RiverTribe Editor Linda Duberley visits a much-awaited culinary launch at a familiar address to find out whether its new incarnation cuts the mustard.
I have been heading to Barnes for a bite to eat at Sonny’s Kitchen for more years than I care to remember.
My first visit was not long after it opened in the eighties – and with a brief break during which I worked as a foreign correspondent in Hong Kong – I have been going there regularly ever since. In fact, the week after I returned to the UK I bumped into Lavender and Chris Patten who had both left a year earlier when he finished as the last Governor of HK – in my eyes the ultimate seal of approval – since he had done the rounds of some of the most respected restaurants in the colony.
I could not imagine there was very much Restaurateur Rebecca Mascarenhas could do to improve upon the establishment she co-owns with Phil Howard, so firmly established Sonny’s had become in my heart and mind. Long hours as a presenter at Sky News meant I often arrived at Sonny’s with my colleagues tired and wired – in need of a good chat and great food. It delivered more than just sustenance – it restored my equilibrium.
I needn’t have worried. Church Road – the new name for the obvious reason that it is located at No94 – is destined to overtake its predecessor in both food and ambience. Chef Sam Astley Dean has certainly flexed his gastronomic credentials and front of house, General Manager Alan Parry, is the charming conduit between the newly designed 60-seater space and the kitchen brigade.
I pitched up just before Christmas in the mood for festive fare which was not too obvious. I took with me Richmond businesswoman, Dom Day, who owns and runs Bootcamp Pilates and is not known for holding back with her opinions on food.
We both started with cocktails which arrived elegantly served with minimum adornment – just the way we like them.
Dom choose Tartare of aged Cumbrian beef with shaved mushrooms, Parmesan and grilled sourdough and I choose pasta – a hand cut strozzapreti with chanterelles, crispy chicken skin and Parmesan. Do not under-estimate this dish. It is not the most attractive plate but by far the best starter I have had in a long time with. For her main Dom choose prawns with a chestnut gnocchi, butternut, trompettes and truffle and I picked a long term favourite – venison. We finished with a selection of British cheese.
At the start of the meal we asked Alan for his advice on the wine and he directed Dom to a 2015 Cotes de Bourg from Chateau Puybarbe and suggested I try a Sicilian wine – a 2018 Vendemmia.
The meal was easily as good – if not better – than anything I have eaten at Sonny’s in the past. The service was punctual and minus the over-weaning presentation that I find highly irritating and claustrophobic at some other establishments.
All in all – a result. A marriage of style and substance, delivered by knowledgeable staff and set in a space from Nelson Design which combines 1950’s glamour with a industrial edge. The Bar is the ideal spot for drinks, pre or post, a screening at the Olympic Cinema.