I have been to Sola a few times now, so for background and comments on the wine list please see my previous reviews. In this review I will focus just on the food served at this latest meal. We went for the full tasting menu at £139. There was also a four course menu on offer at £89.
The meal began with a series of canapes. Parmesan gougeres had a liquid cheese centre, the choux pastry well-made and having plenty of cheese flavour. Parmesan straws were delicate, with both canapes using Vache Rosse (“red cow”) 24-month aged Parmesan. Parmesan was made using this same breed of cattle in Emilia Romagna as long ago as the 12th century. The next set of bites were seafood based. A tartlet of Kindai tuna (farm raised bluefin from Wakayama, south of Osaka) came with smoked fish mousse, caviar (from supplier N25) and was topped with a confit quail egg. The pastry was delicate and the tuna had lovely flavour, with brininess of the caviar balancing the richness of the egg. Alongside this was salmon roulade made using wild Pacific salmon, crisp sweet potato, Roscoff onion escabeche and freshly grated wasabi. We have become used to salmon these days (almost all farmed) being pretty flavourless, but this wild salmon was very good, and the crisp sweet potato added a nice texture contrast. Finally, there was cured and flamed mackerel with ponzu and garlic and a buckwheat tuile. The mackerel were from Cornwall but killed using the Japanese style ikejime method, which kills the fish instantly and results in a cleaner flavour. This was a high class set of canapes (18/20).
A large Norwegian king crab was presented at the table and returned with the leg meat served with pickled Tokyo turnip, tosazu jelly, king crab emulsion and winter melon sorbet. The emulsion is made by infusing dashi with king crab shell, combining this infused stock with king crab oil and then flavoured with yuzu. On the side was warm, buttered king crab claw with sake-braised leeks, aged kaluga caviar and beurre blanc flavoured with yuzu kosho (Japanese chilli paste). The crab had excellent natural sweetness that worked well with the earthy flavour of the turnip, the caviar and the hint of spice. This came with a rich brioche that incorporated koji butter, koji being a Japanese cooked and fermented rice (strong 16/20).
Large langoustines were presented on a rock and were flambeed briefly. They were then added to a dish containing 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. This stock was gorgeous, the touch of ginger enlivening the flavour, while the lightly cooked langoustines had excellent natural sweetness. This is a really glorious dish (19/20).
This was followed by wild sea bass from a 4.5kg fish, served with sea urchin, roasted cauliflower mousseline and black truffle. This came with a sauce “oursinade”, a modern version of an old Corsican sea urchin-based recipe that was infused with further black truffle. The fish had good flavour and went very well with the salty sweetness of the urchin and the contrasting flavour of the cauliflower; the truffle adding an air of luxury and its distinct fragrance. Perhaps the fish could have been cooked for just a little less time if I am to be picky (still just about 16/20).
Venison was supplied from Brett Graham’s (former head chef of The Ledbury) farm, and served with Brussels sprouts, chervil root, ceps and a particularly fine version of a grand veneur sauce that used Japanese sansho peppercorns instead of regular black peppercorns. On the side was excellent home-made focaccia (18/20).
After that richness it was good to have a refreshing pre-dessert. This was a grapefruit dessert that used excellent grapefruits imported from Rungis market in Paris. These were made into numerous forms: grapefruit sorbet, candied grapefruit peel, grapefruit candy glass, basil and lime granita, meringue, grapefruit consommé as well as some grapefruit segments. The dessert was nicely balanced with just enough sugar to balance the grapefruit, whose freshness came through very well. The combination of textures from the different elements was very effective (easily 17/20).
The main dessert was a pretty presentation of dark chocolate croustillant using 78% Guanaja chocolate, buckwheat and cacao nib sorbet, buckwheat parfait, silky bourbon and caramelised chocolate namelaka (a cross between a ganache and a crème patissiere), coffee ganache, sorbet of Panama Geisha coffee and bourbon salted caramel sauce. A feature that really distinguished this dish was the quality of the coffee, which was 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. 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. The overall effect was very pretty, and the elements combined very well together (18/20).
Service was excellent and the bill for all this lovely food and service was £160 per person, which seems to me quite fair given the high standard of cooking and the amount of luxury ingredients. What is noticeable about Sola is the very high quality of ingredients used, something that cannot be said of a troubling number of the capital’s high-end restaurants. The tasting menu here has appealing dishes that are modern without being wacky, and the technical execution is getting more consistent. I would rather eat at Sola than at plenty of London restaurants with more than the one star that Michelin have so far given it.