Sometimes you walk into restaurants and just fall in love immediately. That happened to me today with The Alchemist.
Well-known in the city as a highly experimental, wacky yet still oh-so-chic cocktail bar but not so much, I would say, as a quality Manchester eatery. Their Instagram feed has quickly become the stuff of legend with their billowing dry ice cocktails and boozy colour changing experiments. A simple photo tells you so much about a cafe or restaurant and each and every time I spotted their food tagged on social media, I’d make a mental note to check it out and see if the fare lives up to their ‘late lab’ drinks selection.
I went to the New York Street branch just down the road from the Lovin Manchester office, and it felt far more roomy than the Spinningfields unit (possibly down to the fact I’ve only ever been there when it’s rammed on a Friday or Saturday night and a spare seat is like gold dust.) The positioning is bang on for attracting business clientele and so are the interiors and general feel of the place – modern and stylish without being overly pretentious.
It’s one of those places people are just as comfortable having a date, birthday brunch or hen party (not the loud louty sort rolling in from ‘Spoons, mind) as they are a business meeting, and the diversity of the menu reflects this exclusive yet not too exclusive ethos.
From the full English and classic bacon and sausage butties accompanied by their speciality bloody mary ketchup to smashed avo and poached eggs on sourdough or rye, there’s something to suit all tastes here.
It’s the ideal spot for a late, relaxed boozy brunch, but, feeling slightly delicate from the night before and fully aware how potent their concoctions can be, I ordered my poached eggs and greens with an organic rooibos tea and topped it all off with a double cappuccino (it’s worth noting they don’t currently offer soy milk, if one of your party is vegan or avoiding dairy but they do offer a selection of teas including the caffeine-free triple Jordanian mint.)
On the rare occasion I do find myself out for breakfast, I try to order avocado or spinach eggs, one (obviously) for the health benefits over ordering a greasy fry-up, and two, because it’s something I never tend to have much at home but really enjoy whenever I do.
The Alchemist’s somewhat revolutionary version however, took me completely by surprise and was much more than just your average brunch dish. The presentation was nothing less than stunning, two dainty poached eggs (perfectly cooked, firm white with a beautifully oozing yellow yolk) proudly propped on top of a bed of smashed, herbed avocado on artisan bread and sprinkled with all my favourites – spring onion, chilli, coriander and surrounded by a fragrant sweet chilli sauce. This last addition absolutely made the dish – it was an unusual combination that I’d never experienced elsewhere and it completely brought the whole thing to life.
For those feeling extra naughty or with a devillish sweet tooth, you have to try the waffles topped with eggs, crispy bacon and syrup. Not one for the diabetics, it’s as guilt-inducing as it looks but the classic combination is a true taste of heaven and The Alchemist version far from disappoints.
Despite not being on the booze, I still had a hell of a lot of fun with the drinks menu. The coffee was excellent quality, but it’s the teas that (literally) leave you feeling hot and steamy under the collar…
The organic roobios is served with dry ice to create the same smoking potion lab effect as some of The Alchemist’s most popular alcoholic alternatives and so is the mint tea.
A really fun way to start your morning and much preferable to a soggy old breakfast brew, their rooibos trea makes you forget the grey day outside and leaves you ready to take on the morning as you mean to go on.
Energetic, revived and ready to shout about the place to everyone I passed on the street thereafter, I’ll never overlook this place for food again. The brunch is one of the best I’ve had yet in the city and the sizzling fajitas and tapas style starters other diners were munching on at lunch gave me food envy before my breakfast even had chance to digest.
What The Alchemist manages (with style, I might add) is to be an all-rounder without cheapening its core and becoming too much of an ‘all welcome’ style venue.
I would 100% return and recommend it to anyone looking for something a little bit different – a full experience, rather than just a meal.