Alchemilla has been long anticipated since its announcement – a fine dining restaurant? On Derby road? By Sat Bains’ protege Alex Bond? Well, doesn’t that just sound delightful!
Eager to get a sneak preview into what the food might be like, we went to (and reviewed) Alex Bond’s supper club at Wired Cafe, that he was running until Alchemilla opened. We’re glad we did because it started somewhat of a love affair and piqued our excitement for Alchemilla even further.
Alchemilla is fine dining so it’s not a cheap eat, but it is incredibly good value compared to other tasting menu concept restaurants. There are 3 tasting menus to choose from, 5, 7 and 10 courses with option wine pairings. Rather than having the same dishes at their core with added courses or flourishes, the menus are actually very different from each other, so it was nice to pick a menu based on what dishes sounded most delicious to you, not how hungry/flush you were feeling.
The tasting menu starts at £35 for 5 courses, which is the option we went for. The lamb main course swung it for us!
Being so delicate, it really did need to be first with the subtlety of the soft, cured salmon fillet working nicely with the slightly sour dashi and fresh herbs. we couldn’t taste lovage or that huge tang from dashi so, after the extremely over salty bread we started with, it was bland in comparison. This was an extremely pretty dish, picture perfect – it was tasty and the fish tasted of superb quality although it didn’t excite us that much.
On to the BBQ hispy, hazelnut milk and parmesan.
Alex Bond seems to have a way of packing so much of a flavour punch into his veggie dishes that a passionate meat eater would forget it was missing. Hispy is a kind of cabbage and the charred veg flavour went beautifully with the nutty, creamy hazelnut and the strong, salty whack from the parmesan. The whole hazelnuts added crunch and the whole thing was balanced and delicious. If you think vegetarian dishes are lacklustre, think again – the skill in cooking, recipe design and innovation combined with the clearly fresh and superior ingredients makes for an outstanding plate of food, here. We were waggling our eyebrows at each other and making embarrassing groaning noises at this point.
We were surprised by an extra sixth course, perhaps there was some going spare in the kitchen or it was a treat for dining in the first week of opening! From the 7 course menu, arrived the roasted cauliflower with yeast and almond.
Alex really seems to have cracked this veg-nuts-cheese formula as this was another such combo that was absolutely delicious – one of our favourites of the night. Slightly almondy, slightly buttery, with a whole bunch of delicious charred cauliflower flavour enhanced by a slow roasting. Yeast has a cheesy almost parmesan taste to it which, set with almond in a sugary sweet tuille on top, set this little vegan dish alight. Beautiful.
On to the main event, look at how beautiful that lamb dish is. LOOK AT IT. Pure sex appeal on a plate. Luckily, it was also fantastic in the eating. That lamb loin was soft, tender and perfectly pink in the middle. The genius addition of the soft in the middle, crispy on the outside lamb belly was fantastic – it has a richer, gamier flavour and contrasted well with the soft, charred aubergine. The miso and sesame were definitely present, hinting to a more oriental flavour profile and complementing both the lamb and aubergine astonishingly well. This was salty, meaty, sticky, indulgent loveliness on a plate which was one of the highlights for us.
On the five course menu you get 2 puddings, first up for us was the raspberry, white chocolate and verbena (we previously had this dish at the Wired Supper Club and decided it absolutely wasn’t camomile as stated on the menu, but the lemon verbena gel we had tried previously!) If you’ve never toasted white chocolate, uh-ma-gurd you need to get on that. It calls to mind the taste of a Caramac but with a much more intense and delicious caramelised flavour. It complemented the fresh raspberries and sharp lemon gel wonderfully, with dollops of white chocolate ganache pulling the elements together in almost cheescake-like perfection. Very light, very interesting and utterly enjoyable.
The next dessert divided us a bit: chocolate, miso and banana.
This dish walked the tightrope between sweet and savoury so closely, we did debate if it fell off a couple of times. It was definitely one of the most interesting things we’d eaten for a while but neither of us could decide if we liked it or not once we finished. The banana parfait was sweet but the chocolate was unsweetened and the miso was extremely salty so much of it tasted very savoury. More of the sweet banana elements might have balanced this more for me, but I think it comes down to your personal taste. One thing that we did agree on is that we’d have preferred the two dessert dishes to be swapped over so you have a dish that transitions you from savoury through to a sweeter finish.
So overall, we absolutely loved it here and we can’t wait for an excuse to come back and try the 7 and 10 course menus. At £35 a head, this is fantastic value for the sheer quality of the food. The dishes that stood out were exceptional and the ones that didn’t were also incredible compared with other places. We feel very lucky to have this great place on our doorstep!
Emily & Stu