This was my second meal at Sola. I wrote about the background of chef/patron Victor Garvey in my previous review, as well as the wine list. Victor works in the kitchen with sous chef Vasilis Tillyanakis, who previously worked for several years at Grainger and Co, and Jaimes Raines, who was previously head pastry chef at the Corbin and King group.
Today we opted for the full tasting menu rather than a la carte. The meal began with an eggshell containing smoked Yukon gold potato mousseline flavoured with chilli and Meyer lemon sabayon topped with fried shallots. This was nicely balanced, with the hint of Chardonnay vinegar and the touch of chilli enlivening the earthy flavour of the potato nicely. Alongside were some neatly piped gougeres made with Comte, roasted tomato and oregano, which had good choux pastry and plenty of cheese flavour (easily 15/20). Focaccia with Kalamata olives and Cevennes onion was made from scratch in the kitchen.
The next course was a pair of devilled eggs flavoured with yuzu and togarashi (a Japanese chilli pepper condiment) mayonnaise. This was a simple but enjoyable dish, the spicing lively and the yuzu providing a note of acidity (15/20). This was followed by sashimi of red snapper that had been killed, Japanese style, by the ikejime method whereby the fish is killed instantly via a spike, the idea being to avoid the production of lactic acid that often affects the flavour of fish caught conventionally. The fish came with pickled king oyster mushroom, caramelised onion from Maui, some shaved roasted hazelnut, grilled hazelnut oil, sage and lavender-infused ponzu. The snapper had good texture, avoiding any chewiness, and the hazelnut flavour worked well with the fish, the tartness of the ponzu providing useful freshness (15/20).
Next was Dungeness crab from the west coast of the USA, served with compressed Granny Smith apple, cold roasted almond soup and a garnish of kaluga caviar from top supplier N25. This came with a seaweed-flavoured waffle. The seafood was high quality, and the combination of the naturally sweet crab with the briny caviar and the acidity of the apple was a pleasing combination (easily 15/20).
This was followed by a comforting dish of cardoon (artichoke thistle) gratin using Comte cheese with shavings of black truffle from Perigord, the natural bitterness of the cardoons combining well with the richness of the cheese (16/20). Next was lightly seared Andignac foie gras with soy quail egg, cavolo nero, a pot-sticker of chanterelle and king oyster mushrooms and braised daikon radish. Alongside was a stone on which was displayed a langoustine that was briefly flambeed with whiskey. Foie gras and langoustine is a fine combination, and the richness of the foie gras was balanced well by the cavolo nero and the mushrooms. This was a well-constructed and nicely executed dish (16/20).
The fish course was wild sea bass from a 4.5 kg specimen, topped with Santa Barbara sea urchin and roasted katsuoboshi (dried, fermented and smoked tuna) flakes, a little Anaheim chill oil and leek fondue that had been braised in sake. The fish rested in a sauce of beurre blanc spiked with a little yuzu kosho, a Japanese condiment made from chilli and yuzu zest. The fish was lightly cooked and had excellent natural flavour, and the gentle touch of spice cut nicely through the richness of the sauce (16/20).
There were two meat dishes. Challans squab pigeon was from a supplier called Domaine des Maitres Pigeonniers in Lauzach, Brittany. The bird was roasted in koji butter and served with Chantenay carrot puree flavoured with saffron along with grilled plum. The sauce was a demi-glace made using the squab bones but also chicken stock, and flavoured with harissa, rose water and sherry vinegar. For me this was the star dish of the meal, the pigeon accurately cooked and having very good flavour, the sauce nicely intense but its richness carefully balanced by the plum and the touch of vinegar (17/20). This was followed by Colorado lamb topped with a herb crust with balsamic caramel fennel, Cevennes onion and black garlic soubise, scallion and also lamb sweetbreads glazed with Meyer lemon and cumin. The sweetbreads were delicate and the lamb had good flavour, the lovely Cevennes onions working well with the meat (16/20).
An initial dessert was Californian pistachio bavarois with melon soaked in rum and vanilla, Provencal cavaillon melon sorbet and pistachio sponge. The fruit balanced the flavour of the pistachio nicely, and the sponge was quite light (15/20). We finished with a take on the classic crepes Suzette, flambeed at the table but made using calamansi, lemon verbena and blood orange jus. On the side was tonka bean and buckwheat ice cream. I always enjoy the theatre of this dish, and the use of blood orange resulted in a less sweet flavour that I thought worked well (15/20).
Coffee was a brand called Café de Catalan. This came with mignardise of caramelised white chocolate with fresh Japanese wasabi, caramelised milk chocolate with roasted peanut butter and manjari dark chocolate with fresh yuzu marmalade. Service was friendly and the bill came to £114 per person. If you ordered a la carte then £75 a person would be a more typical cost per head. This was an impressive meal, the level of cooking a notch up from that at my previous dinner here in the first days after opening. The ingredients used here are of unusually high quality for London, and the level of technique remained high across the lengthy menu. This is definitely one of the most interesting restaurant openings in the capital for some time, with the unusually well priced wine list a genuine bonus.