Fall under the spell of the power of flour at Sonflour

In the 90s, I worked as a chef in a vegetarian restaurant. Vegetarianism was still a “minority sport,” but on the verge of breaking into the mainstream, transforming itself from middle-class hippie preoccupation and finding a whole new body of support among urban, often working-class youth; from sandals to Doc Martens all at once.

I knew plenty of vegetarians from both tribes. I myself am a recovering vegetarian. Yet the few vegans hovering on the outskirts were considered downright bizarre, even extremist, by vegetarians. Choosing to live a life without eggs, dairy or honey? I briefly dated a lovely woman who happened to be vegan. I liked it a lot but, honestly, I didn’t take veganism seriously.

In 2011, Doc Martens released a leather-free “vegan” version of his signature shoes – “They” weren’t gone.

I discovered My Goodness Food, a progressive vegan catering company based in Cork that has satisfied thousands of committed carnivores at festivals across Ireland. I now add Sonflour to these meatless milestones, as a vegetarian/vegan Italian restaurant in Cork City is certainly unique.

Yes, “Italian”, a cuisine that gave us salami, a myriad of charcuterie, mainly pork-based, which could be read like a poem about smut:

Prosciutto, capocollo, lardo, guanciale,/Mortadella, ‘nduja, pancetta, salami.

I could go on, but you get my drift; most people associate ‘Italy’ with ‘meat’, as they associate ‘heart’ with ‘beat’. But Italian cuisine is full of meatless, even vegan dishes, especially La Cucina Povera (“poor people’s kitchen”) in southern Italy, where harsh peasant life considered meat a rare luxury.

Lorenzo Barba and Eugenio Nobile.

The result are iconic and delicious dishes: Cacio e Pepe, a vegetarian Roman dish of spaghetti and black pepper, deliciously sauced with cooking water and Pecorino Romano; vegan Cicera e Tria, from Puglia, eggless pasta ribbons made with semolina and water, some fried, some boiled, served with chickpeas. It reads like bland, it’s extraordinarily good.

The Sonflour experience begins when you walk through the door, something indefinable bubbling in the air, speaking of effortless ease and joyful relaxation, none of the laborious “dolce vita” schtick of more calculated Italian establishments.

It may be the dogs, huddled under several tables, also welcome at Sonflour. It may be the record player, the guests are free to choose the albums. Or maybe it’s how young Italian homeowners Eugenio Nobile and Lorenzo Barba transformed a small, cramped room into a funky, bright space. The Blackboard counter encloses a small open kitchen, hanging plants hang from the ceiling, and 17 seats, plus a sofa, are wedged into the remaining room.

Starving SpouseGirl rush orders bites of socca farinata, a savory herbed chickpea flour pancake with vegan pesto, sponge cake but no parmesan, and a slow-cooked tomato passata; a simple and tasty starter to get the juices flowing while we order.

The name gives the game, but wheat is at the heart of Sonflour’s menu and, as the impeccable sourcing is almost entirely local, seasonal and highly sustainable – with the exception of some specialty Italian items – the flour comes from Little Mill , in County Kilkenny.

It is used to make fresh focaccia, pizzas and pastas. Save a salad and fried potatoes, that pretty much sums up a basic, clean offering. The Daughter (itself made from 98% wheat, mostly bread and pasta) has found its spiritual home.

Focaccia Vinyl 45 is made with thin layers of Ligurian-style dough, sandwiching melted Macroom buffalo mozzarella and herbs, crispy edges, soft and creamy center. The soft garlic bread is lightly fried focaccia, with caramelized garlic and Irish sea salt, again above the norm.

George Costanza Salad is fresh, green, Derek Hannon’s Greenfield Farm leaves with a marinated rosemary apple, baked chickpeas, tomatoes, carrots and seasonal flowers, with a thyme and yogurt vinaigrette of soy.

The George Costanza salad.
The George Costanza salad.

The pizza is a rectangular Roman flatbread, plump pillow, crisp golden edges, fluffy airy center, topped with this slow-cooked passata, fresh herbs, garlic sautéed mushrooms, and oven-roasted peppers. , with a sweet astringent pickled juniper tail onion.

There is a selection of pasta sauces. La Daughter has linguine with slow-cooked vintage tomatoes, carrots, garlic and herbs, reduced to a mouth-watering, earthy puree, dressed in EVOO. Our other linguine comes with a creamy mash of ground walnuts, garlic and EVOO, anchored by the fungal umami of truffle oil.

Sonflour is located on Castle Street, Cork.
Sonflour is located on Castle Street, Cork.

Al dente hazelnut ravioli, home to understated sweet potatoes, are with Norma(l) People, an oily, garlicky mix of creamy sweet fried eggplant, tangy caramelized tomatoes and savory nuts. It’s my favorite of the three.

A tiny wine list is perfectly drawn up, including four natural wines. SpouseGirl has a bold, medium-bodied Soave (Filippi, Soave Colli Scaligeri DOC Monteseroni); my Barbera (‘Brich’, DOC Piemonte, Agricola Gaia), is a crunchy black fruit, easy to handle in every dish.

The desserts are good: white chocolate and raspberry cheesecake, light, with tangy berries; Belgian vegan chocolate mousse combining deep cocoa with a delicious and ineffable lightness.

Sonflour is a joy from start to finish. Certainly, this can be improved: adding textural crunch, perhaps including more raw, preserved or pickled vegetables and increasing the acid notes would bring more contrast and intrigue to a singular but still splendid menu; it’s perfect for a single dish and a glass of fine wine, but more variety would greatly enhance full meal options.

This is all in perspective: Nobile and Barba had anticipated a gradual and gentle introduction, allowing for a slow evolution, but were quite stunned by the immediacy and vigor of the local Leeside welcome, almost instantly embracing Sonflour in its collective bosom. . This welcome is quite understandable; Sonflour will only improve to become a true Cork keeper.

The verdict

Food: 8

Services: 8

Value: 9

Atmosphere: 9

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€140 (excluding tip, including coffee, wine and soft drinks)

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