It was pouring with rain when we visited Sonder, so we experienced a moment of chrysalism – “the amniotic tranquillity of being indoors during a thunderstorm.”
This is a neologism invented by writer John Koenig, as detailed on his website and YouTube channel, both named The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows, with a book (Simon & Schuster) coming out later this year.
The word sonder is, “the realisation that each random passerby is living a life as vivid and complex as your own”.
I get that feeling too, though more often I’m wondering if everyone else’s days are as grindingly boring and Groundhog-ingly repetitive as mine. I hope so, or my FOMO is justified.
At least my dreary existence is punctuated with the occasional restaurant. I’ll call it a gastrostreik.
This venue is a funny one, since it sprung up without me noticing.
I reviewed a Mexican spot, Diablo Loco, here a few months ago, and it’s already been replaced by this modern European restaurant. They’ve obviously had to paint a lot of layers of greige-green over the skeleton-wearing-a-sombrero mural.
It’s owned by Tessa McCrae, who was behind One Star House Party, which involved taking six chefs round the world for two years, with 20 pop-up restaurants in 20 countries, including Vietnam and Everest Base Camp, Nepal.
Why? Who knows, but now she has Paul Graham, formerly of Edinburgh’s Number One restaurant at the helm of a permanent pit stop.
The menu is Norn-y and Scandi, served as sharing plates.
We went for two amuse bouche style Snacks. The four dollops of scallop ceviche (£6) came on postage stamp-sized black rye crackers and were as fresh as licking a glacier, with tiny cubes in a pale dressing, topped by micro garlic chives.
The similarly finely chopped and yogurt clad sunchoke (£3) nibbles, served on thick game chips, were lovely too, with a hit from feathery celery leaves.
Next was the venison bresaola (£9), from the Land section. Some elements, like the lightly pickled artichoke wedges, nasturtium leaves, and plush pale yellow mayo were lovely, but the meat was a bit of a trial, what with it consisting of rather thickly sliced snottery rare strips. I’ve invented a word, mastiennui, for when you wonder how long you can keep chewing for.
There was a return to form with the gorgeous cod dish (£12), from their Sea section. It featured a slippery piece of burnish skinned fish, and a perfect disc of kohlrabi. There were frosty looking oyster leaves, a mushroom purée and a sauce that was stippled with melted butter.
The Land option of yielding beef short rib (£13) came with a clutch of toasted gnocchi, burnt onions that cupped mustard seed dotted jus, and something we weren’t sure about – a sandily textured walnut purée.
Our only choice from the Garden section was their mushroom dish (£6) – a warm confit egg yolk, served on top of a sweet purée dotted with nibbly bits of mushroom and crumbled bread, with thinly sliced raw mushrooms across the top.
The only thing we missed was my old friend, bread, which wasn’t on the menu or offered. Funny, as it seems like a sourdough-y kind of place.
Honey never seems to appear in desserts, so I enjoyed the sticky amber beads dotted across the plateful of milk parfait (£6). This dish sounds wholesome but was naughtily sweet and creamy, with crumbled meringue across the top.
The strawberry option (£6.50) was more ordinary, but still enjoyable, thanks to the billed fruit along with crumbled biscuit, a scoop of berry sorbet and meringue straws. I kept rooting about for the funny knobbly bits of praline-y biscuit. I don’t know what they were, but I would truffle through a midnight forest for them.
There could not be a better place to enjoy a couple of hours of chrysalism.
I am now having a moment of exulansis (“the tendency to give up trying to talk about an experience because people are unable to relate to it”).
Perhaps you should discover this rather nice restaurant for yourself.