Strap on the seatbelt. I’d like to tell you about our crawl of Bristol’s finest wine and cocktail bars prior to dinner at Sonny Stores. Firstly, Bar Ripiena, a small plates wine bar that I can’t tell you about because I never checked the opening time on Google and arrived at 4pm when it was closed. Then Marmo, which I’m told is fantastic but cannot verify because I failed to check the opening hours and arrived when it was closed. We followed this up with The Milk Thistle, which was open, but hard to recommend based on the two cocktails we had which were sweet and little else, and honestly not as good as the ones we had at Pho whilst I was having a Google based existential crisis and needed to get out of the cold. It was this point that my phone rang. It was Sonny Stores; they had booked us a table outdoors – which isn’t ideal for early November – and wanted to move us to a slot one hour later, which was fine bar the fact that the wine bar we’re now walking to is only booked for an hour. That wine bar is great by the way and is called Kask if you are wondering. It’s natural stuff by the glass and bottle, the owner’s dog sits on a stool at the bar, and they are most accommodating when you have an extra hour to kill before eating at the restaurant down the road. I know what you’re thinking; that’s some bar crawl, how did you manage to mess it up so badly? To which I take my index finger and circle the outer lines of my face. Welcome to my pitiful world.
So Sonny Stores, a little sober and a little later than planned. The all white, slightly crammed interior with the blackboard on the wall handwritten with the days menu. Well-made negroni and a wine list that doesn’t take the piss – I like it here and I’d like to live opposite please – followed by little snacks of chickpea flour fritters which are nice but not a patch on the ones from Friggitoria Chiluzzo in Palermo. A miniature pizza of guanciale, pecorino and violet artichokes make me wish I’d been around for the sourdough pizza business they ran from home over lockdown. The dough has the puffed out chest like it should be wearing Stoney Island whilst defending a statue, whilst the toppings are salty and crisp. It’s impeccable. Lamb ribs are a little more hard work, not quite easing away from the bone, though the salsa verde is a punchy, salty hit packed with anchovy. On the way to the toilet I tell them it’s the best salsa verde I can recall eating. I’m sticking by that.
Two pasta dishes complete our order. There should have been more, but to be honest we’d over eaten that day and the delay in timings meant we were pushing it to get to the bar which would have charged my card for a no-show. A pappardelle with a big green vegetal sauce made from Cavolo Nero that is a masterclass in pasta making and the dish of the night, an agnolotti of pork and nutmeg in melted butter and little else. Just total trust in the ingredients and the kitchen. Simplicity personified. Absolute perfection.
The bill checks in at about forty quid a head. Add the easily achievable extra course and you’ll still struggle to hit sixty each. That’s a lot of high quality food for not a lot of money. We jump in a taxi and head to Filthy XIII, which is quickly becoming one of my favourite bars in the UK. The staff behind the bar are jealous of our dinner and so they should be.Sonny Stores is superb.