The Alchemist, City
The Alchemist is the kind of saloon you’d imagine Don Draper in. It’s huge, and styled like a New York high-end 50’s brasserie—low lighting, banquette seating, chrome fittings and polished oak tables—an image helped along by the vintage silent cartoons projected onto the walls in the upstairs area. The crowd ain’t so different either; situated just a stone’s throw away from the Gherkin, it attracts ambitious, sharp-suited city types looking to unwind after a hard day taking over the world.
You’re welcome to order food at The Alchemist, and the menu is notably affordable given the crowd (you can tuck into Steak Frites for a tenner). It’s an all-purpose menu that covers breakfast and brunch, before moving into a semi-standard lunch and dinner offering including burgers, Thai curry, Asian sharing platters, and fajitas. But it’s not really about that. The Alchemist is primarily a bar practising molecular mixology, providing cocktail concoctions of a theatrical and unsurprisingly, alchemic nature. It also has a very worthy whisky and brandy selection because Mad Men.
There’s something truly fitting about drinking magical potions on a date. After all, what even is a date other than a search for the perfect chemical reaction; a pursuit full of flavour and spectacle, and oohs and aahs if you’re doing it right. Most of the drinks from the ‘Molecular Madness’ menu will have some kind of showstopper aspect to it – be that an unusual scent, one that changes colour, or something a bit more kinetic. The Bubble Bath for example (gin, Chambord, Aperol) is a sweet, pink cocktail that foams up like a bubble bath. Sadly it’s not big enough for you or your date to dive into, but I am sure it can provide some inspiration for later.
Towards the end of our visit The Alchemist, already a lively place, started to get a little bit too lively. This is just what happens with a venue at this size—when it’s full it is genuinely hard to hear your date sitting across from you; throw alcohol and a bit of background house music into the mix and well, you get the picture.
3. The Alchemist is impressive, accessible and affordable. While it’s not the Searcy’s bar at the top of the Gherkin, it will almost certainly create memories for you and your date, and could very well inspire you to make more.