Sorella, london sw4 grace dent’s restaurant review life and style the guardian chocolate sourdough bread recipes

Sorella has shape-shifted since its previous incarnation as the manor. It has let its hair down. Out with the chicken butter served on pebbles, liquid nitrogen puddings and partridge autopsies. Farewell to chefs blowtorching mackerel tableside as you shield your eyebrows. Owner robin gill wooed and wowed the food scene’s most nitpicky with puzzling plates of high drama, but he’s now jacked that in, at this venue at least, and started serving pasta. He’s doing the amalfi coast down a clapham backstreet, and on the saturday I swung by, the change was proving popular. As the restaurant world tightens its belt, with new closures daily, I wonder if michelin-flirting whimsy will be a chief casualty of the cold front. For it’s a limited audience who will return to places like the manor time after time, but folk will always want pasta.

Or, more accurately, they’ll always want a flute of rhubarb bellini, then a zinging bowl of fresh linguine with crab and fennel, after perhaps a bowl of breaded, deep-fried sweet nocellara olives and a helping of small, feisty truffle arancini.Always want this is now a neighbourhood joint where families sit and honk with laughter, rather than a room where serious souls bearing canon EOS 5D mark III 22.3 MP dslrs harvest content.

I’ve heard tell of earnest couples arriving for dinner with the stoic wife “carrying the husband’s lighting kit”, which to me feels like decree nisi-standard unreasonable behaviour. That said, during the antipasti at sorella, I did try to a take a photograph of a plate of jersey milk ricotta that came with a sticky olive tapenade in a deepest oxblood hue and a puddle of parmesan. Yes, you can make parmesan puddly. The three fluids were presented in a beige bowl. In 2018, it felt like a power move to serve something so baldly unpretty: “here is a plate for eating swiftly, not for instagramming,” it seemed to say. “it is a wobbly, unctuous gathering of premium-standard, dribbly things.Facebook twitter pinterest it will need at least two servings of the fresh semolina sourdough for dunking.”

The menu is small but mighty. There are six aperitivi, including an americano and a negroni, with the vermouth made on site. After dozens of attempts, this may be the first time I’ve ever truly enjoyed vermouth. My north-west english palate is distrustful of vermouth after an 80s fuelled on cinzano bianco pilfered from donna brighouse’s mother’s MFI drinks cabinet. But sorella’s homebrew is sweet, silky and lovable. It does not make me want to turn my school tie into a headband and pogo to white wedding by billy idol. Not at lunchtime, anyway.

Facebook twitter pinterest sorella’s jersey milk ricotta with sticky olive tapanade: ‘A plate for eating, not for instagramming.’ photograph: karen robinson for the guardian

So, yes, aperitivi, cicchetti, a smattering of black pepper coppa, some 20-month-aged prosciutto, then you’re on to the primi: that linguine, beef ragù tagliatelle.Barley affogato unfussy, but at the same time fabulous. The cep gnocchi with wild mushrooms is outstanding. Forget those charmless pellets you’ve had before: these are gnocchi like no other – thick, heavenly lumps of wanton carb action. They come with an offer to “pimp” them with truffle for an extra £10, if you’re a fan of ceremonial grating, which I am not.

A side of crisp potatoes had gone through an irresistible, multiple-fried concertina process, so what you’re presented with is a plate of spud squeezeboxes to smear in any runny things present. That day, the secondi featured cod with chard and squid ink, and a saddleback chop with chard and ’nduja, but my table craved the venison meatballs on polenta, topped with a fried egg, which they demolished. The only thing they found to complain about was that there was too much venison. There, readers, is the very definition of a good lunch.Facebook twitter

Facebook twitter pinterest sorella’s malted barley affogato with vodka-laced milk: humble-seeming, but you’ll end up being territorial over it. Photograph: karen robinson for the guardian

The dolci are too bloody much, though. Sorella does a humble-seeming crunchy malted barley affogato with vodka-laced milk over which I became madly territorial. This was naughty nursery food for badly behaved long lunchers. Yes, there was a very good bay leaf panna cotta and a chocolate fennel gelato, too, but the affogato won by miles. The last time I went to the manor, I was in and out in 90 minutes and felt educated, but not wholly fed; this time, we stayed five hours and finally left carrying children delivered to the restaurant during the dolci by irate childminders who’d given up on seeing us again. That’s the problem with living la dolce vita in this country: there’s always something who’ll swoop in to remind you that you’re actually not 10 miles from dagenham.Always want

• sorella 148 clapham manor strett, london SW4, 020-7720 4662. Open wed-fri, noon-2.30pm, sat & sun, noon-3pm; tue-sat, 6pm-10pm. £40 a head for three courses plus antipasto and sides.