Aluna, Broad Quay: Review

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In the former home of Thai Edge on Broad Quay in the city centre now sits Aluna: a cocktail-bar-cum-restaurant that opened without much fanfare in late 2015. We attended the launch party and weren’t particularly inspired by the cocktails – some lacking the flavours that were promised on the menu, others topped with a layer of cream so thick that a spoon would have been handy… – but the promise of the Thai Edge chef retaining his job in the kitchen (I used to love that place) meant that we were intrigued by the food offering.

We visited on a Wednesday night: a night that saw the cocktail bar on the left fairly busy, no doubt thanks to the buy one get one free deal that has been added since Aluna opened (to compete with the likes of Turtle Bay nearby…?) The long bar is all about theatre: choose the right cocktails from the menu and you can expect flames, a touch of molecular gastronomy and more.

On the right is the restaurant area, decorated in much the same style as the bar with low lighting, opulent golds and purples, fabrics draped from the ceiling and even fake gems embedded in the button holes in the backs of the sofa-style seats.

 

Aluna Bristol - Interior

 

So is there an equally opulent food menu to match the decor? Well…no, it’s a bit confusing, actually. The evidence of the Thai Edge influence is still there, with dishes such as salt chilli squid and tom yum soup on the starters list, and mains that include massaman curries and a stir fried lobster dish with Thai whisky, ambitiously priced at £28. Beyond that, though, it’s a complete mish-mash of cultural influences: you’ll find everything from bruschetta, burgers and breaded mushrooms to jerk wraps, wild mushroom tagliatelle and more. They even do a Sunday lunch menu!

While we attempted to decode the menu, we ordered cocktails – boozy for Chris, and a non-alcoholic “Antidote” for me. There’s a real mix of drinks on the menu to suit all tastes – we felt, though, that the menu could have been improved with the addition of details of the style of glass in which each is served (we were after long drinks on the night).

Chris’ Apple Pie (£7.95) was a blend of bison grass vodka and butterscotch schnapps, with “floating spheres of apple caviar”. It certainly looked interesting, with the spheres floating up from the bottom, and had a predominantly butterscotch flavour, the apple added when the bubbles burst. A tasty cocktail, and very sweet – we just felt it could have done with a little more apple.

My non-alcoholic Raspberry Sling (£4.50) was fantastic – a fruity, zesty and refreshing cocktail with plenty of fresh raspberries.

 

Aluna Bristol - Cocktails

 

Moving on to the food menu, we both began our meals with Thai starters. For Chris, the salt chilli squid (£6.50): heavy on the chilli, far too light on the salt. The first of the four squid pieces was a little mushy – the batter too – but the texture of the rest was perfect. The chopped chillies added plenty of fire to the dish, while the sweet chilli sauce had a bit of a kick to it too – he was disappointed, though, with the standard side salad, which could only be described as coleslaw with no dressing.

 

Aluna Bristol - Salt Chilli Squid

 

My chicken tom yum soup (£6.95, with a choice of chicken, vegetable or prawn) was pretty good – it had a decent level of heat and a rich and creamy soup base, flecked with chunks of lemongrass, lime leaves and galangal. The mushrooms had a good texture, but the chicken was a bit of a mixed bag: some pieces dry, some pieces tender and juicy – and one with far too much gristle.

 

Aluna Bristol - Tom Yum Soup

 

When ordering my miso salmon main (£14.95) I was asked if I wanted any sides to accompany it, as it’s a pretty light dish – I declined. I’m not sure it really warranted the almost 15 quid price tag: the salmon was cooked beautifully for the most part but a little charred at one end, and only seemed to be half covered in its miso dressing. The asparagus spears were still lovely and crunchy, the rocket and cherry tomatoes dressed in vinaigrette, and the shitake mushrooms were a little overdone and chewy. It was ok.

 

Aluna Bristol - Miso Salmon

 

Chris, meanwhile, had steered away from the Orient with his main course and ordered a rib-eye steak (£18.95), asking for it to be served medium rare. And medium rare it was – it was lovely and pink in the middle, with a nicely charred exterior. The chips were also tasty, but could have been a little crispier, while he was also presented with the same rocket and tomato salad.

The rest of the plate? Not so great. Underneath the steak, hiding from the photo, was a mound of broccoli, green beans and carrots, which erred a little too much on the crunchy side. And the accompanying peppercorn sauce? Well…it was unlike any peppercorn sauce we’ve had before. Instead of the classic rich and creamy sauce that he was expecting, he was served a bowl of what tasted like cheap gravy with a few peppercorns thrown in. Needless to say, it wasn’t eaten…

 

Aluna Bristol - Ribeye Steak

 

There doesn’t appear to be a dessert menu at Aluna (or if there is, it’s not on their website and it wasn’t offered to us at the end of our meal), so we ended the night with our second cocktail each. For me, another non-alcoholic option in the form of the Mixed Berry Mojito (£4.50), whose zestiness was somewhat overpowered by a cloyingly sweet flavour, and for Chris, a Passion Fruit Mojito (£7.95), which was pretty tasty indeed.

Would we go back? For happy hour cocktails, potentially – although the cocktails we’ve tried have been a little hit and miss. If we do go back for food, we’ll be sticking firmly to the traditional Thai dishes. At those prices, though, I think I’d rather visit one of Bristol’s Thai restaurants and enjoy a meal there.

 

Please note: Our food and drinks were complimentary, but this in no way impacted on our opinion. We were not obliged to write a positive review, and the venue did not see this review before it was put up on the site.

 

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