I try to take the principle that ‘shy bairns get nowt’. While I appreciate how frustrating it is to not see vegan labelling on the menu in many restaurants and feel many diners will be deterred from eating here, if I’m dining out with friends I’ll pose the question as to whether I can be accommodated. With a little bit of notice a curry or risotto can often be rustled up. Recently my friend Laura asked if I’d go to The Alchemist with her for brunch. I covered the Newcastle opening on the blog many months ago and said that options appeared to be limited based on the menu. I was reticent about our visit but decided to put my friend first. Gold star for me!
I was given the allergen menu when I arrived and staff said they were happy to talk about any adaptations that could be made. So far, so good.
We started by ordering non-alcoholic cocktails. The Alchemist are reowned for their extensive menu of dry ice laden, colourful, and unusual cocktails. We started with a Bubblygum, which reminded me of Cherry Fruitellas. Laura decided that she wanted something a little stronger afterwards and went for Beyond the Kale. I have never witnessed anything so ludicrous in all my days!
Garnished with a kale leaf, this was almost like a smoothie due to its thickness. Laura said it was like a mojito in flavour, probably on account of the lime.
Despite the photo above she said she enjoyed it, although I felt the use of the kale like this was quite wasteful. It is certainly true that the ostentatious nature of their cocktails is designed to wow and is why the bar features on many an Instagram feed.. my own included.
I was given the allergen file and confirmed my fears that what I could have as a vegan was limited. There was nothing suitable on the Brunch menu, although I’m sure they could whip up an Avo on Toast combo without egg on request. Cous cous and Vegetable Skewers, Superfood Salad or a Vegetable Burrito were my choices. I decided the Burrito was probably the most filling of the three.
I was dismayed by the lack of nachos given and feel 5 chips hardly makes a decent accompaniment. Given my main was £8.75 I expected a little more. It was quite bland too, and the whole time I kept thinking how disappointing the burrito compared to local restaurant Zapatista’s offering.
Both dishes arrived unnervingly quickly. Laura’s Smashed Avocado & Poached Eggs didn’t look as appetising as expected, with slightly grey and lukewarm eggs topping the bread. One side of the Rye was toasted while the other was untouched. To be fair Laura said it was decent, but I wasn’t convinced. For £8 she could have had a full-on brekkie from the likes of Quay Ingredient or The Butterfly Cabinet in Heaton instead.
Not feeling full we decided to look at the Desserts. Laura opted for Banana Fritters. I was told that because The Alchemist runs a ‘high turnaround kitchen’ all that could be offered for my sweet was a fruit salad so I decided to pass. Considering the restaurant was dead I don’t think that referred to the number of diners being served, put it that way.
To be honest, this didn’t sit well with me. It doesn’t take a lot to coat bananas in cinnamon sugar or to have sorbet on standby in the freezer. Yup, I’d have even accepted a cop out at that moment in time. For a chain of the purported calibre of The Alchemist I feel the food is incredibly lacklustre. I’ll return for cocktails but definitely not for food. Judging by his quiet it was others feel the same. When we have fantastic new independents like The French Quarter in the are there seems like no competition for my hard earned.
Thanks for reading,