The Alchemist, 3 Hardman Street, Manchester, M3 3HF – Visit Now
Eating at the Alchemist is an exhilarating experience. The phrase ‘with a twist’ is often overused, but it’s impossible to describe its selection of food and drink without it. Equally, it’s a wonderful looking space, full of high ceilings and intricate lighting that portrays both food and guests in the best light.
It’s impressively busy, even on a wet Sunday evening in January. The waiting staff are no less than exceptional, managing that rare task of being engaging and chatty but never overbearing. Their knowledge of the food is faultless and they leap at the chance to recommend drinks and courses based on each diner’s preferred taste.
Simple dishes like the popcorn chicken are glorious. Little bundles of meat with a wafer thin crispy coating, soft and delicate on the inside. The quesadillas are laugh-out-loud cute in their little metal toast rack with a doll-house sized bottle of hot sauce. They’re sprinkled with just enough chilli powder to provide a kick without burning taste buds, a fine fit for the oozing cheese inside.
The prawn skewers are exquisite, particularly the subtle katsu curry sauce. However, they do feature a crunchy prawn tail covered in panko breadcrumbs and deep-fried. This makes them decidedly difficult to eat – a fair amount of the coating is lost when de-tailing. A minor gripe perhaps, but a tad frustrating.
The quesadillas are laugh-out-loud cute in their little metal toast rack
No such problems with the sea bass. This is wonderfully cooked, crispy on the base, with soft flaky flesh. The mound of blended avocado is expertly made, seasoned perfectly. Crispy kale is the perfect side dish, speckled with rock salt and even a few edamame beans for good measure.
Chicken in a basket is a must for lovers of fried chicken. It’s coated with Cajun breadcrumbs but notably lacking in oil and grease. Don’t be tempted by the salt and pepper fries – as good as they are, this chicken requires plain french fries. Keep it simple. It even comes in, you guessed it, a wire basket shaped like a chicken.
The Flavour Changing One cocktail does exactly what it says on the tin: two layers, one red, one green
The Alchemist is full of delightful little touches like this, and none more so than with their locally-famed cocktails. The Flavour Changing One does exactly what it says on the tin: two layers, one red, one green, magically changing from a sour tangy mouthful to a silky mint blast. The Candy Crush is tailor-made for the sweet of tooth, an eye-bulging concoction of popping candy and candy floss.
The Alchemist is one of Spinningfield’s most long-standing places to eat out, and despite the influx of restaurants snapping at its heels, it’s busier than ever. Here, every element is the best it can be, from the beautiful decor to the laid back but professional staff. And the food? Sure, it always comes with that aforementioned ‘twist’ but these are more than mere gimmicks, they always, always serve to enhance rather than distract.