I love going on dates at restaurants, but I hate “date restaurants.” You know, the ones with the dangerously drippy candles, an abundance of strip steak, and an all-jazz soundtrack. To me, it just feels forced. That’s not the case at new hot spot, Sotto Sopra in Rosebank.
Helmed by Henri Martens, Sotto Sopra is an unquestionably charming, unquestionably diminutive Italian two fold (See what we did there?) cocktail bar meets restaurant tucked along the Keyes Art Mile strip of upmarket and niche restaurants and shops. The cosy space is imbued with Venetian-esque flair inspired by the likes of Carlo Scarpa and from the irreverent and geometric designs of Ettore Sottsass and the Memphis group. From the original art hangings on the walls to the very instagrammable bathrooms.
After perching at the Sotta bar and snagging a bottle of MCC from the all-natural lineup, my partner and I happily ordered half the menu at Sopra. It was late summer on Valentine’s Day, so we were especially spoiled: Stuffed Calamari with Olives, capers, parmesan and breadcrumbs, Smoked duck, fig, baby potatoes and rockets, Twice cooked pulled beef short rib agnolotti, red wine syrup, heirloom, baby carrot and beef reduction. Then there was Foresta di Fungi Risotto with truffle oil, Parmesan, garnished with rocket and liquorice powder. It was too much. It was perfect.
By the time 10 p.m. rolled around, I was completely sold on Sotto Sopra and the Keyes Art Mile. (I’ll admit my mood was influenced by a few glasses of the MCC and the casually chic staff who scribbled down restaurant recommendations on the back of a menu for us in between opening bottles of Champagne for other guests.) And once I returned home, I kept thinking about that meal. Friends have warned me that it’s easiest to love the Keyes district in the heat of summer, but I can’t help but imagine waiting out a winter sunsets at Sotto’s moodily lit bar, or better yet on Sopra’s comfortably plush and cosy couches. What could be more romantic than letting the world go by with a few servings of their Poached pear, burnt caramel mousse, sesame seeds and honeycomb dust as provisions?