The Sunflower Lounge is somewhere I have fond memories of from my student days. Many a night was spent here semi-inebriated over a few pints and all sorts of live music, so when I heard that the place was undergoing a huge refurb and Big Papa’s southern street food was taking over the kitchen, I was excited to say the least. After a personal invitation from owner and chef Anthony Duffy, I couldn’t wait to sample the food in the brand new surroundings.
On arrival I was surprised by how clean and bright it was inside, the dining area was situated at the front by the large windows so it felt bright and airy with rustic wooden tables and benches. After meeting the chefs, we got to sample a main dish accompanied by 2 sides. The menu is small but well thought out, with a chicken option, a beef option and a vegetarian option and a selection of starters and sides. I went for the Cola Brisket on a brioche bun with sides of sweet potato fries and mac & cheese. As there are only the 2 guys running the whole operation, cooking for 12 of us was a bit of a challenge for them, as they’re not used to getting that many orders out at once. There was a short wait between some of us getting our meals, but I was impressed as rather than keeping food waiting around in order to be able to bring it out together, each dish was brought out as soon as it was ready, so it was hot and freshly prepared.
Something I really liked is the presentation. Each dish comes out in a shallow wooden box lined with wax paper, which I thought was a cute gimmick and something memorable about the experience.
The food itself was really good, the brisket was tender and really juicy. The cola flavour was very, very subtle, with just hints of that fennel and aniseed flavour, and a lovely sweetness on the crust. The brioche bun was shiny and very attractive, as well as being beautifully soft absorbing all the lovely brisket juices.
The sweet potato fries were crisp with a lovely texture on the outside, but soft and yielding inside, well seasoned and a great portion size.
Then the mac & cheese was cooked well, with soft pasta and gooey cheese sauce, with some crispy grilled cheese on top. The only thing I would say would be that having the option of bacon in the mac & cheese would have made it really standout for me, but overall the dishes were very enjoyable.
We also had 2 homemade sauces, one barbecue and one spicy hot sauce which I think contained mango. These were both delicious, providing a burst of flavour which complimented the sweet potato fries really well, I just wished there had been more!
The thing I really loved about Big Papa’s though was the enthusiasm and the passion from the guys behind it. Chef Anthony explained to us that they source all of their products locally, with their meat and vegetables coming daily from the Bullring markets which is brilliant as it supports our local economy, and their passion for produce comes through in both the flavour and the presentation of their dishes.
It’s a challenging move to go from street food to restaurant, but I think they’ve really pulled it off and the quality of the food is fantastic. I’m sure I’ll be back soon to try the rest of the menu!