By Ifan Davies
THE CROFT / Ifan Davies reviews Sonny Stores, the bright and welcoming Southville restaurant offering Italian food with a twist; full of dishes bursting with creative yet comforting flavours, it's clear this place is not one to miss.
Nestled in a small residential area of Southville, Sonny Stores is an Italian-themed restaurant offering a daily-changing menu that utilises fresh, seasonal ingredients. The small yet bustling restaurant boasts a small, sophisticated menu for an affordable price, that in no way compromises in quality. I was fortunate to be taken to this wonderful restaurant for lunch by my friend’s family (thank you ever so much to the Chapmans and Bruno).
The restaurant opts for a sleek, bright white decor, differing from the dimly lit, more rustic restaurants that seem to be commonplace around Bristol. Though there are nice decorations throughout, with shelves of cookbooks and scattered trinkets, the choice of décor does somewhat sacrifice the cosy, homely feeling brought on by more rustic furniture.
Upon entering, we were greeted by a lovely waiter that immediately made us feel right at home, and though the restaurant was initially quiet (we arrived right on opening time), it filled up quickly, building a nice lively atmosphere. The waiter explained the set menu of 3 courses for £25, which offered plenty of variety, and we were then left to order.
This is a restaurant where - for the uninitiated like me - you will likely need to google some of the ingredients that appear on the menu. Words such as Treviso, La Tur, Artichoke Giuda, and Pumpkin Pansotti demanded some research to figure out what I was actually ordering.
As a starter, I eventually settled on the Treviso lettuce, grape, La Tur, mint, and fennel salad. The various ingredients all harboured bold flavours, with the slightly bitter seasonal lettuce particularly standing out, yet none of the ingredients overpowered one another; the sweetness of the grapes complimented the strong La Tur cheese and the bitter Treviso lettuce, while the mint added a delicate freshness to the salad. The end result was a perfectly balanced salad that moulded contrasting flavours into one bold dish to leave me feeling like Remy from Ratatouille combining cheese and grape for the first time (I'm sure you know the scene).
I was also lucky enough to get a small slice of my friend Alice’s Pizzeta, which was topped with San Marzano tomato, Nduja, crème fraiche and rocket. The dough was wonderfully crisp but fluffy, and the simple toppings were a great selection of delicate, refined flavours.
For my main course, I chose the pappardelle with beef cheek, vino rosso, and San Marzano ragù sauce, topped with aged parmesan (once again, I hadn’t heard of half the ingredients). The pappardelle pasta was cooked perfectly al dente, the sauce was hearty yet not too heavy, and the beef cheek was amazingly tender. The aged parmesan gave a wonderfully mature, cheesy flavour to the pasta, and even the olive oil drizzled over the dish tasted high quality (night and day compared to what a student like me would buy from the shop).
My initial concern with a small looking portion size was laid to rest after finishing the dish - it was a good amount of pasta, that you could perhaps say leaned towards quality over quantity, but nevertheless did not leave me hungry. The dish was undeniably phenomenal.
For dessert, I chose the meringue with roast muscat grapes and pistachio. It was crispy, flavourful, and not overly sweet. I was overjoyed to see that the grapes - which were the favourite element of my starter salad - made a grand return on this dish, and did not let me down in the slightest.
I’m tempted to say I was lucky to eat here on the day that I did, and experience the menu that was available then. However, I get the impression after reading reviews that this is a restaurant where, no matter what they are cooking, the quality will not falter.
Sonny Stores is a perfect balance of affordability and quality, with inventive yet familiar cuisine. Between the friendly service, brilliant food, and chance to experience dishes and ingredients that I likely never would have tried elsewhere, this was definitely cemented as one of the best lunches I have ever had.
Food - 9/10
Staff and Service - 10/10
Atmosphere and Decor - 7/10
[Feature image: Sonny Stores @ https://www.sonnystores.com/]