Cultural Studies student. Born in Wolverhampton, studied at University of Leeds and currently on a year abroad at University of Newcastle, NSW Australia. Love to write! Twitter - @charlotteashx
Published September 5th 2013
On entering The Alchemist, I was greeted by an air of sophistication, and it quickly became apparent that this establishment was a world away from the pound-a-pint haunts that I, as a student, would usually inhabit. The room is filled with plush leather seating, marble tables and a huge bronze bar that stretches across the length of the room, while the themed decor is thoughtfully punctuated with laboratory-style paraphernalia such as beakers, kettles, test tubes and Bunsen burners. A wraparound glass-fronted balcony looks down over Boar Lane, letting in sunshine and gorgeous views of the city. The clientele were a mix of the after-work crowd; men and women in business suits and sophisticated twenty-somethings. Nevertheless, the lively and friendly atmosphere ensures that although the crowd is high-end, they are by no means intimidating.
The innovative cocktail menu boasts a plethora of carefully- crafted and elaborate concoctions incorporating a wide range of liqueurs, and a few more unusual ingredients such as popping candy, soda foams and fruit dust. There are also a number of bottled beers and ciders, as well as a long list of wines, available for the less experimental among us. (There is also a range of non-alcoholic drinks including a number of 'virgin' cocktails available.) Although not dining, I had a peek at the food menu which included a range of 'tapatizers', gourmet sandwiches and a small selection of main courses and desserts. The menu was relatively simple and similar to one you would find in most high-end bars, though it did feature a few interesting-sounding surprises. (The beer battered prawn lollipops particularly catching my attention!) The food being served looked and smelt delicious, and to my pleasant surprise, was reasonably priced.
Although there was a constant crowd around the bar, we were served relatively quickly and the bartender was friendly and helpful. Unlike the majority of bar staff, the employees here seemed genuinely passionate about their work and eager to share their knowledge. We ordered two cocktails from the 'Molecular Madness' section of the menu and the bill came to £12.90. Although this is perhaps more than we would usually spend in the entirety of a student night out, for high quality, freshly made cocktails – with plenty of alcohol- the price was more than reasonable. (Plus student loans only came in a couple of weeks ago, so we're feeling flashy!)
I ordered the 'Passion Fruit and Lychee Meringue Martini'; a mixture of Passoã, lychee liqueur and citrus juices, topped with meringue foam which was then flambéed. The presentation was exceptional and the drink tasted delicious – sweet and pungent, with the alcohol kick apparent. However, the real treat came in the form of the simply, but fascinatingly titled 'Colour Changing One.' The drink consisted of a large ice ball in a glass tumbler, and two accompanying beakers; one filled with a blue liquid and the other, a clear. The bartender told us that she usually prepares the drink in front of the customer, but seeing our excited eyes widen, asked if we'd like to do it ourselves. And so, in we poured the clear mixture, which gave off the characteristic 'laboratory' fog of dry ice, and then in went the blue, which before our eyes, turned the cocktail pink! Although the main appeal of this drink is undoubtedly its presentation and ability to surprise and baffle the customer, it also tasted great!
The Alchemist combines high quality ingredients with innovative molecular drinks-making techniques, creating delicious cocktails that are a feast for both the eyes and the palate. The bar has managed to create a great ambience that is sophisticated, yet still lively and welcoming, serving products of a high-end quality, while still remaining affordable. But in my opinion, it is the thoughtful little touches; the cocktails served in milk bottles, the Bunsen burners used to heat the sugar and of course the innovative, exciting recipes, that make The Alchemist something really unique and special. As for me? Yeah I'll be back…the next 'Colour Changing One' has my name on it!