Edinburgh’s Southside has become quite the place for creative restaurants.

Down at the end of Dalkeith Road furthest away from town, there’s the excellent Edinburgh Food Studio. Unless you’re local it’s a bit of a hike, but hugely worth the journey: original, exciting, reliably so. Up towards Grange you’ll find Condita. Its languorous tasting menu unfolds pleasurably. Both these restaurants are the antithesis of suburban.

Now Sonder underlines the up and coming nature of the Southside’s restaurant scene. Its premises have probably housed several restaurants. Its situation, in an area permanently noisy with fast food shops and delivery bikes, is distinctly downtown compared to EFS and Condita.

Sonder works from a clipped, sparse menu with dishes in the £7-15 bracket, arranged by “garden”, “sea”, “land” categories. You see into the kitchen; you smell the cooking. It’s an all-male team both front of house and at the stove tonight. My confidence builds as I see the chef with a teaspoon, checking flavours and seasoning with a teaspoon.

Same story as usual: dishes come in random order, at the whim of the kitchen. This is becoming a convention in small plates restaurants. Increasingly it irks me. You end up eating, say, cold cucumber after hot meat, a system that suits the kitchen, not the diner.

We toy with a “snack” of salt cod mousse. It looks like a soft, cloud shaped meringue. Commendably, its salt has been restrained, but it needs something to deliver it from blandness. Lemon olive oil, or black pepper, maybe? The visual high point is its dehydrated cod skin, which has a popcorn-like texture with pretty silver and gold-glinting scales that taste only ever so slightly fishy.

Pace is uneven. The salt cod comes quickly, there’s a long gap, and then three dishes arrive back-to-back. This isn’t relaxing. They vie with each other and set up the dilemma of which to taste first.

We bite into the crustily fried gnocchi, which do look lovely in a foamy green wild garlic espuma, but they’re just a bit gluey in the centre. Salsify? Done three ways: roasted, pickled, puréed? Can’t say no to that. The vegetable looks like a million dollars and the cooking is on point: a little crunchy, yet not losing that seductive silkiness. Blobs of black (aged) garlic add a visually pleasing contrast to the silver spears, and pack a welcome fruity, chocolate-like punch. This dish is meant to involve whey, a currently fashionable ingredient, although I can’t detect it.

Descriptions are cryptic. “Asparagus, duck egg, dashi” consists of green spears, which are excessively salty, presumably from the dashi (Japanese stock made with seaweed and Bonito fish flakes) is accompanied by two puddles, one green (asparagus puréed, we think), the other custard-coloured and reminiscent of over-vinegary mayonnaise. This is the egg, I assume.

Sonder has a knack for colourful jumbles of unusual ingredient combinations. Our plate of white braised squid, bright orange burnt carrot purée, and claret-hued radicchio is head-turning enough to make a magazine cover. In flavour terms though, it doesn’t hang together. The radicchio introduces a burnt, bitterness that makes the squid seem insipid.

Melting beef short rib and bone marrow, topped with soft, slight vinegary shallots and mustard seed, flanked by a sateen cauliflower purée, crispy cavalo nero, all sitting in a rich, clear gravy, hit a satisfaction point other dishes haven’t reached. They had flavours of watercolour intensity; I prefer the culinary equivalent of oil paints.

We ignore the enigmatically, some might say pretentiously named “strawberries, cereal milk, Szechuan” dessert for one that reads “lemon, white chocolate, saffron, polenta”. We get (deliberately) dehydrated polenta cake that is actually engagingly edible, pungent with saffron. It could do with more of its curdy lemon gel to act as a foil for the thin shards of broken meringue, but the amiably crunchy cake element pleases the palate. “Chocolate, mint, caramel” is a truncated description of what turns out to be a well-made chocolate mousse, served with a glorious fresh mint ice cream, and emerald green mint gel, set on mildly salty chocolate rubble.

Sonder, although its food has lots going for it, has yet to rival EFS and Condita, but if it put taste before appearance more, it might yet do so.

Sonder, 74-78 S Clerk St, Edinburgh 0131 667 7032

Food: 8/10
Atmosphere: 7/10
Service: 8/10
Value for money: 7/10