Sollip (“pine needle) opened in Southwark in September 2020. It is run by husband-and-wife team Woongchul Park and Bomee Ki; he has worked at The Ledbury and she is a pastry chef who has worked at The Arts Club. They formerly ran a restaurant on Jeju, a volcanic Island in the Korea Strait that is a popular holiday destination. Sollip can accommodate 26 diners and offers a tasting menu at £85, the cooking style blending Korean influences with classical cooking, so you see dishes such as daikon tarte tatin.
The wine list had 82 labels and ranged in price from £35 to £550, with a median price of £110 and an average markup to retail price of just 2.3 times, which is unusually low for London, where anything below three times retail can be regarded as decent. 78% of the list was French, but there were also some wines from Italy, Spain and elsewhere, though the whole list was Old World. Just three wines were under £50 but 43% of the list was priced under £100. Sample references were Koehler-Ruprecht Riesling Kabinett Trocken Kallstadter Saumagen 2018 at £60 for a bottle that you can find in the high street for £22, G Rinaldi Dolcetto d’Alba 2018 at £84 compared to its retail price of £34, and Roulot Aligote 2018 at £90 for a wine that will set you back £42 in the high street. For those with the means there was Dard & Ribo Hermitage 2017 at £202 compared to its retail price of £78, and Bernard Moreau Chevalier-Montrachet 2013 at £550 for a wine whose current market value is £466. Alternatively, corkage was £35.
The restaurant is in a quiet street near London Bridge station. The dining room is L shaped and simply but smartly decorated, with good lighting on the tables. Our tasting menu began with a nectarine tartlet with panna cotta of fig leaf, crushed kombu (edible kelp) and a single glazed fig with chestnut honey. I am not sure that a sweet canape is ever a really good idea, and a touch of salt might have made this more successful, though the fig itself was nice enough (13/20). Much better was beef tartare using Angus beef bavette, mixed with red chilli paste, pickled daikon and marigold sabayon – this had good quality beef and the spicing was spot on (16/20) A sandwich of gamtae seaweed was served warm, the brioche a little soggy (13/20).
The first formal course was langoustine with fermented rice porridge, the langoustine marinated in langoustine juice, served with peas with bergamot dressing, bronze fennel and a generous dollop of caviar from top supplier N25. The shellfish (from Keltic Seafoods) had lovely natural sweetness, the salinity of the caviar a good pairing for it, the English peas tasting surprisingly good given the time of year (15/20).
Daikon tarte tatin was an interesting idea. Although one tends to think of tarte tatin as a dessert, it can certainly be good in savoury form: I had a particularly nice onion tart tatin a few weeks ago, for example. The puff pastry was made from scratch in the kitchen, with layers of caramelised daikon, roasted barley mixed with sesame, and alongside was a blob of burnt hay and roasted potato purée. The pastry was good but I didn’t think the radish was particularly interesting as the main element; it was just a bit bland in the way that the Roscoff onion version I had eaten recently was not. Overall this was pleasant rather than exciting (14/20). Sourdough bread was made here from scratch and was infused with burnt rice. This had lovely texture, served with dashima (dried kelp) seaweed butter.
Cornish red mullet was precisely cooked and came with two-year aged kimchi, scallop roe, dried pollack powder with dried pollack broth and notionally a touch of sansho pepper, though I struggled to detect this. The mullet itself was excellent, and stood up well to the strong flavour of the kimchi, though for me the seasoning could have been bolder, and I would have liked more of the pleasantly numbing sansho pepper, certainly enough to make an impression. Nonetheless, this was a very good piece of fish cookery (16/20).
Hay-aged Aylesbury duck breast came with spicy carrot paste and a jus of the cooking juices. On the duck skin was a coating of sesame and dried jujube, a Chinese red date. The spice came from a glaze of gochujang (a spicy fermented condiment) with soy sauce, honey, brown rice vinegar and corn syrup. The duck was very carefully cooked and had good flavour, and I loved the touch of spice, which was lively but controlled, and was an effective way to balance the richness of the duck. My only issue was that the chou farci (stuffed cabbage) on the side did not seem to add much to the dish, though some greenery was in principle a good idea (17/20). The final savoury course was short rib of Highland wagyu (from supplier H.G. Walter) that had been aged for six weeks. This was enriched with foie gras and charcoal grilled, served with chestnut purée. The beef was excellent and went well with the chestnuts, the only issue for me being not quite enough salt (16/20).
Pre dessert was yuzu Yakult sorbet with Korean sour plum and a green plum liquor called maesil. This worked very well, with plenty of refreshing sharpness (16/20). The main dessert was less successful. Jerusalem artichoke choux pastry came with artichoke puree. pear puree, buckwheat and zest of lemon and pear, with some chocolate biscuit baked into the pastry along with wattle seed and buckwheat powder. I am rarely a fan of vegetable-based desserts at the best of times, and this was not the best of times. The overall effect had a slightly burnt taste, presumably from the buckwheat, and flavour mix was just weird. I am sure that pastry chefs all over the world are keen to show off how inventive they are, but the end result needs o actually taste like a dessert and be enjoyable, and I’m afraid this simply wasn't anything of the kind (11/20).
Coffee was from Monmouth, an excellent supplier, but the espresso that arrived lacked crema. It was made using a device called a Rok, a manual press. This was an interesting example of how it is not enough to buy good coffee beans: you also need a good machine and staff trained to use it. It seems like the Rok device is fine for coffee aficionados, but in this case it managed to produce a rather disappointing cup of coffee from what were high quality beans. It is an illustration of why so many high-end restaurants, including many three star places, have switched to Nespresso machines these days – these provide the blessing of consistency, provided you feed them capsules filled with high quality coffee.
Service was excellent, with our German waitress Kristin being patient, friendly and helpful. I was being treated by a friend so did not see the bill, but if you shared a modest bottle of wine then a typical cost per person might come to £125 a head all in. This actually seemed to me quite a fair price given the very high-quality ingredients being used here. Such as the top-notch langoustine and caviar. This location is a little out of the way and I hope that Sollip can attract enough customers, as there is some genuinely interesting cooking going on here.