Sonder – elegant small plate dining in Newington

‘I go by here on the bus almost every day,’ said the friend I was meeting at Sonder, ‘I’ve always thought it looks nice.’ And it does. Bright and fresh in medium wood, white and sage green, it’s an inviting and cheerful space. The kitchen is open which gives the restaurant a friendly, honest feel. We settled into our booth and had a quick scan of the menu.

Cod in the foreground, mackerel in the background.

Cod in the foreground, mackerel in the background.

The pros and cons of small plates

Sonder is a small plate dining kind of place. Small plates is a rising trend because, as I overheard someone say last night “who wants to eat a three course meal?” Well.

I want to eat a three course meal sometimes. The benefit of small plates – which tend to come with a sharing ethos – is that you get to try more food. That’s a huge plus in my book. But there are negatives: it can be difficult to judge how many dishes you need; as with any sharing concept it can be awkward to adjust for differing sizes in appetite and speeds of eating. But, if you know what you’re going for, and whom you’re eating with, you’re fine.

What we ate

The menu is organised into snacks, garden, sea and land. Then there’s a large, seasonal sharing plate – three cuts of lamb the day we went. We passed on the snacks (although the venison bresaola was tempting, as was the focaccia) and ordered from the garden and sea sections of the menu.

We went for two plates each and topped with dessert. It worked out well: we each got one large-ish and one small plate.

Garden

The gnocchi were generous and colourful. Fried for texture (and flavour) the filled gnocchi were served with creamy cheese and pea sauce.

Gnocchi. This is a plate I'd like to revisit.

Gnocchi. This is a plate I’d like to revisit.

The mushroom with confit yolk, buckwheat crisps and crispy shallots. It was a perfect morsel of creamy mushroom pure, unctuous yolk and crispy, earthy buckwheat crackers.

Mushroom, egg and buckwheat. Delicate, unctious and moreish.

Mushroom, egg and buckwheat. Delicate, unctious and moreish.

Sea

My braised cod on borlotti beans and broad beans in a creamy sauce. It was very satisfying: the cod perfectly cooked, the beans tender and juicy.

Meanwhile, my companion’s mackerel with smoked yoghurt, cucumber and dill oil looked as fresh as it tasted. Mackerel is such a lovely fish and here it was handled with a deft touch.

Mackerel, cucumber and dill. Fresh as a daisy.

Mackerel, cucumber and dill. Fresh as a daisy.

Had we gone for the land option, we may have had beef short rib with watercress and soy, or partridge, cranberries, pear and granola.

Dessert

We found room for dessert. I had the lemon: lemon ice cream on a crunchy base, meringue, creamy curd. It was tangy and lush and very yummy indeed.

Lemon, lemon, lemon.

Lemon, lemon, lemon.

My friend went for the all-out chocolate option: chocolate cherry brownie, mousse, chocolate crisps and Morello cherry syrup.

The food at Sonder is elegant and interesting. There wasn’t anything on the menu I didn’t want to eat. Clever thinking and seasonal ingredients combine into a measured menu with three or four options per section. Pick and mix, share or don’t share, and enjoy. Excellent service and great food will make you feel good about your choices.

Sonder

74-78 South Clerk Street
Edinburgh, EH8 9PT

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Instagram: @restaurantsonder | Facebook@SonderRestaurant

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About Caroline von Schmalensee

Cooking, eating and drinking is fun as well as necessary. I do food for fun and I write for a living. Good food makes the world a more delicious and satisfying place. Good writing, meanwhile, can make the world a less confusing place.

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