Aesthetically, the Alchemist is a good looking joint. It’s a very big modern space which feels like a modern interiors showroom
It took me a long time to ‘get’ Manchester. Flat, landlocked, and very wet, I didn’t see the appeal. Newcastle and Leeds packed far more social ‘bang’ into their relatively small cities then Manchester. That was before the Northerner’s sister introduced us to its social hotspots of Chorlton and our particular favourite, the aptly named Northern Quarter. The latter is home to a collection of bars and restaurants which are as good as and often better than anything you find in London. Which makes you wonder how they might fare down South?
The Alchemist bar / restaurant has risen to that challenge. Following up on two successful Manchester operations – the second of which is on the cusp of the Northern Quarter – and a third in Leeds, they have recently opened a fourth in the heart of the City. The Alchemist on Beavis Marks in Aldgate promises the same mix of quality cocktails underpinned by an extensive, inexpensive menu.
Aesthetically, the Alchemist is a good looking joint. It’s a very big modern space which feels like a modern interiors showroom. To the front of the Alchemist is the drinking area, complete with a wraparound, copper-topped bar that extends back to the restaurant. The restaurant has an outdoor terrace, large windows to allow natural light in, and banquette seating which gives the it an upmarket-diner feel. The place was packed on a wet and windy Wednesday night with a very City clientele both wining and dining and boozing and floozing.
Trying to be all things to all people the Alchemist offers a comprehensive breakfast menu for the early and not so early-birds (it’s available until 12 noon). While the lunch and dinner menu covers the broad spectrum of cuisines that make up modern British pub grub. So baked halloumi sits alongside pork crackling and Thai fish cakes in the starter menu; Japanese ramen, chilli and rice and fish and chips make up the bedfellows in the mains menu. It’s relatively cheap, with the starters ranging around the fiver mark, and the mains from £10 – 15. Unfortunately the dishes didn’t match the standards set by the decor. The prawn popcorn was fine, but the prawn and coriander wrapped in filo pastry was dry and tough. The jerk chicken was chilli hot rather than jerk seasoning warm. The premium steaks were a misnomer – the ribeye was under-seasoned and over cooked. The Cherry Berry Mess for dessert was good although the meringue was served whole. It was tasty but not a Mess.
The Alchemist nearly gets away with it through its (Northern?) charm. It’s fun, it’s loud, and judging by the punters, very popular. I need to remember that it markets itself on its cocktails, and the ones we tried were pretty good. I think it could pay more attention to its food, but what do I know. My colleagues tried to secure a space and were told its booked solid on a November Wednesday. It’s obviously faring very well down South.
On a scale of * to *****
Schmoozing and boozing ***
Flirting and partying ****
Wining and dining **
The Alchemist, 6 Bevis Marks, London, EC3A 7BA
@TheAlchemistLON, Facebook /TheAlchemistLondon