Aluna, Mailbox

Don’t judge, but we’d never eaten at Aluna before this review. We may have sampled a large section of the cocktail menu, but never before had a morsel of actual nourishment passed our lips. We’d also never been in daylight hours. A day of firsts.

The Pan-Asian inspired menu had just launched before our visit and was apparently going down well. It’s split into small tapas-sized plates and medium plates which were the size of an individual main course we’d say. To give you some idea of volume, we ordered four small plates and two medium plates between two which was ideal. The food was served as it was cooked rather than coming at the same time, so it felt fresh with no sitting around under hot plates or going cold at the table.

The small plates were the stand out dishes for us. Tiger prawn cookies – juicy prawns encased in crisp breadcrumbs with coriander, garlic and lime – were so moreish served with a plum dipping sauce. Chicken and snow pea gyoza were mighty fine. Fried off in a pan so they had a bit of colour and texture they were delicious filled with minced chicken, coriander, water chestnut and spring onion. There’s a vegetarian version too.

Wasabi lamb chops came highly recommended by our waiter. They were all kinds of lovely served pink with a gentle heat and a herby hit. Pickled cucumber on the side worked brilliantly. The dipping sauce that came with the lamb wasn’t a triumph though and looked like it had split, so we parked that.

The medium plates were a little bit hit and miss. Spicy chicken wings did what they said on the tin. One of us was fine with the heat, the other (me!) was mighty pleased to have a cooling Ginger Lemontini (think gin, limoncello and ginger) by my side to quell the fire. I’d ask for the heat turned down a notch next time because actually they were everything you want from a chicken wing – sticky and moist with a bit of sweetness as well as spice.

A rich duck curry with plenty of aubergine and wild ginger divided opinion. The friend felt it was a bit heavy on tamarind which I actually liked. He loved the actual duck, but I felt it was a bit dry. It’s not one size fits all is it? Horses for courses and all that.

What we did agree on was it was a cracker of a menu that we wanted to try more of. A cocktail or three, of which the choice is extensive and inventive, teamed with a handful of small dishes would be an ideal way to give it a whirl.

Aluna, 128-130 The Mailbox, Wharfside Street, Birmingham, B1 1RQ. Tel: 0121 633 9987