All reader reviews by Justin Dillon


It must be five years since I last visited Sonny's. Barnes is a funny old place and even though it has two railway stations, neither of them is close to Sonny's, but the walk (750 yards from Barnes station) is still worth it. Looking at recent reviews, Sonny's has been through difficult times, however, our experience was uniformly positive, beginning with a warm welcome and delicious brioche in a comfortable and cheery room with the tables sufficiently far apart for relaxed conversations.

There's not much of a choice for vegetarians but my omnivorous friend was well catered for and started with a lobster bisque (£7.25) which he lavished praise on almost immediately. My buffalo mozzarella came with caponata (a Sicilian ratatouille-like disk laden with aubergine, onions, tomatoes, raisins and pine nuts) and a sprinkling of pesto (£5.75). I'm rarely inspired by mozzarella, so the caponata and the pesto stole the show. We splashed out £38 on a bottle of Vouvray, Chateau Gaudrelle. It's described on Sonny's website as tasting of 'apples sauted (sic) in butter' with 'delicious fresh acidity'. Once it had warmed up a bit, it oozed pleasure.

Main courses arrived promptly and were very well presented. My friend's halibut (£18) was softer at one end than at the other – he remembered halibut as being quite firm, so was initially a bit reticent but was won over. My pithivier (£15.75) was a treat: a light pastry dome with an egg-shine filled with goat's cheese and spinach. We complemented the mains with a bottle of Bourgeuil, "Les Vingts Lieux Dit" (£24.50).

I finished the meal with a slice of chocolate mousse cake with calvados ice cream and stewed apple (£6), which turned out to be a good choice. My friend had a glass of vin santo (£7.50) with two large cantuccini. A small cafetiere of coffee (£2.75) set us up for the walk back to the station.

As the afternoon progressed, more locals turned up and for a while it was at least two-thirds full, with a mixture of families, couples and friends. As we were settling the bill, a couple next to us compared the previous chef to the current one: "This one's better", they agreed. It seems as though the current management have returned Sonny's to its former glories and that its regulars are happy.

Sunday, April 20, 2008
Overall rating 8 stars
Food 8 | Service 8 | Atmosphere 8 | Value for money 8


A friend from Stratford-on-Avon wanted to try something that he couldn’t get at home so, after a quick search, I plumped for Ran. As it happened, I’d been there a couple of years ago with a Korean PhD student and a visiting academic from Seoul and had a very good meal then. It was busy, even though it was a Wednesday night, and we found ourselves stuck between two couples on a table for six, but we soon got used to that. My friend volunteered to go ‘veggy’ for the evening and we started off with ‘traditional cabbage’ kimchi (£2.20) and a selection of namul (£4.50), including spinach with sesame seed, which were all delicious and lasted us throughout the meal. Starters were rice cakes with chilli (£4.95) and mung bean soufflé pancakes (£6.95). The rice cakes were mouth-sized tubes of rice paste served in a sweet red pepper sauce which was very satisfying and yet quite unusual. The pancakes were tasty and a good complement to the rice cakes. For mains we had a dolsot bibimbap (£7.95), which my friend thought was fabulous, and a spicy soft tofu chige (£7.95), which he thought was bordering on being pointless, although I thought both dishes were very good. Altogether, with a bottle of Australian Reisling (£19.75) and a beer, the bill (including service) came to £65.25. The service throughout was very friendly and attentive and we were even asked how we managed sitting rather closer to other diners than we might have wished. No wonder Ran is so busy, it delivered a memorable meal, efficiently, in comfortable surroundings and at a price which seemed reasonable.

Thursday, November 08, 2007
Overall rating 8 stars
Food 8 | Service 9 | Atmosphere 7 | Value for money 7

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