Alchemilla Review

Hi all,

A new restaurant opened this year on Derby Road, just past Canning Circus on the right hand side. As soon as the opening was announced their bookings became quite hard to get so I opted for a week night to bag myself a table for two. I’d heard a lot of positive things about its owner and chef Alex Bond but hadn’t experienced any of his cooking before. He’s a chef that’s worked with several Michelin star chefs including Sat Bains. In fact, Alchemilla has been rumoured to become the next Michelin starred restaurant in Nottingham.

Alchemilla Restaurant, Derby Road

First Impressions of Alchemilla

When we pulled up it had been open for several weeks but the taxi driver did remark that he’d been past this place several times and not even noticed it. The entrance is black with the name stenciled out, it’s actually quite hard to see and is very easy to miss. The outside also has plants climbing up the wall, presumably the alchemilla plant. As you walk in the entrance is grand, there’s a few large stairs leading down where you end up directly in front of the kitchen. The waitress and restaurant manager both greeted us at the same time and showed us to out seats.

Inside Alex Bond's Alchemilla on Derby Road

The restaurant has a very “underground” feel, it’s all exposed brick and arches. It used to be an old lace merchant/stable house if I’m not mistaken but lay abandoned for almost a century. There’s moss across several of the walls which, combined with the living wall outside the restaurant, gives quite a unique feel. One thing I did notice was there was still a smell of damp in the restaurant, presumably this will dissipate over time as it gets bedded in.

Food

We were going to go for the £35 taster menu but when we got there we were persuaded by their wine paring menu. Considerably more expensive the wine pairing consisted of a different wine for each of the 10 courses we were to be served. We decided to go all out as our logic was that we’ll probably not come back for a long time and if we did it wouldn’t be to this extent.

Our 10 course menu with wine pairing was as follows:

Chicken and sweetcorn at alchemillaChicken sweetcorn
2015 reisling, dopff and irion, Aslace, France

The first dish was this chicken and sweetcorn. None of the dishes on the menu are very descriptive but this is not what I was expecting – there was no visible chicken as it was all blitzed up to create a kind of foam. There were chunks of sweetcorn within and added crunch on top – I can’t actually remember what this was which doesn’t bode well. Combined it gave the dish an interesting texture. The taste was good (not great) but good.

Shitake and pork at alchemillaSmoked shitake, cured pork fat
2016 gruner veltliner, domane Wachau, Austria

This didn’t tickle my fancy when I read it but it was actually delicious. The pork fat resembled uncooked bacon or prosciutto but a little bit thinner. The mushrooms were cooked in a really nice sauce that was a little tart but worked well with the woody-ness of the mushroom and the pork. Again, another good dish.

Crab, artichoke at AlchemillaCrab, artichoke, buttermilk
2016 torrontes, bodega colome, Salta, Argentina

The crab and artichoke was one of our biggest dishes on the night. I don’t think I’d ever had artichoke before so it was nice to try it. It was a nice dish but I thought it was vegetarian. Half way through the dish I checked the menu and realised there was crab in it so had to search for it and try it separately. There’s something that overpowers the crab taste here, I don’t know whether it’s because the crab is placed in the middle of the dish or if another ingredient is too much in comparison. It was nice but it could have been a lot better if the portions of each part gave equal flavours.

Leek and hazelnut at alchemillaLeek, fresh cheese, hazelnut
2015 “free run steen” chenin blanc, Western Cape, South Africa

By far one of my favourite dishes of the night (and vegetarian, surprisingly!). The flavours in this were amazing, the cheese, nut and leek all work spectacularly together and I even talk about this dish now. It is a rich dish due to the cheese and sauce but oosh, it was so good, the first exceptional dish.

Black pudding and eel at AlchemillaBlack pudding, smoked eel, beetroot
2016 beaujalais, Burgundy, France

First impressions: maggots. So, this one was one of my least favourites, purely as the presentation or visuals of a dish really do affect the flavours for me. With this one I couldn’t get past that it looked like blood and maggots. The “maggots” were in fact like little Rice Krispies which are sat on a bed of black pudding and beetroot. Black pudding is also a dish I only like a small bit of so it was a bit too much for me.

Tomato lovage at AlchemillaTomato, lovage
2011 little beauty gewurztraminer, New Zealand

I loved this, my boyfriend hated it (he doesn’t like tomatoes). I love fresh tasting dishes and this did it for me, after the black pudding this came at a nice time to freshen the palate and get ready for the next set of dishes. It was really simple with simple flavours but it worked well. I’d never had lovage before (the green dollop) but it is a little bit like celery. I also loved the colours of this dish, particularly the edible flowers.

Duck at alchemillaDuck, carrot, elderflower, nasturtium
2014 aglianico del vulture, Basilicata, Italy

Duck was the next dish. This was served with another sauce, made from the edible flower nasturtium, carrot and elderflower. Nasturtium has a peppery taste which gave a strong punch. the duck was cooked beautifully, so tender with a layer of crispy skin. There were olives which gave the dish salt to compliment the peppery sauce, a natural and great dish.

Apple pie dessert, AlchemillaApple pie
2015 hanepoot, stellenbosch, South Africa

The apple pie was served deconstructed with a layer of crumble and apple sauce underneath. A lovely dessert that was so easy to eat! The apple pie was served with the only wine in the night that I didn’t think worked well. The dish had salt within the crumble which you couldn’t taste on its own but when you sip the wine there was something within the wine which brought it out and it wasn’t pleasant. We had other dishes with salt where the wine toned it down so I don’t quite know what was wrong with this one but we had to eat and drink separately.

Unfortunately I demolished the next dish of chocolate, miso, banana, lime and forgot to take a photo (I blame 8 glasses of wine). It was served with a 2011 chateau doisy-vedrines, sauternes, Bordeaux, France. This was really good. I’m gutted I can’t show a photo of it but it was my favourite dessert of the night so I ended up eating it without thinking. It was essentially a large thick piece of chocolate with a texture somewhere between a tart and a mousse. It was so good and highly recommended for chocolate lovers.

Blackberry dessert, AlchemillaBlackberry, beetroot, cultured cream
2015 lambrusco grasparossa, Italy

The final dish was upon us! We had beetroot with blackberries and cream. The beetroot was made into a mousse and served and worked really well as a dessert option when mixed with the cream and fruit together. On it’s own it was very strong and I would have liked an equal blob of cream as I ended up leaving a lot of the beetroot due to the strength. The wine paired with this dish was interesting, it was a fizzy red. It really threw me off every time I went to drink it as it was not what I expected!

Bread starter, Alchemilla

Service

Really good and no complaints whatsoever. We were given top up on our bread and water throughout the night, all wines were explained to us (we nodded along in agreement) and dishes were also explained well. This was one of those times where, because we were having a set menu, we were a relatively easy table to serve as it was unlikely we’d want anything out of the ordinary.

One of the tables next to us were left waiting for 10 minutes before somebody came to take their drink or food order so, in great customer service style, they gave them a free bottle of wine.

Overall

ALCHEMILLA rating: 8/10

£105pp/£210 in total for 10 courses and wine paring with each dish.

I think the idea of these taster menus, which are different each time, is to get a feel for what people like and don’t  like. At some point I reckon Alex is going to producing a menu with 10 phenomenal dishes (we had 4) and it wouldn’t surprise me if he gets his own Michelin star at some point. I love the wine pairing idea and, as I said, only 1 of the wines didn’t match, the rest were really good. It allowed us to try 10 different wines that we would never have picked.

For me, it’s a little expensive at the minute. I know we chose the most dishes and the wine pairing but even so it’s probably the most expensive place I’ve eaten. I don’t think I can justify the price as only 4 of the dishes were absolutely amazing. It’s worth me pointing out that when you compare the other 6 dishes with standard restaurants, Alchemilla beats them, however, other fine dining restaurants would be on par if it wasn’t for the other 4 courses.

My guess is that once he has an amazing menu he’ll be ramping up the prices so if you want to experience it I’d do it sooner rather than later. The 10 course we opted for was £60 with the wines adding on an additional £45 each. When you consider how much 2 bottles of wine would have cost (£60-70 by my estimations) it’s a cost effective option as we got to try a lot of different ones – however it’s still a pricey night out.

Recommended for: date night, special occasions, vegetarians (just ask)
Not recommended for: vegans, on a budget. fussy eaters, people who like descriptive food
Why not try: a taster menu, definitely.

Please let me know your opinions on this blog post (I love feedback) in the comments or follow me on:

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Love for you all x

Nottingham coverage of Notts Foodie

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