There’s a quote on the coat of arms of Birmingham which reads “forward” and the city seems to have embraced this fully; the city centre is ever changing, much to the delight and displeasure of its residents. Similarly, after a rather extensive – and badly needed refurbishment, The Sunflower Lounge on Smallbrook Queensway was greeted with open arms by the city and the food at the time was pretty good. Fast forward a few months and gone are Big Papa’s, over to open their own place at the Mockingbird at the Custard Factory, and to replace them are Sunny’s Soul Shack.
Sunny’s Soul Shack are doing much the same as what went before them; all-American comfort food, heavily inspired by the deep south of America. It’s something which is becoming more represented in the city, but not so much that it feels saturated. I went down to try out some of their dishes with some fellow bloggers, mainly because I wanted to know whether their buttermilk chicken would be as good as what came before.
We started the evening with a series of starters to share. Even after the refurb, The Sunflower Lounge isn’t my first thought to go for a sit down formal affair, but more likely somewhere to hang out with friends and grab a drink and maybe some light bites to share, ahead of seeing some live music there. Thankfully this works well with the starter selection as the menu includes things like homemade nachos, sticky bourbon chicken wings, Sunny’s hash and blackened catfish…most of which lend themselves fairly well to sharing.
Generously loaded with cheese, the nachos had just enough guacamole and sour cream to give them flavour, without losing too much bite and were easy to share. The blackened catfish was probably my favourite starter of the evening, although I always think the use of blackened as a description seems a bit strange, though Sunny’s is ‘blackened and breaded deep fried catfish’ – I’d have been really interested to try these as one of the burger options. The slow-cooked beef brisket hash served with potatoes and runny egg was nice, but felt more of a light bite than a starter…and almost like it would’ve made a better brunch option.
When I went the main options were a little limited, which didn’t really matter as I was determined to try the buttermilk chicken and chips, to get a handle on whether it was a wise move to replace like-for-like. Firstly I appreciated the ability to be able to chose a side which wasn’t sweet potato fries…seriously Birmingham, is there some sort of sweet potato producer who is blackmailing you all? I get that they’re a bit of a healthier option, but once you’ve deep-fried them that seems like a bit of a moot point.
The buttermilk chicken breast I had a deeper colour than previously, but still very tasty – the menu describes it as dusted in their signature coating, and I’d be at a loss to compare the two really, both were lovely. Served with chips and sweetcorn on the cob, the price is pretty feels pretty reasonable. One of the guests at the table had the burger, which comes with two patties, sticky brisket and cheese and frankly looked fairy gluttonous, but the fashion for load-em-high burgers seems to be ride a never-ending wave at the moment. After sharing all those starters between us, I’m not entirely convinced he finished it.
Since my visit, Sunny’s Soul Shack seems to have upped its menu slightly with a Rueben sandwich and hot dog varieties. With New St station now re-opened it feels like Smallbrook Queensway is now a little more integrated into the city and easier to get to now that you don’t have to navigate a load of building works. It’s still just out of the hub bub of the city centre crowds, which is no bad thing in my eyes, particularly with silly season upon us and pubs and bars being full of festive drinkers. Plus the Sunflower Lounge host some really cracking gigs, so it may be worth getting yourself down early and trying out Sunny’s Soul Shack.
Disclosure: I was invited down with a few other bloggers to try their food, although frankly the other bloggers probably got round to posting their review in a much more timely manner. As usual, just because the food was complimentary, doesn’t mean I have to be.