The Alchemist – A Celebration of Taste

The interior of The Alchemist with snug booths and stylized lighting
All too often I find myself in the centre of Leeds on a Saturday, but with no other cause than shopping, and with no other company than my own. Thus it was a delight to find myself this weekend, with a reservation for three in the prime time spot of The Alchemist on Greek Street.

The purpose of our visit was to celebrate my 25th(!) birthday, or as one of our dining party put it being ‘a third of my way through life’. It has been a long few months, and it certainly didn’t feel much like my birthday, but I was glad I at least insisted on a meal out. Sometimes the company of friends is what we need to recharge our batteries.

Pork Bon Bons with Wasabi Mayonnaise to start
To kick our meal off we opted for two starters to share, these being the Cheese Nachos and Pork Bon Bons. The cheese nachos were light with a thick cut salsa, guac and mayo to add as we liked. Pork Bon Bons were my own choice, and somewhat of an impulse. Encased within a crisp shell was succulent, shredded pork. The wasabi mayonnaise, cut through the richness of the pork adding an extra level of flavour, overall they were thoroughly enjoyable.

In think, my want for starters had been purely based on a thirst to explore more of the menu, on this my second visit. There’s a lot of the menu that I’m still yet to try and would very much like to do so, admittedly some of them are a little beyond my current tastes, but they sure do look good. Part of what amazes me about The Alchemist is the dishes and drinks you see floating past. Whether it’s the dry ice of cocktails, or the display of food, including prawns on towering sticks, there is something alluring about someone else’s food at this place.

Special Fried Chicken in a basket
As my main course I chose the Special Fried Chicken in a basket with salt and pepper fries. Seasoned expertly, it was just what was called for on a bitter and miserable day. The dish came presented on a wire basket, shaped as a chicken, it added a sense of occasion, though I must admit I did not know whether the etiquette was to remove the basket or leave it opting, albeit awkwardly, for the latter.

Both my dining partners were pleased with their own mains, opting for the Fish and Chips and the Fish Finger Sandwich. Whilst not as stylised as my own dish, they were still immaculately presented. Through the course of my main I did begin to wonder, somewhat, if I should have opted for an alternative dish, having chosen the same as on a previous visit, though it wasn’t much of a worry.

Waffles and Ice Cream with cinnamon sugar
My dining partner who had been before was resolute in ordering the Sticky Toffee Pudding to finish, whilst the third member of our party, also believing they were making the correct choice, chose the Warm Fudge Cake. Unfortunately for the pair of them, they were both wrong and should have opted for the Belgian Waffles, as I did. The waffles were warm and fluffy with a generous dusting of cinnamon sugar. Vanilla ice cream was the perfect accompaniment, however I did think a second scoop would have much improved the dessert.

Throughout the duration of out meal we were tended to by Katie. She was ever so attentive and patient, including when it became clear that I was the only one in our party who had not studied the menu, and thus needed more time to choose. My dining partners had also chosen to ambush me with the social spectacle of a birthday cake and sing song. However, after three courses, not one of us was able to face a slice of cake, Katie did not even falter at the admission, meaning that she had to return the cake to it’s original box, sill whole.

A Ballbreaker Cocktail
As it was my birthday after all, I decided to order a cocktail to celebrate opting for the Ballbreaker. It was a delicious mix of Tanqueray Gin, pink grapefruit liquor and lemon served with an intriguing blackcurrant ball to break. My dining partners wisely shielded themselves as I tried, unsuccessfully, to break the blackcurrant ball. After committing to use a reasonable amount of force, the ball burst sending blackcurrant trickling through the ice. The drink was very crisp and refreshing – a much needed treat.

It was not the most theatrical drink on offer at The Alchemist, however it did have more drama than the two mocktails we also ordered to accompany the meal. Delicious though they were, they had little more spectacle than the diet coke that one of our three chose.

The damage for our two hour affair was £72.30, including two starters, three mains, four drinks and just two puddings. Due to a slight mix up with my dessert choice, which the staff were nothing but apologetic for, my waffles were free. I don’t think this is too bad, but as I pointed out on my previous visit I think it fitting for the food, service and atmosphere. If this review has taken your fancy you can find their food menus here (ngl, one of my hobbies is browsing menus)!

I think, come the next special occasion, I would suggest a visit to the Greek Street location over that atop the Trinity Centre. I find this spot to be much more of an atmosphere that appeals to me, being slightly more relaxed than the alternative, however that being said, The Alchemist would now always be my first suggest for a special occasion.

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