As a student of English, the occult science of alchemy has never really appealed to me. That was, until a new branch of The Alchemist opened on Westgate’s sky terrace! The EarthyEats team visited last Tuesday to concoct some reviews.
A review of this restaurant would be incomplete without first acknowledging the stunning interior design. Sleek, grey interiors are coupled with effusive orange lighting throughout, making the bar area in particular look like a warm, glowing and welcoming hearth. This imagery is particularly effective at night, where the light bleeds beyond the confines of the restaurant into the crowded terrace of Westgate. On a cold Oxford day, the juxtaposition between the grey skies overlooking the Oxford skyline and the orange innards made us particularly glad to be inside.
Indeed, aesthetics seems to be a huge part of the restaurant’s vision. We meet Lila, The Alchemist’s Business Development Manager, who concurs – most of the money they spend goes on lighting and decor!
The Alchemist’s menu is unique in that they have curated the most popular dishes from all cuisines in one, unified menu
To begin, we have some drinks. True to its scientific aesthetics, the menu is laid out like a periodic table with intricate drawings and gold embellishment. Whilst my interest is piqued by ‘The Colour Changing One’, my EarthyEats assistant – today, Amelia Gosztony – opts for the ‘Lightbulb Moment’. The drinks arrive in scientific beakers for self assembly. Upon construction, they are undeniably spectacular; Amelia’s drink comes in a yellow light bulb which is overflowing with dry ice, and covers the whole table while she pours. My drink comes with two beakers – a blue concoction, and a clear one. Upon mixing the two, the colour does indeed change to a pale pink! Delightful! On top of these aesthetic points, the drinks are also delicious. Mine taste of apple and lemonade – the vodka, much like the ‘magic’ the menu suggests it contains – is masked.
The Alchemist’s menu is unique in that they have curated the most popular dishes from all cuisines in one, unified menu. Lila explains they wanted their menu to have something for everyone. The Starters Menu features everything from California Rolls, to Gyoza, Nachos to Thai Fish Cakes. Equally, the Mains Menu boasts Moroccan to Tandoori cuisine, alongside more conventional burger options. When we arrive (12.30), they are no longer serving the brunch options – yet these seem more in keeping with our expectation of a brunch menu.
We order the Crispy Lamb Ribs, the Prawn Lollipops, and the Popcorn Chicken to start. Of these dishes, the principle is undoubtedly the popcorn chicken, which is tender, bite sized, and incredibly moreish. It comes with Sriracha Mayo, which is spicy but incredibly tasty. The prawns are truly lollipops – battered, and presented impaled on tall sticks with a sweet and sour sauce. They are crisp, fresh, and sweet.
For the mains, we each opt for decidedly different dishes – while I get the Beef Raman, Amelia orders the Fajitas. While both are beautifully presented steaming and searing hot, my Ramen proves a little underwhelming compared to Amelia’s beastly fajita composing kit featuring sauces, shredded lettuce, warm wraps and a searing hot skillet with chicken still cooking on top.
To round off the meal, we order some non-alcoholic drinks (forgive our boringness, but it was Midday on a Tuesday and we are boring finalists). The ‘Bubblygum’ proved true to its name, proving delightfully frothy upon composition, and the ‘Kaleing me softly’ came garnished with a huge Kale shrub. This was delicious, but did make the refreshing smoothie slightly difficult to drink!
In all, we are impressed by the Alchemist’s dedication to spectacle – particularly in terms of their drinks. With a huge range of unique, spectacular drinks to chose from, my only regret is we did not have time (or tolerance) to try more. One thing that surprised me was the very reasonable prices. At £8.25 for a burger, the Alchemist is absolutely within a student price range. The EarthyEats team will definitely be returning for date night.