Holly Spanner reviews The Alchemist at Trinity Leeds…
Alchemist /ˈalkəmɪst/. noun: alchemist; plural noun: alchemists.
“A person who transforms or creates something through a seemingly magical process”
Nestled among twinkling lights above the hustle and bustle of the Trinity Shopping Centre (named after the adjacent C18th Holy Trinity Church), The Alchemist is somewhat of a hidden gem, or should I say, a secret lab. A haven from the cold winter nights and (far too frequent) spring showers, the heated wrap around terrace affords views of elaborate architectural rooftops along Boar Lane. They even provide blankets for a bit of extra warmth, perfect if you want to snuggle.
As our citywide quest to experience the widest range of flavors continues, myself and fellow foodie Rich Jevons opted for the Sharing Platter, plus a few extra ‘tapatisers’ as our mains. The duck spring rolls with hoisin sauce were my favorite, while Rich was taken with the tenderness of the pork bonbons. The lemon chili squid was cooked to perfection (not a rubbery ring in sight!) and the avocado and charred corn salad provided the perfect balance. The sharing platter consisted of chicken wings, cheesy nachos and guacamole (I defy anyone to find better), falafel and beer battered prawns. Each dish was served with an appropriate sauce, and the overall combination of flavors set our taste buds tingling. It was Belgian waffles for dessert, and anyone who keeps up with Rich’s food journey will be surprised to learn something had tempted him from his beloved Sticky Toffee Pudding! With a delicious sprinkling of sugar and just the right amount of ice cream, they rounded off the meal to perfection.
No visit to The Alchemist would be complete without sampling some of their insane cocktails. Masterfully prepared by the in-house mixologists, their prolific cocktail menu (in excess of 70, plus all the standard cocktails not listed on the menu) is inspired by the periodic table; each cocktail assigned their own chemical symbol. To describe a few, there’s the bright blue Screw Ball, topped with white chocolate foam; the Bubblebath, which forms a mound of delicious bubbles above the confines of the glass, and even the classic Pornstar Martini comes with the prosecco served in a chemistry beaker. A sense of humour is a must; the Ballbreaker comes with a blackcurrant ball to break! And for some of the cocktails (3.5 OZ of Happiness, Vesper Martini and Aviator) they even let you keep the flask.
The Manager, Tom Searon, recommends his personal favorite, The Lightbulb Moment for me, so I take him up on his suggestion. If you only have the time (or budget) for one – try this one. A truly theatrical experience, dry ice is poured over the drink, so that it clings to the surface of the liquid and tumbles down the sides of the glass. The mixture of gin, Pimms and ginger beer tastes like summer itself. My second cocktail is the Dead Red Zombie (which incidentally has one of the highest alcohol content of all the cocktails they serve), a tall fruity cocktail with two types of rum, cognac, lime, pineapple and glitter. Dry ice causes the glitter to be caught in a hypnotic cycle of perpetual motion; fascinating to watch – if you can make it last!
Rich decides on Smokey Number Two, made with a 23-year old whiskey infused with cinnamon and apple. After the excitement of the dry ice from his whiskey, Rich then opts for a Wow Woo, a fruity concoction of vodka, peaches, citrus and cranberry that shimmers with gold.
From the moment we arrive, the service was immaculate. A venue can have an excellent menu, but without the right staff is nothing. Fortunately, The Alchemist excels on all fronts; the menu, atmosphere, location and people. With craft training taking up to three weeks of one-on-one tuition, the time invested in developing their people has paid off. Particular thanks go to the Manager, Tom, Amy Murphy (whose knowledge of every aspect of the menu is a force to be reckoned with) and Courtney, who made us feel welcomed and at home.