There’s nothing we love more than a new opening. It gives you the chance to form your own opinions, choose dishes you’ve heard nothing about, and be the guy who goes “have you been to that place that’s just opened?” So when we heard about new venue, Sonder, we couldn’t wait to go.
Sonder is “the realisation that each random passerby is living a life as vivid and complex as your own.”. It’s particularly apt here as some of the team spent the last 18 months travelling the world with renowned pop up, One Star House Party. They set up in unusual locations, including a boat in Nairobi, and even the base camp of Mount Everest, living pretty vivid and complex lives themselves. Now, owner Trisha, and head chef Paul are bringing their knowledge and cooking skills to Edinburgh.
We headed along on a Friday night, pushing our way through festival goers to reach Sonder on Clerk Street. Sadly, we didn’t have time to think about the rich lives of the passers-by as the August streets were packed with people we really just wanted to hurry up. Arriving at 7pm, we were surprised it wasn’t full, but the staff warmly greeted us, leading us to a booth overlooking the open-plan kitchen.
First impressions were great; the menu has something for everyone, with snacks, garden, sea, and land sections, and a regularly changing “to share” option; great for a group outing. There were lots of ingredients we’d never heard of, but our waiter knew his stuff and explained anything we weren’t sure of. It was a Friday so we ordered a bottle of wine, sitting back to watch the chefs at work as the door constantly swung open with curious new diners.
Between three we ordered a ridiculous amount of food. I’ll just give you the highlights, otherwise we’ll be here all day. The concept is plates to share, but not “small plates.” I’d say each plate is somewhere between a starter and a main, and two-to-three and a little snack should suit per person.
First up was the scallop ceviche, hands down my favourite dish. My “raw fish is gross” friend was wary but we forced her to be adventurous and even she loved it. Served on a squid ink cracker, it’s citrusy, crunchy, and smooth and despite tasting pretty indulgent, you also feel you’ve eaten something healthy.
Another highlight, which you’ll have been drooling over if you follow Sonder’s social media, was the tomato, almond, raspberry, and tomato water dish. I know, it sounds disgustingly healthy, but it’s also disgustingly delicious. The tomatoes tasted like they’d just been pulled from their stalks, and the raspberry water was refreshing and unexpected.
From the above two dishes, you’d be forgiven for thinking we’d visited some sort of health food restaurant. Fear not, our other favourites were pretty indulgent. The beef short rib with walnut and burnt onion elicited some inappropriate noises as we all dug in, only just succeeding in not licking the plate. “Burnt onions” were more like grilled pickles than the pile of overcooked white onions that your dad plonks on your burger at a barbecue, and the walnuts added a great crunch.
With every dish that appeared, our lovely waiter explained what we were about to eat, similar to the style of service we’d appreciated at the One Star House Party pop-up. This might sound a bit annoying, but actually he really seemed to know and care about the ingredients and tended to keep the descriptions short and informative before offering more wine. (See, great service.)
Other dishes included a maple dipped chicken wing from the snacks section, lamb neck with carrot, apricot, and yoghurt, and ricotta with agnoletti, leeks, hazelnut, and whey. They were all delicious and I could ramble on about the softness of the lamb, and the sweetness of the chicken wings, but we’d be here for hours so I’ll just get to desserts.
Oh the desserts. I’m a bit honey obsessed so we were definitely hitting the milk parfait with wild-flower honey and puffed rice. We also went for chocolate praline and caramel, and blue cheese with fig and balsamic. You may think the last one was some sort of cheese course, and so did we. But no. It’s blue cheese ice cream with a figgy jam. We loved it, but if cheese isn’t your thing perhaps steer clear.
We enjoyed the milk parfait, with the wild honey giving really nice floral notes, but it was the chocolate praline that stole the show. The praline was so crispy, it was almost difficult to bite through, while chocolate and carameley goodness hidden below provided the exact level of sugar hit we were looking for.
All in all, this restaurant is a gem. Usually new openings have some quirks that need ironed out, but it’s clear they’ve been running a well-oiled operation for a while. Each dish was executed perfectly, and every detail, down to the house wine, was great. The staff were friendly, without being overbearing, and at no point did we get low on the alcohol front. Lovely atmosphere, lovely food, hunners of wine, and great company? That’s a perfect Friday.