Aluna is yet another new kid on the block in Birmingham. It’s located in the trendy Mailbox area and occupies a prime position on the canalside.
The bar & restaurant has a mystical, magical edge to it based heavily on the theme of alchemy and isn’t too dissimilar to the well renowned ‘Alchemist’ bars from the popular Living Ventures group. I actually quite liked the interior. It’s a step away from the ever popular industrial chic look that’s so commonplace at the moment. There’s plush velvet seating in burnt orange and blue, mirrors and jewelled frames covering the walls as well as glitzy chandeliers. It’s indulgent and glam and fits right into the Mailbox’s bar scene.
We started with a couple of cocktails – 2 for 1 until 7pm we were told. Well that’s a bonus. The Passion Fruit Mojito was well balanced, sweet but with hints of bitterness and easy to drink. Other cocktails, such as the Bubblegumtini and Lava Lamp were more extravagant, using spherification and liquid nitrogen to cook up all manner of connections. We didn’t stray into the realms of those magical potions but they would certainly be an attractive feature to those on a night out.
Looking at the food menu I was initially a little disappointed. It was run of the mill pub & grill type food (burgers, sausage & mash, steaks, ribs etc). Nothing wrong with these when they’re done really well but I was expecting something, well, a bit more enchanting.
To start I chose the Chicken Skewers served with a Peanut Dip. The chicken itself remained succulent but I would have preferred more spicing. My dining companion had the Buttered Black Tiger Prawns. Again the prawns seemed to be cooked well and were plump and juicy. Interestingly they weren’t served with any kind of dip, but the waitress offered up a garlic mayo which suited them fine. Both portions were on the large side for starters, with 5 large prawns and 3 chicken skewers. A decent start.
Large portions was a theme that continued throughout the meal and my Half Rack of Ribs with Sweet Potato Fries and a side of coleslaw was of epic proportions. The ribs were not a rack but served in the less traditional spare rib style. The sauce was sticky and sweet but unfortunately I found the ribs extremely fatty with chewy meat and pretty hard to eat. The manager did comment when we mentioned this that they were considering changing these to a slightly different cut. Sweet potato fries were decent (and many!) but lacked a bit of crunch and the coleslaw didn’t hit the spot for me being quite sloppy. The Aluna Burger was the main chosen by friend, coming with crispy bacon, monteray jack cheese and jalepenos served with chunky chips. Again the chips lacked a little of that crunch but the burger was said to be a good version – juicy and well cooked but a little under seasoned. A side of ‘seasonal vegetables’ could have been better though.
Puddings didn’t immediately jump out at us, but I chose a Green apple Sorbet which was refreshing and continued the ‘enormous portion theme’ (4 scoops!). Happily they were able to cater to my friends request just to have some Vanilla Ice Cream as opposed to something off the menu. The menu suggested a puddings specials board but unfortunately this was empty on our visit. I think we both agreed that the starters were the most successful course of the evening.
I could’t fault our servers and the manager during the evening, they were pleasant and accommodating and the food was served in a timely fashion, despite being quite busy.
So in summary I liked the opulent decor and it would be a great place for drinks on a night out or for a special occasion. It felt to me as though the food was more of an afterthought, perfectly edible on the whole but nothing that rocked my world or that would stand out among the city’s new openings. There’s definitely room and time for them to improve there, and make the venue that bit more special.
Disclosure: We dined as guests of Aluna, all opinions remain entirely honest.