Since the move of the BBC from London to Media City, it was time for the area to seriously up its game and they are doing it in style. Booths, Grindsmiths and Cau are just some of the fabulous names that are now staking their claim and they have recently been joined by The Alchemist.
Sticking with the theme of the other buildings in Media City, The Alchemist is all about steel and glass in a standalone structure boasting beautiful views over the Ship Canal. The gold, futuristic venue also has an impressive terrace that will be perfect for after work drinks in the summer. Unfortunately during our visit it was grey and raining, but it doesn’t make the Ship Canal any less pretty.
The interior is in keeping with the exterior gold theme with low hung lighting and a separate bar area, not dissimilar to their venue on New York Street. I think there are slightly too many tables as there is very little room to move and we were sat at the very back in the very corner, which felt a little claustrophobic. The music was also quite loud which meant we had to shout over it to hear each other. That said, it was a Friday evening, and we were advised that there was an issue with the sound system. They had only been open a few weeks after all, it is certainly something I can forgive.
The Alchemist are famous for their chemical symbol cocktail menu so cocktails for starters were definitely on the cards. No one does magic and smoke like The Alchemist and the Smoky Old Fashioned was all that. Woodford Reserve, maple syrup, Jerry Thomas bitters and smoke is a slightly sweet, definitely smokey bourbon based drink for the bourbon lover. Unfortunately I was the designated driver so stuck with a Strawberry Colada. Strawberry, coconut, lime and pineapple, I felt like I should be sipping it on a hot beach with the waves lapping at my feet.
We ordered some nibbles to peruse the menu and these little Popcorn Chicken pieces were really moreish. Full of flavour with a lightly seasoned crumb, they didn’t last long! For a healthier option we also tried the Crispy Kale which was a damn sight tastier than the version I make at home. Not a stitch of bitterness and just the right amount of oil means it is crispy and disintegrates in the mouth, just the way it should.
For the first time, maybe ever, I liked everything on the Sharing Platter so it seemed like the perfect way to try lots of smaller dishes. At £18.50 it is a tad on the expensive side and I felt like we should have gotten a little more for the price. The nachos had an individual sprinkling of cheese meaning you got a fair amount in every mouthful. I like that the sour cream, guacamole and salsa were separated and not already smothered on the chips as it meant we could eat as little, or as much as we wanted. The guacamole at The Alchemist is still one of my favourites for its good seasoning and heavy garlic hit. The pork bon bons were my favourite. Slightly sweet pulled pork coated in a crispy crumb that I couldn’t stop nibbling at. The wings were a little on the skinny side and adequate, albeit nothing to write home about whilst the battered prawns were juicy and plump. The falafel was also good with a soft centre, not at all dry, yet still chunky so you could tell what all the ingredients were. I had gone off falafel but this version has put it firmly back in my favourites list.
My friend chose the 9oz Ribeye Steak which is served with fries and a side salad. He was offered sweet potato or regular potato fries which I thought was a nice touch. The steak arrived cooked as he had requested although it was a little gristly and tough in areas. The garlic butter had a good amount of garlic in it to flavour the meat well.
I chose the Chicken Fajitas, which isn’t something I would normally be drawn to on a menu. I love that the different elements of the dish are all served separate and there is a good amount of peppers sitting underneath all that chicken. The tomato sauce was rich and a lovely twist on the classic. I was completely defeated by this mountain of food but it was delicious and I’ll be back to tackle it to the end.
Onto desserts and we both chose classics, me – Sticky Toffee Pudding, him – Chocolate Fudge Cake. Both look a bit average and the sticky toffee sponge was a little too sweet and dry, although the sauce was sticky and somehow light. Just how it should be. The chocolate fudge cake was rich, moist and gooey. It was gone in a flash, I would definitely order it next time.
Overall, there were some areas that can be improved but The Alchemist is a great addition to Media City that can only get better. Two weeks in, you can’t expect perfection, but the staff are eager to please and the food is nearly there. Grab a cocktail and soak in the view, it’ll be worth it.
We were invited to dine as guests of The Alchemist, Media City.