pepper leaves. The latter are a relative of the Sichuan pepper, and have a similar though gentler slightly numbing spiciness. I liked this dish very much, with the crab excellent, the peas having lovely flavour and just a hint of spice. Finally there was soft shell crab tempura, stuffed with brown and white crab meat and topped with ponzu fluid gel (17/20).
Following the crab was a spectacular shellfish dish using very large Scottish langoustines, supplied by Keltic seafood. The langoustine tails were flambeed at the table and served with a ginger dashi stock in which rested a duck liver tortellini, mousseron mushrooms king oyster mushrooms, braised daikon, soy poached quail egg and Napa cabbage. The stock was really top notch, the hint of ginger lifting the flavour and complementing the lightly cooked langoustines, which had lovely natural sweetness. A terrific dish (19/20).
Next was fillet of turbot from a huge 11.7 kg fish, pan fried and braised in butter, served with braised leeks and a yuzu kosho emulsion, the fish topped with aged Kaluga caviar from top supplier N25. The flavour of the fish was excellent but the sauce was a little too sharp, almost the only slight technical issue in the meal (just about 16/20). The final savoury dish was duck, supplied by the award-winning supplier Mieral from Bresse. The duck was roasted and then rested, served with a duck jus flavoured with miso koji (a fermented seasoning paste) and rosemary and accompanied by fig brulee and Cevennes onion pickled with ginger. On the side was a chawanamushi of foie gras from top supplier Ernest Soulard, along with black truffle ragout, toasted brioche foam and fig leaf vinegar gastrique. The duck had lovely flavour and was lightly cooked, the figs providing some acidity to balance the richness of the jus (17/20).
The pastry chef here is Megan Stafford, who trained at various fine dining restaurants in Paris, was head pastry chef at Frenchie in Paris and was head pastry chef of Galvin La Chapelle. An initial dessert was a prettily presented one featuring lemon from Sorrento, along with yuzu, nutmeg meringue and vanilla crème fraiche, decorated with shards of meringue. This was refreshing and appealing (17/20). The final dessert was another attractively presented one, dark chocolate croustillant, coffee ganache, a sorbet of Panama Geisha coffee and salted caramel sauce (18/20). Coffee was the superb Panama Geisha from The Difference Coffee. 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 was excellent and the bill came to £160 per person. This was a fine meal, with some absolutely top-notch ingredients on display: the wild salmon was a joy and the dashi stock with the langoustines was memorable. Sola is using some of the very best ingredients of any London restaurant, noticeably better than many that have more Michelin stars.