There’s a little Community Notices board on the kitchen’s outside wall on Birch Road. This is where you come if you’re looking for a lost cat or guitar lessons- or the services of a ‘foot health practitioner’, if you’re in the market.
More relevantly, you also come here for a menu which makes easy picking impossible. Those choices are on a single blackboard- if you’re reading this and we have already talked about coming, you’ll need your glasses- and quick choices aren’t the order of the day. I change my mind after ordering. I change it back again. And again. The whole thing seems determined to make my life difficult.
Whether Sonny Stores is in Southville or Bedminster is a matter for debate, it seems: my taxi driver says one, the restaurant the other. What’s not up for discussion is the reputation Sonny Stores has won, this little corner unit on unremarkable sidestreets, yet another little Bristolian gem people will travel to explore.
I can’t pass up sweetbreads. I recently complained they’re not on enough Cardiff menus, only to be told three chefs are working on their own versions. I hope they’re as good as this: draped with delicately salty lardo back fat and the bitter bite of tardivo radicchio, and drunk on a Marsala sauce awash with good things. Tangy-sweet, positively drinkable. Perhaps a little bread on the side as standard would be a tweak, because this is glorious stuff and it’s a crime to waste it. Failing that, I’ll bring my own straw.
Asparagus is a must, bolstered with an anchovy mayonnaise which is scoopably good. It’s a dish to fall in love with, the pangrattato bringing aromatic crunch to that opulent, salty wobble. It’s just a few ingredients combined to thrilling effect, a masterclass in keeping it simple. I’m already planning to come back, and who to bring.
Ah: decisions, decisions. The difficulty of choice means I’m in danger of losing out on their wood pigeon pasta. After a lot of dithering- and much patience on the part of my charming server- I settle on lamb. I’m rewarded with a couple of big, bronzed thick-cut chops, their fat crisp and the flesh a ruddy pink, with a bright, bold salsa verde. This is bold, uncompromising cooking, not dainty or prissy: it’s all piled on top of beans sodden with the slick of meaty, herby juices- the sauces here sing- delivering bold flavours in a gutsy, crowd pleasing style. In short: wonderful.
I throw myself on the mercy of the kitchen, ask nicely and get a half-portion of that pasta. I’ll walk back, I reason, mindful of another feast planned for this evening, and get voluptuous curls of sunny (sorry) yellow pappardelle, fat and silky, with a sauce with heft and depth, that meat rich and dark and subtly gamey.
Dessert? An exemplary tiramisu, the base sodden with coffee, those upper layers cloud-soft. It’s a beauty, the best tiramisu I’ve had in years.
Is everything ok? asks my server. To which the answer is- No, because ‘OK’ doesn’t really cover what’s going on here, nowhere near. These Bristol restaurants seem to pop up fully-formed to slavering acclaim. National reviewers flock. That could awaken the cynic in anyone. But there’s a good reason for that: they’re bloody good places to eat. Come here, bring someone who will throw themselves into the spirit of the place with you, indulge yourselves. Just don’t expect it to be an easy choice.
Sonny Stores, 47 Raleigh Rd, Southville, Bristol BS3 1QS
Tuesday to Saturday, midday to 10pm
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This blog is a very simple thing.
I won’t try to sell you any hand lotion, exercise programmes, coffee syrups or Patagonian nose flutes. You won’t find tips on dating, ‘wellness’ or yoga mats.
I write because I love it (and food, as indicated by my increasing girth). Greed happens to be my Deadly Sin of choice, but at least it is never shy of providing me with subject matter.
A simple thing, then: all you get is me wittering on semi-coherently about places I’ve eaten at; hence a ‘restaurant blog’ rather than a ‘food blog’, although there are a few recipes scattered throughout.
From mezze to Michelin ‘fine dining’ and all points in between.