Review of Aluna Bristol – The Aluna Burger
What they say:
8oz prime beef burger flame-grilled topped with crispy bacon & Monterey jack cheese, jalapeno peppers, crispy lettuce, tomato and mayonnaise served in a toasted bun with house chips.
Aluna is a new mixology bar & restaurant, which after the success of their first establishment in Birmingham, opened their second location in Bristol late October/early November 2015.
We were originally invited to the pre-launch cocktail party, but due to conflicting commitments we were unable to make the journey down from BLHQ. So it was a nice surprise when we received another invitation asking us if we would like to join them for a complimentary meal. Obviously my choice was always going to be the burger on their menu.
Aluna describes itself as “a concept unlike any other, we thrive on the adventurous & relish in the abnormal. Dedicated to advancing the art and practice of hospitality, we pride ourselves on providing a truly unique experience in giving everyone who walks through our doors a little snippet of molecular paradise.”
Braving sub-arctic conditions on an extremely cold and bitter January evening, and on the eve of my birthday, I was very much hoping that it would be worth the trip and reading the above description of their concept was keen to see what awaited…
|Inside Aluna, Bristol…|
Down on Broad Quay in the Harbourside vicinity of Bristol, Aluna is the newest cocktail bar to open in the city. The interior is smart and after being shown to our reserved table by a smiling waitress we took in the ambience of the place.
We liked it inside. There’s modern dark wood mixed in with comfortable low-back chairs. The place screams of indulgence and a mixture of celebratory and intimate patrons gives off the feeling of a smart, relaxed environment suitable for all occasions.
In my original notes from the evening, I described Aluna as having “perfect mood lighting, lit up by funky gyro-scope lamps and candle style light fittings. We’re sat here right on the waterfront in Bristol in a buzzing restaurant with a semi-informal, smart casual vibe.” And in retrospect I was spot-on in this summary.
|Top class cocktails…|
We kicked off with a couple of cocktails – the Lava Lamp and Bush Fire. These are pure alchemy fun with the Lava Lamp having small droplets of something in there whizzing around in your glass from the effervescent fizz of another ingredient. My Bush Fire certainly lived up to its name as a sprig or two of fresh herbs was lit before my very eyes. Both lots of fun, tasty and an enjoyable experience and would put Brian Flanagan to shame.
For our starters this evening we went with the Salt Chilli Squid (£6.50) and Butter Prawns (£7.95). Both starters were presented looking really rather lovely with a beautiful splash of colour which made the dishes look extremely appetising.
My squid was cooked perfectly on the inside but I was almost expecting the coating to be slightly crispier. Don’t get me wrong though, this did not detract from how enjoyable this was and a perfect appetiser for the meal.
I loved the colourful glaze of spring onion and red and green fresh chilli which was very light and delicate and not too spicy. Executed alongside a simple shredded cabbage salad with a Thai Sweet Chilli dipping sauce this was a very good starter and I cannot fault it.
|Aluna Butter Prawns…|
We didn’t have to wait too long for our next course. Miss Milkshake opted for the beef Massaman Curry (£12.95) and you’ll have to excuse me for the lack of photos on this one as after I had finished snapping the burger we turned away from reviews to date night (after all it was on the eve of my birthday). But fear not, we’ve got some analysis of what you’re all really here for – The Aluna Burger.
|Good value at £11.95…|
The burger itself was pretty well presented. I’m always loathe to cut a burger in half but I wanted to get a cross-section shot for the review. The creamy Monterey jack cheese on-board was melted beautifully and it clung to each half as the burger was cut in two (see pictures below).
Personally I would switch the fresh tomato for red onion to give an added depth and texture to proceedings but as a non-fresh tomato eater I found it to be inoffensive. But after a few mouthfuls I removed the rest of it – again this is personal preference on my part.
|The Aluna Burger…|
The Aluna Burger is juicy and not dry which is always good but I did find the bottom burger bun to be slightly over charred on this occasion. This was unfortunate as it did impact the overall flavour and left my palate with just a slight burnt taste to it. As you can see from the pictures it wasn’t completely black, but 20 seconds more and I might have sent it back.
|Over charred bun…|
The 8oz prime beef patty in all honesty could be better. I couldn’t help think that it was frozen and the texture of it gave that impression. I also can’t decide if these are handmade on the premises or delivered in ready-made. In my experience, I am leaning towards the second option. Don’t get me wrong, as a burger it’s fairly respectable but for those people used to having a “dirty burger” or eating at contemporary fast casuals you could be disappointed.
The bacon is untouchable in terms of criticism – really very well cooked, smoky and sporting some lovely chargrilled marks. An exceptionally good choice.
If I could write an honest summary of the burger it would be that it is a beefy, juicy, fairly enjoyable eat which is cooked to well done. But to me, it feels like an upmarket pub chain patty. Overall, it’s pleasant enough. The jalapenos give it a great kick at the end and the bun copes admirably despite relying on the mayo to mask that over toasting.
I’m not a fan of “chips” and always prefer fries but these were superb tonight. Decadently salty and a worthy side dish which has to get a mention in our review.
The Aluna Burger could be a great burger if they look at the meat/recipe they use for the patty. If you dissect just the beef on its own you’ll find you’ve definitely had better. If this fact is addressed and the toasting of the bun issue is sorted then there would be very little you could fault about this addition on the menu. And that’s what it feels like at the moment. If you take a look at the menu it doesn’t seem to specialise in anything and is looking to appeal to a wide crowd with Italian and Thai influences mixed in with Nachos, BBQ Ribs and the usual suspects from the grill. And the Aluna Burger feels like a victim of this approach to the menu. Like someone has thought “well we better have a burger on the menu too.”
I hope you don’t think I am being too harsh on the burger as it was enjoyable but it just had one or two issues which we have mentioned above. I’d also like to add that I sampled some of the Massaman Curry and for a non-Thai place I was very, very impressed with the flavours going on.
|The varied menu at Aluna…|
So Aluna. As a burger you won’t want to add this to your bucket list of places you MUST visit. However, as a destination for exquisite cocktails, friendly service and a respectable, but mixed menu this is definitely worth checking out.
Would I go back to Aluna again? Yes most certainly. Was it worth the journey down on a dark and freezing cold January evening? Yes. Was it the perfect setting for a pre-birthday intimate dinner for two? Yes. It’s in a perfect location, the interior and ambience inside is warm, inviting and friendly and the food is good. We certainly had a fantastic evening and a special mention must go to the cocktails and the atmosphere. I’d certainly eat there again but perhaps going for a different option off the varied menu next time.