The Alchemist – A Review

IMG_2175.JPGThe Alchemist in Trinity Leeds has been open for quite some time now, but I have never stepped through its hallowed doors. It’s always been a venue that I didn’t really see myself visiting, not thinking I was glam enough, but at the suggestion of a very glam (and cool) friend I finally was coerced into trying it out.

The style of the restaurant and bar is well executed with muted colours, offset by brass and copper detailing. We sat inside, on a high table, though on a sunnier day I would very much like to be on the balcony, absorbing the views of the lower part of the city including the beautiful Corn Exchange. Everything in the venue had been well considered, right down to the minute detail. The place was abuzz with chatter for the whole duration of our meal, and was a very pleasant environment to be in.

IMG_2162.JPGFor starters I opted for the Duck Spring Rolls, though I was very nearly tempted by the Crispy Baby Calamari. The rolls were very generously filled, crisp and delicious served with hoisin sauce. My dining partner had the Cheese Nachos, which almost looked like mini pizzas instead of the bowl of Doritos and American cheese I had imagined, but that’s probably a good thing. They came served with guac, salsa and sour cream.

Service was very prompt with our starters arriving not long after our order had been placed, and this was a consistent theme throughout the entire meal. The kitchen was open plan, exposed to the diners, and seemed to be working very effectively. I delighted in watching meals being plated up and served, and have a few ideas of what I might try on the next visit!

IMG_2168.JPGThe Special Fried Chicken in a Basket was my choice for a main course. The chicken had a little heat to it from the seasoning, and was juicy with a crispy coating, in ideal sized strips. The chips were perfectly seasoned, in a portion size that was just right. Accompanying my meal was a small slaw, which added a delightful crunch to the dish, as well as a sauce which was thick and a delicious pairing for both the chicken and the chips. The basket was a little awkward to eat out of, particularly getting in a knife and fork to cut the strips, but I very much enjoyed the sense of occasion it created.

My dining partner had Fish and Chips, a very generous portion, with similar chips to my own. She said it was very enjoyable, but I did feel as though she was somewhat limited in her choices being a halal diner.

IMG_2174.JPGHaving strategised the meal accordingly (it’s a thing), we still had room for pudding. I opted not to go for the Rocky Road Sundae feeling it would have been slightly too much, instead I opted for Chocolate Fudge Cake with Ice Cream, and my dining partner had the Sticky Toffee Pudding seen above.

It was clear from the outset that my dining partner had picked the better option, that’s not to say that my Fudge Cake wasn’t moist and delicious, because it was, but the Sticky Toffee Pudding was just something else. It looked picture perfect on the plate, an exact circle bathing in its own sauce, and with smooth ice cream gently melting into the sponge. The taste lived up to the image portrayed, and it was a perfect finish to the meal.

My own fudge cake was delicious, rich and decadent, with sauce oozing from between the layers. It was paired with an ample helping of ice cream, which melted into the warm cake. Compared with the Sticky Toffee Pudding I definitely think my own dessert required some finessing.

IMG_2172.JPGWe had a variety of mocktails, all of which were refreshing accompaniment to the meal. I started with a Virgin Mojito, moving on to a Strawberry Colada later in the meal and my dining partner had a Popping and then a Virgin Pornstar. All the mocktails we drank cost £4 each which is very reasonable, as they were all very delightful.

The one thing I do wish is that the mocktails would have had much more of a sense of theatre. Many an alcoholic cocktail drifted by our table, leaving a trail of dry ice in their wake, with me watching on rather envious. I don’t drink alcohol that often by choice, and my dining partner doesn’t for religious reasons, and despite us drinking our way through about half of the mocktails list I felt that not one had a similar sense of occasion as the alcoholic alternatives.

IMG_2171.JPGWe were served by Olivia, who was very attentive, and patient throughout our entire meal. I’d heard that some of the staff can be quite blunt, but this wasn’t at all our experience with Olivia, she was ever so warm and compassionate.

In total our three course meal for two, as well as two rounds of drinks, came to £61.90. At first I thought this was slightly excessive, but the more I thought about it the more I considered it to be actually very reasonable. For the meal, and drinks that we had, the service, the location, and the atmosphere I think the price we paid was spot on. Admittedly I would save the alchemist for a special event, because everything that it is, lends itself to having a sense of occasion.

Towards the end I started to feel like we had outstayed our welcome, as though they needed the table, which I could very much imagine. When we were waiting to be seated at the start of the meal, a group celebrating a birthday, who hadn’t pre-booked a table, were told the wait would be 1-2 hours, which seemed almost unbelievable. I think it would be very difficult to have a spontaneous meal at The Alchemist because of this, and reserving a table in advance becomes a must.

I thoroughly enjoyed dining at The Alchemist, the food and the service we received were both exemplary. I think if I did want to visit The Alchemist on a spur of the moment decision, I might choose their alternative location on Greek Street, which is promised to be a quieter. I would recommend it to anyone, especially if, like me, you are shy to visit, thinking its out of your league, you can check out their food menu (including desserts) here. The Alchemist definitely has a sense of occasion, of something special and should be saved for such, however I can’t deny that I won’t be vying to get a table next time the sun comes out, because in a British Summer that’s occasion enough.

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