How it’s been 6 months since I visited Alchemilla to interview Alex Bond, I do not know – even more unbelievable is that I hadn’t eaten here since it opened at the beginning of August!
Keen to rectify that, we booked a table to celebrate Dad’s birthday a couple of Saturdays ago…
Greeted and shown to our table, the first thing that came back to me from my previous visit was the beautiful natural light that flooded the restaurant. The day we visited was hideously cold, windy and rainy, but stepping inside Alchemilla you felt cocooned with warmth and calm
Having looked at the 3 menu options (5, 7 or 10 course), we decided to go with the 10 course – not only because of the number of dishes but also because of the variety offered by this option
We settled in with a glass of what I have to say is the nicest prosecco I’ve come across, and of course I forgot to take note of what it was!
Something that has been added since I originally spoke to Alex is a snack to start your meal (and oh how glad I am that he’s decided to do this!) This cep, chicken & brown butter sabayon tart was warm, oozy and rich, and despite almost wearing it due to my over-enthusiastic chomping, was a delightful way to kick off proceedings!
When the bread arrived Mum was catered for with her own fresh gluten free version, whilst the rest of us tucked into slabs of crusty sourdough slathered in cultured butter!
We decided against the wine pairings and instead chose a bottle of white (Hungarian Tojaki which is becoming a firm new favourite) and a French red (Clos Troteligotte, K-Lys) which we alternated between throughout the meal
The first official course to arrive was BBQ shiitake & cured pork fat. The pork fat was so delicate it was nearly completely translucent and practically melted on your tongue, whilst the mushrooms had an almost meaty quality themselves, tasting sweet and smokey
Next was crab, tarragon & fermented red cabbage. When I first read fermented cabbage I immediately assumed kimchi, but the cabbage in this dish was very different to the kimchi on the pork jowl dish further down the menu – this had kept it’s vibrant colour and was light and fresh, and complimented the sweet crab without overpowering
As the third dish arrived, Alex’s alternating of lighter and richer dishes was becoming apparent. The risotto of grains with 36 month parmesan was silky, creamy and comforting with a ‘sugar puff’ taste and texture coming from the puffed rice topping. An extra grating of parmesan on top added yet more to an already decadent dish
Oh how I love onions, and here they’re served whole with wakame (seaweed) & peppercorn sauce – it was just another level! Soft, sweet onion was enveloped by a light sauce with a definitive pepper taste (but thankfully as you’d expect at somewhere like Alchemilla, nothing like the slop people ruin a steak with!) Crispy wakame & shards of chicken skin provided a lovely saltiness, and this was a prime example of how you can elevate a simple vegetable with the right care and attention
The first of the two meat dishes came in the form of pork jowl, kimchi & peanut – as I mentioned earlier, the kimchi in this dish was totally different to the fermented cabbage with the crab, and was more the traditional stronger flavour I’d been expecting. Paired with meltingly soft slow cooked pork and crushed peanuts, it was a gorgeous combo
Now this next dish – potato terrine with smoked eel and oyster was my favourite dish of the day! You might not be able to tell from the pictures but that golden potato terrine was comprised of tiny tiny slithers of potato pressed together, and each slice was buttery on the inside and crispy and golden on the outside – I could have eaten a piece the size of my face! Combine that with beautiful delicately smoked eel and the light oyster emulsion and you have a thing of real beauty
The final savoury course of beef cheek, artichoke & miso hollandaise was possibly my least favourite dish of the day, and the only reasons I can give for this are all the elements were very soft and I would have welcomed a bit more texture, and the veg dishes were just so. damn. good. it’s hard to compare! The beef was moist and tender, the hollandaise had a light miso flavour and the artichoke & puree were perfectly cooked, I just wanted a little more bite
Who can refuse the optional cheese course & a glass of port?! A stronger person that me, that’s for sure! We ordered two between the four of us which in my optinion was just enough. The selection included a washed-rind Francis, Baron Bigod, Driftwood, unpasturised Montgomery Cheddar & Cropwell Bishop blue, served with a selection of crackers and chutney
To compliment the desserts I chose a glass of gorgeous Riesling dessert wine, the first of which being rhubarb, tarragon & liquorice – icy, fresh and zingy, and in keeping with the light/rich alternation was really refreshing after the cheese. Sharp rhubarb flavour was present, but the predominant flavour came from the sweet liquorice sauce underneath (which I think you can tell I enjoyed…)
Secondly we had chocolate, miso, banana & lime – I could detect a subtle hint of lime & banana, but got a real mellow saltiness from the miso. The chocolate brownie was gooey and moist, just as it should be!
The final dessert of kumquat, chamomile & scorched meringue was my favourite of the three – a perfect balance of sharp kumquat puree and sweet golden meringue is a match made in heaven!
I have to say that although the initial draw of the 10 course menu was the fact that there were more meat dishes, it was the vegetables that blew me away and I would perfectly happy with a purely vegetarian menu
I was seriously impressed with not only the incredible flavours and presentation of the food, but also by the wines, the vibrant atmosphere of the restaurant and the incredible staff – I absolutely cannot wait to return!!
Have you visited Alchemilla? If not, why?! Go, run….!