8th March 2017
With its imposing interior, Sofia may be intimidating at first, but its versatile menu appeals to many and is more casual than you think.

Driving past Gunawarman Street, the exterior of The Gunawarman is unmistakably imposing. A venture of Syah Establishments — a lifestyle-oriented group behind Ling Ling, Bau-Haus 1933, and Lucy In The Sky — the building is a boutique hotel that boasts a restaurant called Sofia, a lavish European-style restaurant located at the ground floor of the hotel.

Bearing a modern neo-classical facade, the building seems detached from its surroundings and so does the interior of Sofia. Blue velvet chairs, marbled tabletops, ornate classic lamps, all basking in a glorious sunlight flooding in from the high arched windows. The vibe feels opulent and polished that it conjures up an impression that one needs to dress up to the nines when dining here.

However, it would be wrong to write Sofia off from your go-to list based on that. While some of the menu names might curl your eyebrows, such as their delicious Salmon Ikura with Jalapēno Bearnaise, the rest of the dishes is rooted on popular Western and Asian fares, and is far from complicated. For instance, a table consisting a group of friends sees Chicken Confit placed next to Squid Ink Tagliatelle, Sop Buntut and Wagyu Striploin.

At one point, one might feel pressured to carry out meticulous table manner; but Sofia quickly tackles that impression by featuring finger food options. Choices like sandwich and pizza would put you at ease, in a similar way Sofia’s Iga Bakar (a succulent 8-hour braised ribs served with rice and sambal matah) would prompt you to go all out with your hands, as unglamorous as it may appear in front of other patrons.

The types of crowd that frequent Sofia are varied. On most days you’ll find a ladies-who-lunch club, helping themselves with Sofia’s brunch menu. On lunchtime, a big group of family shares a big plate of pasta, while their kids run around Sofia’s backyard. Towards the evening, gentlemen with cigars occupy the leather chairs, engaging in hushed conversations.

All in all, it makes up an experience that feels detached of its surrounding neighbourhood; one moment it feels as if you’re having breakfast overseas. Whichever image of Sofia that is conjured up in one’s mind, it is certainly a pleasing one.