4. Eat Tapatizers at The Alchemist

Lovely setting, but there were a few slip ups.

Lovely setting, but there were a few slip ups.

I’ve been wanting to pay a visit to any of the city’s Living Ventures eateries ever since I moved to Manchester. I’ve heard so many great reviews and the menus read very enticingly. Last week, the time finally arrived when my last ever exam coincided with their 50% off food promotion in January so I took the opportunity to visit The Alchemist on New York Street for some celebratory food and drink.

I’d booked a table online in advance which they’d kindly accommodated to fit seven at my request. On arrival we were only a party of six to which the manager jokingly commented about the extra effort involved in putting out another chair.

Let me get this out there first, the staff at The Alchemist were really good. They were friendly and dealt with complaints (to follow) pretty well.

The drinks menu is extensive, and, best of all for me, there’s an Alchemist’s Apprentice menu where they offer a range of mocktails. Yes, that’s right. They actually have put thought into non-alcoholic beverages. I was super impressed and ordered a Pineapple Meringue which was made from pineapple juice, lemon juice and sugar and topped with a meringue foam. When the drink arrived, the waitress apologised that the barstaff had mistakenly made a strawberry and pineapple mocktail and offered to take it back and make me the drink I’d ordered but I was more than happy to take the drink they gave me. Others on the table ordered more exciting drinks with dry ice and smoke filling the table at different times.

Four of the six of us decided to share some tapatizers and ordered two bar platters, one calamari and one duck spring rolls. The food was very quick to arrive and there was loads of it. I was happily enjoying working my way through the salt and pepper chicken wings, nachos and wedges when I bit into my third or fourth prawn and found a hair embedded in the batter.

I know it’s not the end of the world, but I felt the kitchen should probably be aware of it so I mentioned it to a waitress who took the hairy crustacean away before the manager quickly came over to apologise. As I said, it’s hardly the end of the world so I said I understood that these things can happen and he offered us another portion of the prawns and kindly gifted us one of the bar platters for free.

As an aside, I really liked the prawns. The batter was light and you could taste that the prawns were of a decent quality compared to my current student favourite, popcorn prawns from Sainsbury’s wonderful 3 for £5 frozen party food range.

Anyway, I had lost my appetite after the hair debacle but the rest of the table polished off all the food and we ordered our bill. And waited. And then asked for our bill again. To which the manager apologised for letting it slip his mind and we were swiftly presented with a bill which didn’t have the correct reductions and also featured both the cost of the Pineapple Meringue and the Strawberry/Pineapple drink. The staff clearly saw our bemused looks and were quick to come over and apologise and take back the bill before presenting us with the correct bill.

We paid the bill, with the 10% included service charge, and I left pretty content with the fact that I’d somehow only spent £2.60 on food. Maybe I shouldn’t be happy about this – I did eat half a prawn with someone else’s hair in it. But for some reason, I can’t not like The Alchemist. For many others, the experience wouldn’t have been considered so pleasant, but I can deal with it.

The restaurant’s now firmly established so I’m not sure why these mistakes were still slipping through, but hey, I’ll live.

Would I recommend the restaurant? For some reason, I’m still saying yes. Will I return? Maybe.