Sonrisa Leicester

We were invited along to try new Argentinian restaurant Sonrisa today. I gathered Bam Bam up on one of the hottest days of the year so far and we went into the light and airy converted bank on the corner of St Martin’s and Peacock Lane. It’s great to see this beautiful building back in use. They have done a lovely job on the finish and it is incredibly beautiful, although I think I’m done with all of these fake plants “bringing the outdoors indoors” spaces now. Looking forward to that trend finishing.

A Beautiful Building

That said, the space is majestic enough to take it well. The mezzanine level, which was my favourite place to sit when this building was the Delilah deli, is still fitted for seating, although I’m not entirely sure what the view will be like now! Service was warm and attentive. However, the team seemed a little embarrassed that so many items were off during our visit. I guess that they are still working out their order patterns, especially with a hot bank holiday just behind us. However, while I can in principle forgive this, I did feel a little frustrated. I basically ended up having to make an entirely new order as nothing I wanted was available!

It’s more than 10 years since we were in Argentina. I was looking forward to having some dishes to bring back the flavours of that trip for me. To this end I was pretty disappointed that there were no empanadas available. They are an absolute classic and an abiding memory for me. I also didn’t get to try the octopus which pretty much sounded like the star dish. Musn’t grumble though I suppose.

What to eat

What we did order was all pretty universally beautifully presented and delicious. The food is relatively reasonably priced I think. You are dealing with a vast selection of small plates. Treat it as you would a tapas restaurant on the whole. The steak dishes are complete meals and come in around the £30 mark. Not cheap, but the quality of the meat makes it good value. The rest of the menu comes in from about £3.50 up to around £7.95. I would personally say you need 3 or 4 dishes for a decent meal.

The Boy ordered the Iberian lamb loin which sounded delicious on the menu. And so it was, but at £12.95 I think he was a little disappointed with the portion size. He had to have some more food when we got home!! Bam Bam came along and had a few mouthfuls of each of my dishes. She thoroughly enjoyed them, and had two forks. Which meant we all kept a wide berth!

These dishes included the smoked Morcilla tortilla. This was a very lovely tortilla with a tasty chive butter dressing. Unfortunately, the Morcilla, a nice black pudding style of sausage, wasn’t really particularly noticeable as there was such a small amount crumbled on top. Similarly, the calamari fell a little flat. It was a little anemic and flavourless – although this was helped by the accompanying lemon aioli. Regular readers will know calamari is very important to me. I have to stress though, neither of these dishes were bad. They were just not quite as nice as the others.

Sonrisa Small Plates

The garbanzos – billed as chickpeas with spinach and topped with almonds – tasted really good. However I was surprised that the dish was mainly tomatoes and carrot, which I didn’t even know would be in there at all! So there were just a light sprinkling of actual chickpeas and spinach. They were very nice, but I wanted more! Next up were the cured beef croquettes which were stonking, but I needed at least 5 in a portion, not 3, because they were very petite. These were the bechamel school of croquette – meltingly soft, perfectly seasoned and lovely and crisp on the outside. I also had the potato fry, which turned out to be a stack of chips with truffle oil and Parmesan.

Drinky Poos

I paired my selection of dishes with a refreshing Chilean Chardonnay. It made me laugh that all of the wines by the glass, pretty much, were from Chile. I remember a wine-loving friend in Mendoza telling us that Argentine people saw Chilean wine as cheap plonk. People in Chile told me much the same in reverse! Anyway, they are two very different countries with two different food cultures, so it is a bit of a shame that the wine list isn’t particularly Argentinian. I was hoping for a glass of Torrontes on this beautifully hot day. There is only one Torrontes on the menu and that is a blend. The red wines also are not universally from Argentina, but there are a couple of interesting-looking Malbecs on there.

It is a nice list, but in my opinion, Sonrisa have missed a trick as they are an Argentinian restaurant and yet the pub around the corner, the Knight & Garter, has arguably a better Argentine selection that offers better value. That said, they have Quilmes, which I have fond memories of drinking in litre bottles. It’s the A N Other South American lager that each country on the continent seems to have, so I wouldn’t necessarily go out of my way to order it (the Lagunitas on keg is drinking very well) but I was glad to see it.

Final Thoughts on Sonrisa

Overall, I liked it a lot. We were sat out of the way by the open kitchen, so on such a hot day we did get quite warm. However it was worth it to have the hubbub of the working kitchen in my ear, and the delicious deep smoky smell of the grill in my nostrils. The baby had enough and was starting to scream like a tiny blond banshee at this point. So we weren’t able to stay for dessert or more drinks unfortunately, but I am already looking forward to returning and hopefully getting to try all the dishes I missed. The food is great quality and reasonable value – there were just one or two portion sizes that felt a little miserly. But the flavour was great. I also hope that they are able to get their outdoor seating sorted soon, as it’s a great people watching spot out there next to Cathedral Gardens. A great addition to the city.

I was invited to visit Sonrisa and our meal was complimentary. My review is a reflection of my honest opinion of my visit.


Bestselling author and freelance drinks writer. Champion of pubs and breweries. Occasional printmaker.

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