Sollip: a restaurant up our alley

London: June 2021

Our discovery of Sollip was fortuitous, but it turned out to be an extraordinary find. Having just started and opened after a lockdown, this is a place that deserves a larger customer traction. Behind this project is husband and wife Chef Woongchul Park and pastry Chef Bomee Ki. Originally from Korea, but with training at The Ledbury and The Arts Club, Woongchul and Bomee propose a concept that revolves around modern European fine dining, but with touches of Korean gastronomy. And indeed the style and looks is reminiscent of the late Lebdury, showing mastery of techniques and respect for high quality produce. Yet, the Korean influence is clear in the flavours of the dishes presented. Heat, umami and fermentations not only make a frequent appearance, but give a distinctive and creative side to their food.

The wine list has been developed in collaboration by Keeling Andrew, the distribution arm of the founders of Noble Rot. As most of their selections, we can always find exciting new listings that pair well with the food. For instance, Domaine des Ardoisières’s Argile Blanc had a minerality that paired well with many of the starters and seafood, whereas our much loved Domaine de Galouchey was excepcional with the aged beef.

Simply put, a whole package that should deliver one of those coveted Michelin guide awards soon. For now, they only offer a menu of 7 dishes at £67 per person. It starts with a trio of appetisers. 

The first bite of the White Asparagus tartlets was already intriguing. The delicate flavour of the white asparagus emulsion was complemented by the sweetness and tartness of plums. A clever addition of tonka bean elevated the dish with its cinnamon and clove scent. Meanwhile, the incredibly thin pastry provided that much needed textural contrast.

The Beef Tartare was also served on a tartlet. The raw beef was spiced with Gochujang giving heat but also maximum umami. The last appetiser, a Gamtae Sandwich of melted Gruyère in a brioche bread wrapped in gamtae. This dry seaweed has a saline, nutty flavour and a distinctive herbaceousness which contrasts well the richness of the cheese. From this set of appetisers, the tartlet with white asparagus was our winner. It has one of those unusual and impressive flavour combinations, that sparks a discussion and induces us to analyse it more attentively. The other two are more of crowd pleasers, Westernized Asian flavours – or Western foods with Asian twist. 

As a first starter, we were served Aged Raw Scallops with Oscietra Caviar, Seaweed Crisp and Doenjang sauce. Dry aging of fish has been known for centuries in  some East Asian cuisines with rich fish diets. It has been recently popularised by an Australian chef Josh Niland, who is famous for his nose-to-tail approach. Similarly to dry-aging of beef, when the same process is applied to fish it can improve its texture and develop more complex flavours. During this process, the enzymes in muscle cells break down the proteins, fats and amino acid chains, as well as the connective tissues. That combined with the reduced water content, results in concentrated, umami flavours and very tender meat. In this case, the aging process appeared to yield a perfectly soft and silky texture for the scallop. It had a distinct savoury flavour, especially when intensified by the saline taste of the caviar. As a sort of spoon, a puffed seaweed crisp served to pick these morsels of seafood mixed with a doenjang (a Korean miso) sauce. 

The following dish was a Daikon Tarte Tatin, Toasted Barley, Chilli Chive, a beautiful play of textures. The pastry resembled a brittle tarte fine, topped with thinly sliced daikon. The mellow, slightly sweet flavour of daikon was enhanced by a tatin-like caramelisation, whereas the toasted barley added some earthy nuttiness. The dollop of chili chive was a delicious addition, bringing bright allium notes evocative of Korean or Chinese cuisine. An unconventional reinterpretation of the famous apple tarte tatin that could easily become a signature dish of the house.

Next arrived the bread and butter, our favourite part of every dinner. This time it was not a common ‘bread and butter’ experience, but one driven by umami: Nurungji Sourdough served with Rock Tripe Whey Butter. Let’s break this down, starting with the bread. Nurungji or scorched rice, is a thin crust of lightly charred rice which adheres to the bottom of the cooking pot. It is usually achieved while cooking rice over direct high heat. In European gastronomy, the closest equivalent would be the socarrat found in paella. In this high hydration sourdough, the inclusion of nurungji yields savoury aromas and a subtle nuttiness. Secondly, the butter was infused with rock tripe, a fungus commonly used in Korean cuisine, providing an intense earthiness. Moreover, the kind whey butter employed has a lactic and acidic taste in itself that pairs well with sourdough bread. The result, the same comforting experience we are used to, but with the added umami through Korean traditional culinary techniques.

The first of the mains was a Cornish Turbot with a Maesaengi Beurre Blanc. The turbot fillet was cooked to perfection, to the level expected from a former chef in The Ledbury. When the muscle fibres are cut crosswise, and the temperature reached is never above 50C, the microstructure is left intact, yielding structural colouration. The result is a beautiful surface revealing pearl-like multicoloured reflections. The turbot is laid on a cauliflower soil and topped with a minty Perilla leaf. When presented to us, a seaweed (Maesaengi) beurre blanc is poured on top. Maesaengi is a slimy Korean seaweed that gives a saline and savoury component to the dish. Blended in the butter, that natural texture disappears, the acidity of the beurre blanc cuts through the richness of the turbot and the sea notes accentuate the flavours of the fish. An outstanding dish.

It’s a thrilling sensation when, after such a great course, the next dish performs as strongly. The 84 Days Aged Angus Beef, Braised Short Rib, Black Truffle Butter Rice delivered one of those moments. A bite of the aged Angus sirloin, raised quick looks of complicity between us on the pleasure we were experiencing. The concentration of the flavours, the perfect cuisson… simply a treat. The short rib was braised until tender and delivered intense aged beef flavours. Sticking to the European classics, a rich beef jus and some truffle butter bathed both cuts, bringing them together. With such potent flavours, in the middle laid pickled cucumber with lemon verbena, perhaps as a palate cleanser. 

The beef was served alongside an addictive bowl of rice with black truffles and generous amounts of butter. To say that each grain of rice was perfect is an understatement. Such tender texture and intense flavour are very hard to find. We could haven eaten several bowls.

Lychee sorbet with white peach powder
Strawberry Cheesecake, Elderflower and Perilla leaf

What can one serve after such an orgasmic and powerful dish? Easy, a fresh, aromatic and citric palate cleanser. This Lychee sorbet with white peach powder, with a few vesicles of pink grapefruit underneath did just that. 
Dessert came in the form of a Strawberry Cheesecake, Elderflower and Perilla leaf. Seasonal and refreshing, it consisted (from bottom to top) of an almond pâte sablée, perilla leaves on the bottom, a traditional cheesecake batter, strawberry slices and an elderflower gel. A stylish and thoughtful presentation for very classic flavours.

A closure to a first visit, that has left us wanting to come again. If this is just the start, we cannot wait to see how the project will mature. The ideas are clever, the produce is outstanding and the techniques employed show knowledge and respect for the produce. Good things tend to come in a nice packaging, and indeed, the presentation is consistently fresh, intriguing and full of finesse. Add to this a modern, clean and soothing ambiance and we can already predict success in the future. They deserve it.

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