How does one define Californian cuisine? Eclectic and rule-bending in its very essence, west coast-inspired cookery is influenced by a mishmash of cuisines from across the globe, although we’d argue that overarching themes of health, vibrance, seasonality and colour take precedence. Putting his own spin on the, admittedly loose, rulebook is Victor Garvey, whose Michelin-starred fine dining spot SOLA shows no bounds in its commitment to creativity, skill and theatre.
It’s an intimate dining room on Soho’s illustrious Dean Street that’s been expensively decorated with bespoke woodwork and neutral tones. A cheese trolley sits snugly to one side of the space, ready to be wheeled out at the drop of a hat for diners who choose to indulge in the supplementary cheese course. The vibes are immaculate, which every member of staff laser focused on their specific role, be it manning said cheese trolley, topping up water glasses or delivering each dish with precise explanations of what’s on the plate.
This is clearly high-level stuff, and the food is treated with the same level of attention. An opening of five perfect canapes contains as much brilliance in a single bite as one of Garvey’s inspired fully formed mains. His signature devilled egg balances smoky, tangy and fruity notes, while his unique riff on surf and turf cleverly marries smoked eel and a rich goose liver pate in a paper-thin shell. Our favourite dish is centred around bluefin tuna sashimi, with ice-cold avocado sorbet, shimeji mushrooms and a soy-based broth which tastes as good as it does due to the addition of Japanese vinegar. Every course brings something new and surprising, from langoustine flambeed tableside to a sensational mirror-glazed chocolate dessert comprising distinguished layers of salted caramel, hazelnut croustillant and Kaluga caviar.
So brilliantly detailed is every dish, we can only assume each one has been practiced and honed a million times before gaining exclusive access to SOLA’s menu. This is formal, Michelin-level dining without a doubt, but it’s not every day you experience food that genuinely surprises in its originality.