SONRISA: A WONDERFUL TASTE OF BUENOS AIRES IN THE HEART OF LEICESTER
Disclosure: I was a guest of Sonrisa with a plus one. Our experience was in exchange for this review and related social media coverage. All opinions are honest and my own and together with the photography remain a copyright of be-lavie.
The heart of historic Leicester welcomes Sonrisa, a place guaranteed to make you smile as the name suggests but also transport you to the neighbourhoods of the Argentinian capital of good air, Buenos Aires and fill you with the culinary vibes of Latin America!
Located in the spot of a former savings bank dating back to 1873 and housed in a beautifully transformed and restored Grade II listed property, Sonrisa is right where it needs to be in the heart of Leicester’s independent shops, eateries and medieval beginnings.
Speaking to owner Jabbar Khan, during a tour of Sonrisa a few weeks back, he explained he scoped out the particular location after many visits to the city and wanted the city of Leicester with its mix of cultures and cuisines to play home to Sonrisa, Comida Argentina.
You may be familiar with Jabbar Khan, an award-winning restauranteur from Birmingham, heading the Lasan Group of restaurants which include Fiesta del Asado; the Indian style cafe, Raja Monkey, and his new Portuguese-Indian venture, Estado da India. Sonrisa is his first venture out of Birmingham.
The Comida Interiors
With such an impressive exterior, the interiors do not disappoint. These were taken care of by designer Mel Spencer of Spencer Swinden Design, based in Bromsgrove. The restaurant has a bright, light and airy feel with large windows and a double-height glass ceiling, which can be seen from the mezzanine floor.
Think lush green plants you see along the tiled streets of Buenos Aires and the colours of a traditional Argentinian comida in the furnishings and taken accents. Beautiful teals, burnt oranges, light golds, mustards and hues of dark and navy blues interspersed with wooden accents of the tables and chairs.
Artwork and wall coverings are carefully chosen prints, tango silhouetted parings and relevant tonal ceramic and wooden plates and bowls.
One of the striking features of Sonrisa is an open kitchen where you can watch the theatre of food – a relationship between the chefs and the ingredients being played out before you as you inhale the intoxicating smells that are being cooked up.
The restaurant is divided up into distinct areas with an impressive bar running along the length of the building. Note the beautiful floor tiles which seamlessly blend in with the rest of the interiors. Take a sit on the bar stools and high top tables or comfy sofa seating and soft furnishings for drinks or coffee, a table on the main floor for a soiree with friends, or a padded seat location along the windows, a couples seat opposite the open kitchen or even opt for a seat on the mezzanine level amidst the plants, there’s a location to suit all.
Oh and not to forget the outdoor seating on the wrap around terrace for an al fresco experience.
There’s an impressive list of beverages on offer at Sonrisa with your regular soft drinks, lagers and beers accompanied by a fantastic list of cocktails including classics, as well as twists on the classics, some which are well suited to replace a dessert such as the white chocolate Espresso Martini. If you like your cocktails with a spot of drama, there are a few to try from. I’d recommend the Mendoza surprise, which comes in a round bottom conical flask flowing with dry ice. It was a delicate concoction of amoretto with pineapple, lime and passionfruit liqueur.
The Argentinian twist on the classic Old Fashioned isn’t too bad either.
As well as a great mix of wines, no Argentinian restaurant would be complete without a selection of Malbecs. I was delighted to see a variety of light to medium Malbecs from Mendoza sourced from Bodega Norton. These ae available by the bottle or glass. The Porteño Malbec was packed with flavours of dark forest fruits and wild spice accents, with a lovely long lingering taste.
The Small Plates
The dining concept at Sonrisa is small plates, great for sharing with meat, seafood and veggie options. I’d recommend 4/5 small plates per person depending on appetite of course.
The menu is split into Platitos (which translates to saucers, appetizers great with drinks), Mariscos (seafood), Pasta & Arroz (Pasta & Rice), Verduras (vegetables), Parrilada (barbecue), Carne (meats), Ensaladas (salads) and Postres (desserts).
If you’re a steak lover, you’ll literally be in heaven, you’ll know all about Argentina and their relationship with producing good quality steaks and meat dishes. Seafood lovers, i’m suitably informed the calamari, halibut and octopus go done a treat.
Veggies, there are plenty of dishes packed full of delicate and similarly ‘pack a punch’ flavours but do try some of the actual veggie life tenderstem broccoli and the cauliflower. They also make perfect sides to the meat dishes.
Small plates arrive as and when they’re ready from the kitchen so prepare for a steady stream of food arriving at your table.
Gordial Olives: pitted juicy green olives stuffed with guindilla chillies. The perfect accompaniment to drinks and the perfect way to start your experience at Sonrisa, whilst you decide on your small plates.
Calamari: crispy rings of fried squid, with dipping sauce of roasted garlic and lemon aioli. I was suitably informed these were not oily, perfectly and delicately cooked to preserve the flavour and were made even more delicious with the aioli.
Potato Terrine: Layers of potato topped with garlic aioli and pickled shallots. Potato lovers, this one’s for you, a beautifully refined tatty dish with a burst of flavour from the aioli!
Red Pepper Empanada: Argentinian pastry filled with a mix of roasted peppers and potato served with a cress salad and apricot chimichurri, a fresh sauce also containing oregano and parsley, descending from Argentina and Uruguay. Lightly flavoured pastry empanada with a fresh kick from the chimichurri.
Tender Stem Cauliflower: Lightly tossed in parsley butter with red chilli and garlic. Never underestimate the power of vegetables. This was a beautiful simple flavoursome dish to have on it’s own as I did and would make a great side for the meats. The chilli provides a perfect but not over powering kick.
Garlic and Parsley Fries: Exactly what it says. These are simple and crispy but a real classic and were great to dip into throughout the meal.
Wild Mushroom Croquettes: Crispy wild mushrooms with a. porcini mushroom puree and a red pepper side. Perfectly fried and light and full of delicate wild mushroom flavour.
Lamb Cutlet: As advised by my plus one, a perfectly cooked (pink) sliced lamb cutlet with a butter bean ribollita, reminiscent of a Tuscan butter bean soup, and a fresh mint chimichurri. The time this was demolished in, meat eaters, this is one on your, must-try list!! Also goes well with the parsley and garlic fries.
Potato Fry: A stack of thick cut potato fries topped with parmesan, black pepper and truffle oil, A truly crispy, decadent Tuscany meets Latin America feel.
The Dessert or Postres
The dessert is an event you must set aside that extra space for! It would be sacrilege to miss as I believe we chose our sweet ending very wisely! Allow me to temp you a little…
Essentially Sonrisa’s sticky toffee pudding equivalent! A warming hearty dessert with flavours of spice, drizzle of toffee sauce and finished with a scoop of vanilla ice-cream. A rich and comforting flavour.
Orange Polenta Cake
A beautifully moist orange cake served with a zingy orange curd paired with a blood orange sorbet and topped with sweet orange segments. Fresh and perfect for a substantial slice of summer pudding delight!
Oh and a coffee finish for the win. Real chocolate shavings dress all cappuccinos!
Although service was a little slow and there were a few extra plates delivered to our table that we hadn’t ordered, this can be forgiven for the shear quality of the ingredients and dishes. Sonrisa is no doubt a colourful, much needed dining experience to hit Leicester city centre. Prepare to be transported by the interiors, flavours and small plates synonymous to the scenes of Latin America. A special occasion place, great for date nights, family dining and the perfect atmosphere for a friends soiree, this is somewhere you will just have to try for yourself!
- Address: Sonrisa. 4 St Martins. Leicester. LE1 5DB
- Tel: 0116 2628455
- Website: Sonrisa
- Open daily, booking recommended to avoid disappointment.
All that’s left to say is, Te veo pronto a Sonrisa!
Whats’ Next? Further Leicester Posts:
- The Ultimate weekend Guide to Leicester
- Novotel Leicester: Contemporary Hotel Review
- A locals’s Guide to Historic Leicester