Tucked away on a street corner near London Bridge, sits a very discreet-looking restaurant with apartment blocks above it.
This isn’t a street you would pass by often unless you reside in the area and perhaps unless you’ve spent time doing your research, you wouldn’t find this restaurant that easily either. They’re not heavily marketed like most restaurants and prefer it that way because the dishes ultimately speak for themselves and so do the diners.
With a Korean upbringing combined with their training in European and French cooking, husband and wife duo, Woongchul Park and Bomee Ki, met during their time training at Le Cordon Bleu. After stints at The Ledbury and the Arts Club, the two joined forces to create their own version of a restaurant based on the reflection of their training and time spent in London together with their home-grown techniques and the use of local Korean ingredients. Spending a lot of time to come up with a suitable name, it was Bomee that came up with the word ‘Sollip’ which (from Korean) translates into the word pine needle. The word itself seemed befitting as not only was it easy to pronounce in English but the pine needle itself is known to be one of the best sources for controlling flames and smoke in traditional Korean cuisine and apparently it is used for dishes that require the most care. This association of ‘care’ is something Sollip takes to its heart and an ethos they strongly follow from kitchen to table.
The ambiance at Sollip is inviting, serene and warm. Light wooden tones throughout the restaurant gives for a calming and aesthetically pleasing interior. Once inside, you’ll notice some of their tableware lined up along the shelves - these unique pieces have been sourced from Europe with some from Korea that have been hand-made by artisans and are used in presenting each of the restaurant's story-telling dishes.
Sollip is only open during dinner service with one single tasting menu that changes depending on season and what is available. For this occasion we sampled their festive tasting menu available throughout the festive month where you can expect nine intricately put-together dishes. Each dish uses local and seasonal ingredients with hints of Korean flavours intertwined. For this particular tasting menu, the first introduction to this epicurean journey was through three small mini starters - a Persimmon tart, Sollip’s version of beef tartare topped with caviar and a Gamtae Sandwich. To say we could repeat the experience would be an understatement. The beef tartare in particular was truly something new - we were advised to eat these in one mouthful to capture all the flavours and textures. The result was succulent, almost sashimi-like with a hint of spiciness and crunch from the tart-like base. Those three morsels set the tone for the experience ahead with the next course being the White Winter Salad composed of chervil root, kohlrabi, celeriac and pine nuts - a refreshing and light yet slightly creamy salad beautifully presented with shreds of the chervil root lying atop with the kohlrabi, celeriac and pine nuts diced in cubes below, giving for wonderful texture. The salad was a balance between light and creamy which seemed to balance our appetites as after three morsels you automatically have a craving for more. Therefore striking that balance, we thought, was done very well. Service up until then was extremely meticulous with our waitress taking the time to explain each dish and as we were waiting for our next part of the menu to arrive, we sampled their homemade chestnut latte which we highly recommend. Pure delight and warmth in a cup, their homemade chestnut latte felt like life’s simple pleasures.
Next up was the Daikon Tarte Tatin, a savoury version that was light and crisp and really showcased the Chef’s story in mixing their European techniques with their Korean influences. To that we had their Nurungi Sourdough with Dashima Butter - made with Nurungi which is rice that has been browned at the bottom of the cooking pot. The momentum started building up here and though we did start to feel filled up, the Dashima Butter and Sourdough had us finishing it all. We had a small intermission to digest all the wonderful dishes up until that point, letting our stomachs take a moment before the next dish which was one of our most memorable at Sollip - their Cornish Turbot made with squid ink, miyeok (seaweed) and mussel. Perhaps one of the best fish dishes we’ve had in London simply due to the combination of flavour and delicate texture. The fish was cooked to a very soft and tender degree and was almost very delicate with an extraordinary amount of flavour. We really discovered the Chef’s cooking technique through the Cornish Turbot and the Highland Wagyu which was the next dish served. This was served together with Maitake mushroom and a side of the most delicious langoustine creamed rice. Just when you find yourself full, you simultaneously find yourself wanting more. Flavour is tremendously strong at Sollip and we do feel that it’s that sprinkle of the Korean elements that bring these dishes to the forefront. The Highland Wagyu was another one of our highlights during this tasting experience - cooked to rare perfection, the light and meaty wagyu paired well with the mushroom and was a lovely conclusion to the main course of the menu. It was a truly modern twist in how well it was cooked combined with strong flavours. Should you find fish or meat in Sollip’s menu, you’re in for a real treat.
As a palette cleanser, Hibiscus Yoghurt Sorbet was served. Absolutely refreshing, a bittersweet aftertaste that had us feeling curious. This was perhaps one of the dishes along with their mussel taco that had us pause for a minute, trying to think what it was we were tasting and how familiar the taste was. How interesting it tasted, an ingredient that we were familiar with but couldn’t exactly make out as it was mixed with all these other wonderful ingredients.
The ending to our culinary journey was Sollips' version of Mont Blanc made with chestnut, pine nuts, praline and tonka beans. If you’re not a fan of Mont Blanc, Sollip has re-interpreted it in a very different way. Whilst still remaining classic with the chestnut puree on top, it's what’s below that caught our surprise. Light and airy in texture, with that added crunch along with that cream and chestnut taste, it was a delight to eat but equally a dish that made us absolutely full. We were left with mini Kugelhopf Madeline’s and paired it with their Permission tea, which we recommend after this meal. The Permission tea helps with digestion and was a wonderful accompaniment to the end of this tasting menu.
Sollip is an ode to modern European cuisine with Korean ingredients in every dish, but more importantly it shows what Park and Bomee put together to bring something deeply personal and very much elevated with what is available in the UK. There aren’t very many restaurants like Sollip - mixing Korean and European flavours through haute-cuisine and we’re truly excited about where they’re headed for in the future. This is certainly a restaurant to watch, one you won’t be disappointed in and one you’ll truly appreciate.
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