Sunshine Social, 64 Glengala Road, Sunshine West. Phone: 9312 0223
Sunshine Social is a hit and hoot and we love it to bits.
This is the biggest thing to hit Sunshine West for years – the adjacent Glengala Road shops barely seem to have changed for the best part of a decade.
In fact, this may be the biggest western suburbs food story of the year.
We bowl up just a few days after opening day, eager to check out the vibe, try the food and see if the widespread community interest and hopes are being fulfilled.
The answer is a rousing “yes” – albeit with a couple of food mis-steps noted below of the very easily forgivable these-are-very-early-days variety.
The old servo has been done up a treat, the swish fit-out preserving the old-time feel of the building and, best of all, the wonderful roof that once sheltered filling-up motorists from the elements.
It would be easy to describe the furniture, fittings and general ambience as “industrial”, but there is a bit more warmth to the place than that might imply.
As well, even on a busy Friday night, the noise levels are surprisingly subdued.
Three of us have drinks, two starters, three mains with various sides and a single, cheapo dessert and pay just a tad over $100 – so Sunshine Social represents good value for money as well as a whole heap of fun.
We arrive early after having dithered about a later start time involving a bigger assemblage of Team CTS, but are glad we’ve reverted to 6.30pm kick-off as the place rapidly fills up after that.
Sunshine Social doesn’t take bookings – it’s not that sort of place – so while it’s as hot as it is right now and the curiosity factor is high, it would be wise to pick your time with some thought.
Loosely based on the concept of old-school charcoal chicken shops, Sunshine Social goes from there to offer a menu that broadens out to take in some multicultural ideas, all the while offering a cohesive gameplan.
Marinated olives and chargrilled vegetables ($7.50) are a delightful way to get our meal underway.
It’s a deceptively big serving of beaut olives of various colours and dimensions and long strips of gorgeous red capsicum, zucchini and eggplant.
We try two of the five dips at $4.5o a pop (punters can get the lot for $16).
I am outvoted in my desire to try the beetroot and whole bean number.
Instead, we get the eggplant and pistachio/pea/mint versions.
The former is rather dry and crumbly but has robust roast cumin flavour.
The latter has little by way of nuttiness, the pea and mint dominating in a smooth operation.
Given the charcoal chook inspiration going on here, I was only ever going to order one thing – the very same thing that I ALWAYS order in chicken shops: Half a chicken with slaw and chips ($28.50).
The price here is higher, of course, but no more than expected.
The chicken near the various bones is excellent, moist and delicious.
The breast meat is dry – as it so often is, no matter the price.
But it’s not terminally so, and certainly all this could easily be fixed up with a small pot of gravy as per charcoal shop tradition.
The chips are very fine and the slaw – much drier and different in style from the usual – a crunchy, lightly-dressed delight.
The meat served with Nat’s order of “lamb shoulder with Mediterranean herbs” ($22.50 with one side) is tasty.
But we are both surprised the sheep meat is sliced and more like your regular lamb roast than the fall-apart epic the phrase “lamb shoulder” automatically suggests to us. And there’s not much sign of the advertised herbs, either.
In both the cases of my chicken and his lamb, neither of us feels the sweetish coating (chicken) or sweetish sauce (lamb) do anything to enhance our meals.
Chicken options with more high-powered seasonings taking in lemon, chilli and turbo-herbs would be a good move, we reckon.
The no-hesitation thumbs-up of the night goes to Bennie’s fried chicken burger ($13.50).
He loves the big, succulent, crisp chunk of fried chicken and gives his burger – abetted by slaw, cheese and jalapenos – an 8 out of 10.
He gets chips with his sandwich and an extra order of slaw on the side that is plenty big enough for both himself and Nat.
During the course of our meal, we’ve pondered dessert.
But predictably, we’ve loaded up plenty on the savoury segments of the menu, so treats such as choc ripple biscuit cake with peppermint slice shavings and cream will have to await a return visit.
I do grant Bennie his wish for a house-made choc top for $4.50.
He likes it.
You can tell by his unbridled display of passion and delight and enthusiasm for the camera.
We decide that there is nothing else quite like Sunshine Social in all of Melbourne – not that we know of anyway.
Sure, there’s a gazillion hipster burger places and almost as many barbecue joints and similar.
But a self-described “grill” that has no steaks and little seafood?
On the basis of community reaction and our experience just a few days into its life, the place will endure and then some.
It is destined to become something of a second home to many.
And next time, we may expand our ordering horizons to the likes of pork ribs, grilled calamari, a range of meat on sticks or Moroccan lamb snags.
Check out the Sunshine Social website (including menu) here.