Alchemilla on Derby Road in Nottingham, just up down from Canning Circus has been touted as the next Michelin starred joint in town. It is the brainchild of Alex Bond, a locally renowned chef, and I had been told that it was something special so I was really excited to be able to check this place out.
I was fortunate enough to be taken there in January to celebrate reaching the tender age of 50 years old.
I know that this blog is not exactly filled with tales of indulgence in these kinds of restaurant but I do like to make the occasional foray into such places when the opportunity and the pocketbook allows.
We found that It is a lovely space to dine, and even though this is a top end fine dining establishment it is a very relaxed and inviting place and we felt very much at ease. We were the only guests booked in for lunch and we received great service.
I enjoyed it immensely, my thoughts on the experience are as such
We opted for the 7 course tasting menu, I felt that 5 wasn’t quite enough, and that 10 might be too many for lunch, also I quite fancied a couple of the things on the 7 course menu.
We also decided to have the wine pairings (after we had checked that wasn’t going to be 7 whole glasses ) I mean in for a penny in for a pound was pretty much the thought process 🙂
At first I had thought about just getting a couple of bottles of wine, but I was curious and keen to see what wines an expert would choose and match with each course.
It was a really good idea as not only did you get a perfectly matched wine for each course, but I also found that I tried a lot of different wines that I probably would have never chosen, or even known to have thought about choosing.
I admit though that I did sit there looking at the menu and where all the wines were from around the world thinking “ooh I have been there!”
Now there might have been 7 dishes on the list that were officially on their way to our table over the course of our lunch, but first of all we were treated to three little amuse bouche or extra nibbles as I like to call them.
The pick of the three was the first one which was a nest of crispy potato, seasoned with toasted nori, smoked cods roe and dill . It was a really nice crunch snack and there was a real fresh pop of the flavours. I would quite have liked a couple more of those.
There was a nice little tartlet filled with a fish mousse, honestly I could not remember exactly what was in it. It might have been crab it might have been lobster, sorry should have listened more carefully. It was a nice bite though.
The parmesan sesame crisps were a nice bite, a bit like a fancy prawn cracker, I liked the parmesan shavings on the top but I found that the flavour of the mousse spread on the crisp was a bit over powering for my palate. Mind you I am not a massive strong blue cheese fan so ignore my thoughts if you are.
Hen of the woods, buttermilk, black garlic
The first dish that we received from the Tasting menu was a great start to the meal and one that I really would like to have again. The menu just says ‘Hen of the woods, buttermilk, black garlic‘ which did not really give much away.
I knew when I read it, that it was a type of mushroom but that was all I knew. I had occasionally seen them for sale at Farmers Markets, those little cluster of mushrooms on long stalks that you just wonder what you would use them for.
It turns out that they are a very meaty mushroom both in texture and in flavour. In this dish they had been topped with a sheet of lardo fat which added a lovely bit of subtle baconesque flavour. That went really well with the garlic infused buttermilk creamy sauce that was spooned into the bowl as we were served.
This was a great start to the meal and I mopped up all the sauce with the lovely sourdough bread that they had brought to the table.
One of the reasons for choosing the 7 course menu was so that I could have the Squid Carbonara. I liked it but it was not as I was expecting it, and I should have known I would need to expect the unexpected really.
Instead of the classic twirl of pasta this was a bowl filled with some lovely slightly al-dente strands of pasta, some chopped up chewy squid and a lot of creamy froth.
Lots of lovely flavour, it was more like a bowl of carbonara soup, really nice though
Beef, Mole, BBQ lettuce
The ‘Beef, mole and BBQ lettuce’ dish was another that was not quite as I expected but was ever so good indeed. It was a essentially a delicious short rib cooked in a mole (a sweet spicy fruity mexican sauce), smoked puffed corn and coriander
As the dish arrived at the plate the charring of the BBQ lettuce released a fantastic aroma that got the juices flowing straight away. Wrapped up inside that leaf was the slow cooked beef in a mole sauce.
The beef was tender and pulled apart so easily, it was moist and juicy, and there was some heat and spice from the mole. I was anticipating more spice but in all honesty was happier with the more subtle touch applied to the meat
The Autumn Cabbage was probably my favourite dish of the day. I am not normally a massive fan of the cabbage but that is probably down to years of getting boiled and stewed cabbage for school dinners back in the 70’s.
This dish however just shows how much you can elevate something so humble as a cabbage into something truly special.
There are three parts to this dish, slow braised of cabbage sitting in a juicy almost creamy sauce, deep fried crispy cabbage leaves on top of that braise, finally poured over the top at the table was a mix of melted bone marrow and black garlic.
It was seriously good and so unexpected, I am still thinking about it and tasting it in my mind as I write.
Venison, Celeriac, pickled walnut, kvass
The Venison was presented really neatly on the plate with all the different elements spread out in their place. “Venison, celeriac, pickled walnut, kvass” was the title of the dish.
It was one of those dishes that to enjoy properly you needed to mess up the pretty plate and mix everything together so that you got all the tastes together. Well at least that was how I enjoyed eating it.
The actual Venison itself was lovely juicy and pink just as like, the pickled walnut was pretty interesting and I was surprised how tasty it was, I really like the sauce, which I think was a bread kvass sauce, which went really well with the meat.
There was also a dollop of mushroom sauce, which I suggested was a posh brown sauce (I know I am such a heathen). I liked it immensely especially mixed together with the Kvass sauce.
Spiced squab pigeon, beetroot, burnt apple
This was the alternate main dish that you could choose so I only had a little taste of this. I really liked the pigeon, it was really well cooked nice and pink, yet still tender and moist. It reminded me of a less gamey pheasant and it was prepared so much better that the bird I was given by a ‘man down the pub’ I cooked at home once.
There was a lot of different uses of the beetroot in this dish which did add a bit of a sharpness and a bit of sweetness. It really was quite amazing to me the different ways that you could cook and prepare it.
While I had been happy with my Venison dish, I would have really liked a whole plate of this pigeon as well all to myself
white chocolate and bergamot
Before we got onto the ‘official’ deserts we were treated with another little sampler. This one was a ‘white chocolate and bergamot’ bite. I quite liked this, I love white chocolate anyway and so this was right inside my wheelhouse. The orange ‘blobs’ on the top were the Bergamot in a sort of tarter ‘marmalade’ type of affair. It was a nice touch.
Toasted hay, Bramley, burnt sugar
The first of the dessert dishes was another surprise dish, by now I was getting used to ‘expecting the unexpected’ 🙂 At first inspection I thought it was a bowl of ‘apple crumble’ but it was actually all frozen with dry ice so was more like a crunchy and super cold apple ice cream.
It was sort of hard to eat without getting a brain freeze but I was game to try and eat it all quickly before it melted again. I really like the sweet chards of burnt sugar that were mixed into the bowl as well. I could easily just eat those on their own
Chocolate, miso, banana, lime
The last dessert was a little mini layered mousse of banana and chocolate. Mison and Lime had been added which gave an interesting flavour that was slightly tangy, slightly pungent but in a quite pleasant way. The part that I Iiked the most were the ‘shards’ of chocolate and more of that burnt sugar stacked up alongside the mousse.
All in All
All in all this was a fantastic experience and I thoroughly enjoyed my visit to Alchemilla. The wine pairings were pretty spot on and really enhanced the meal. It was true that one gets slightly sloshed towards the end and the lunch gets even more pleasant.
The food was excellent and thought provoking as one might expect from Alex Bond and his team. The servers were very knowledgeable about the food and how it had been prepared. The sommeliers were great explaining why each wine had been chosen and how they matched with the food.