Tuesday, 6 October 2020

Sollip, London Bridge

Since I decided, in the spirit of solidarity with a struggling industry, to only write up positive restaurant experiences, I expected that resolve to be tested a lot more than it actually has. In fact, since the beginning of July, only one dinner (out of more than I'm comfortable sharing) was so disastrous a tiny bit of the old me wishes I could have given it a good pummelling on the blog, but in fact even that moment soon passed. Life's too short to dwell on poor meals, especially these days.

The result of this new policy, though, is that recent posts run the risk of being a bit smiley-samey. All I can offer in my defense is that just because I'm not writing up bad or mediocre restaurants, that doesn't mean that I'm being extra kind to the ones I am reviewing - anywhere that's made it onto the blog in the last few weeks really is as good as I say it is, and I'm constantly astonished at how well restaurants are responding to their changing circumstances, not wallowing in self-pity (though that would be more than justified) but innovating and adapting and somehow, through all the madness, serving some of the best food I've eaten at any time. With all that in mind, then, let me tell you about yet another incredible meal I had just the other day at Sollip, a brand-spanking-new restaurant in London Bridge.

I'm generally a bit suspicious of "fusion" restaurants, as for all their laudable ambitions (and the occasional gem), the result is far more often Sushinho than Sushisamba. My suspicion of Sollip's Korean-French concept though, such as it was, lasted exactly as long as it took these gougères to appear. A perfect match of French patisserie and Korean spicing, they were baked perfectly to a soft, cheesey interior and delicate crust, and seasoned with an incredible soy bean/chilli powder which somehow conspired to make these already dangerously addictive little snacks even more irresistable. What a start.

Then, a "gamtae" (seaweed) sandwich, cut with machine-tooled precision, containing a soft, silky filling of briney seaweed and rich Caerphilly. I think they'd fried the bread in butter, too, so the golden sheen on the toast added not just crunch but yet more dairy loveliness. I had never had cheese and seaweed before in the same dish, I don't think, but the match now seems as natural to me as cheese and chive.

You can probably sense where this is going. The food at Sollip is not just exciting and rewarding, but genuinely innovative at every turn while still staying true to the Korean-French mashup concept. It's also beautiful - look at this thing, a daikon radish tarte tatin which had layers of earthy vegetables encased in impossibly delicate layers of glossy pastry. It was accompanied by something called "chilli chive potato cream" and all I can say is I'm glad I didn't know there was a thing in the world called "chilli chive potato cream" before arriving at Sollip because if I did I probably would have had a few sleepless nights obsessing about it. I've had a few since, as well.

Main course was a slab of braised beef short rib, soaked in a complex Korean sauce, shapely and solid on the plate but soft and yielding when sliced. It came alongside and interesting bit of cured cucumber, cooling in the kimchi style, and - a heartstopping moment - a little pot of rice with a knob of truffle butter, releasing flavour and aroma as it melted down. There's only one thing better than buttered rice, it turns out, and that's truffle-buttered rice.

I overheard the table next to mine (don't worry, there was plenty of space between us) asking for an extra sample of the fig from the fig creme brulee, such was its effect on those who tried it. This of course, is an open invitation to return to Sollip and try all of the dishes, not just the fig, that I didn't try the first time. But I can hardly complain the dessert I did order - this perilla (a kind of Korean mint) ice cream - was in any way a disappointment. Side-by-side the oil-based ice cream and granita made an unbeatable combination, apple and dairy and mint oil combining to great effect, with a layer of sesame rice for crunch.

Too often meals that are as controlled and precise visually as the food at Sollip undoubtedly is, you pay the price in flavour. I can think of quite a few restaurants over the years that in aiming for geometric exactness and consistency, in taking too long teasing the ingredients into the required form and shape, some of the immediacy and personality of the ingredients is lost.

Sollip manages to produce food of love and passion at the same time as it looking good enough to hang on the wall, and for that no amount of praise is enough. The gallery-like space and the artful dishes on one level brings to mind other Asian-fusion superstar restaurants like Bao or Xu, and I've no doubt they would be very pleased indeed to be mentioned in that company, as they should be. But Sollip is both a prodigal student of French and Korean cooking traditions, and at the same time a trailblazer in something genuinely new - fusion food that finally lives up to the name, and isn't just an excuse for gimmicks and punning menu items. I do hope I'm not boring you with yet another wildly positive review, but this wasn't going to go any other way. Sollip is brilliant.



Amanda said...

what a lovely review; I am going to dream of that daikon tart

WKMT said...

Lord, these look delicious. Thanks for the review.

Its me again said...

Your not joking, had amazing food here. some weeks back. 11 out of 10 . Had the already known Chin Chin, and a French wine ?? amazing.