During the summer a new independent bar landed in the Mailbox in Birmingham. Aluna, specialising in adventurous ‘mixology’ themed drinks has been steadily making a name for itself amongst the cocktail lovers of the city. A couple of weeks ago I was invited down to try their new food menu and, having been impressed by their cocktails on a number of occasions, I was keen to see if it could reach the same high standard.
The inside of Aluna definitely creates a decadent feel. The low lighting, velvet furniture, gold detailing and jewel colours certainly suggests luxury which got us excited for what was to come. Unfortunately, this is where the luxury dining experience ended. The service was really quite bad. Whilst we were there there was only one server juggling a fair few tables – they were clearly struggling and it meant we didn’t get any food put in front of us until nearly an hour after we’d arrived. We wouldn’t have minded this so much, but the attitude of the server was very unprofessional and over-familiar, to the point where we were distracted throughout the evening from just enjoying our meal (and we were clearly not the only diners who felt this).
We both had a cocktail each, and as expected they were on point. Jack decided to try the ‘Aluna secret concoction’, which admittedly wasn’t as exciting as it sounded on the menu, but was still a deliciously creamy and sweet cocktail, with berry flavours and a real kick. I went for the marshmallow daiquiri, which was vodka and vanilla liqueur topped with an eggy marshmallow crust. Though very difficult to drink elegantly, if you’re prepared to do some sly slurping then the taste is really worth it! The marshmallow top was lightly toasted, had a beautifully fluffy texture and went well with the strong drink beneath.
The food wasn’t bad. There were some good points, but we were generally underwhelmed considering the price point (starters in the £5-£10 range and most mains between £13 and £20). Previously Aluna’s food menu was a bog-standard selection of the kind of grub you could get anywhere, so we could appreciate that they have branched out with their food to try and match the quirky, adventurous nature of their drinks. This meant however that the menu ranged from everything from Thai to Italian to Japanese and so on, which we found a little odd.
Jack really enjoyed his starter of butter prawns; they were beautifully presented, tasted lovely and fresh and had been tossed in a garlicky buttermilk crumb. There was a generous helping of these and they were served with the great choice of sweet chilli sauce. My starter was fine – I went for the bruschetta pomadoro which had a fragrant tomato topping and was served with rocket. The bread however was simply a normal slice of white toast, which meant there wasn’t that crunchy contrast to the wet topping and it looked a little as if I had knocked it up at home.
For his main Jack opted for the vegetable Thai green curry. This was again fine, but a little disappointing as it didn’t have the kick you’d expect from a green curry and tasted more like Thai yellow curry. We thought it was a little cheeky as well to have the vegetable curry option at the same price as the chicken. I went for the Miso salmon as my main. The large salmon fillet was well cooked and had a nice spicy marinade, however it was served with either underdone or overdone veg (the shitake mushrooms tasted like bitter, burnt crisps) which was a shame.
Overall Aluna definitely has potential, however it still has a lot of work to do. We felt the food generally needed to step up a notch if it was going to justify the price point, and more attention needs to be paid to all aspects of the dining experience. Having said this, I would still highly recommend Aluna as a bar, and we do plan to try the food again in the future as we know other diners who have had a more positive experience. Thanks to Nitin and everyone at Aluna for having us!
*We were invited to Aluna to try the new menu complimentary for review purposes. This does not affect my honest opinion.