Newly awarded Michelin starred restaurant (2020 guide) in Nottingham from Alex Bond
Alchemilla is a new addition to the Michelin guide, gaining its inaugural star in the 2020 edition. It is also unique within this particular family as the Michelin guide visited here and awarded its star live via a stream a few days prior to the main announcements ceremony in London (there is no stand out reason I can establish why this restaurant was selected). The restaurant itself is uniquely designed from scratch in a basement area of what looks at first like a refurbished church crypt with huge, open kitchen presenting itself to you as soon as you walk in and with a terraced Nyetimber roof garden for the summer. Overall, the meal was skilful, modern and with a recognisable and influenced style of Restaurant Sat Bains (where the head chef Alex Bond spent a good deal of time working at), but only so many dishes were a genuine pleasure on my visit. The restaurant is certainly impressive, with stern acoustics and with a legion of efficient staff members.
First things first, the name of the restaurant is after a plant; it is otherwise known as Lady’s Mantle as the Alchemilla plant is thought to have healing powers for gynaecological disorders. That aside, there are impressive flower decorations inside this restaurant owing to the head chef’s wife being a keen horticulturist and guiding the interior design accordingly when it opened after significant building works from scratch in 2017 (the site was formerly a coach house). My waitress informed me that of all the plants used in the decor, the head chef liked the intriguing sound of that plant the most and hence the restaurant name was born.
The menu is a non-choice selection of three tasting menus: 5 courses for £65, 7 courses for £80 and 10 courses for £95. Time was not on my side and after the long drive up to Nottingham from London and a further journey north after dinner, I had to opt for the 5 course menu, however, for interest, when all was said and done with snacks and interludes, this worked out more like a 10 course event.
The snacks began with crispy Jerusalem artichoke skin, crispy chicken skin and truffled goat curd in between which was an enjoyable way to begin. The second was potato ‘roe’ with black garlic, caramel and smoked eel with grated smoked cuttlefish on top was a sensational combination and with gorgeously sweet garlic sauce. Finally, a seaweed tapioca cracker with parmesan custard, fermented dry mushrooms, caramel and a reported 36-year-old Parmesan used for the shavings gave a subtle and delicate texture and another lovely sweet-savoury beginning.
Following the snacks, the first course was tender stem broccoli cooked in garlic and chilli with hazelnut, satay sauce and with nori shavings on top. This was light, carefully prepared and with a pleasing satay sauce which was also nice to have away from a Thai setting with customarily average chicken as is very often the case for its use.
Next up was an amalgam of squash. Squash discs came with lovage emulsion, a pumpkin seed tuile, dehydrated & fermented squash juice, smoked cream & lovage sauce. The squash itself was cooked in garlic butter and thyme, Maneul Jangajji (fermented garlic and soy gel akin to pickled garlic) which sounded quite exciting but ultimately wasn’t very noticeable. All was finished with a smoked cream and lovage sauce. I liked the way the fermented discs gave the rest of this dish the break it needed and came with ethereally delicate tuiles, but as skilful as these are, I felt they could have more texture as these practically disintegrated into the cloying texture of the rest of the dish which, ultimately was a lot of effort for relatively minimal return on the palate.
Venison was the main with hen of the woods mushrooms and served as loin and fillet. Blackberry ketchup with mushroom and mushroom crumb, pear dipped in spruce (a tree within the pine family) vinegar, pear glazed in maple syrup and venison and spruce oil. The meat had reasonable flavour although was a fraction under for me and certainly not at the standard as the Venison experienced at Artichoke days prior; the mushroom purée was very good as well but I was less convinced about the combination with pear in both vinegared and mapled forms.
Bergamot ice cream ‘sandwich’ came as the pre-dessert. Bergamot is not one of my personal favourites as is extremely bitter (it is a hybrid of lemon and bitter orange that looks like a round lime) but personal likes aside, the biscuit on top and beneath I thought was very well textured, but the ice cream itself not entirely smooth, with quite a few large water icicles. I also had mixed emotions on the main dessert as well which, although had some very good Yorkshire Rhubarb and nasturtium parfait, the sourdough bites (caramelised croutons), were a little too hard to enjoy overall. There was a very pleasant caramelised, almost popcorn-like scorched meringue with nasturtium oil in the middle which was a very good combination and wonderfully smooth Swiss meringue. I couldn’t taste a huge amount of rhubarb, as I thought was the main component of the dish, but had just enough to cut through all of the rest.
Finally, the signature dish turned out to be the palate cleanser at the end – yoghurt, pine sherbet and pine gel with wood sorrel. This was a very good combination with the sharp of the sorrel, cool and refreshing sour of the yoghurt and lovely, smooth texture to the ice cream. It was clear to see the Sat Bains influence in this final dish particularly and good to finish on a positive note.
Service throughout was very efficient and switched on, with water topping up competently monitored throughout from a small army of bright staff although in some cases, staff appeared to want to deliver explanations and leave as humanly quickly as possible. The acoustics is also quite a new experience as the high brick walls and stone floor does mean that if you are in an enclave as I was, it serves as an amplifier to the sound of other corner tables as if you were on the whispering balcony of St Pauls Cathedral, the reverberation being that loud. However, the design is certainly eye-catching.
Overall, my meal came to £71 with no drinks or coffee which represented fair value for what was had. You can expect in the region of £130 per person if you come on a romantic trip with pre-dinner drinks and economically chosen wine. This is a distinct restaurant with skilled designs and no question of hard graft that has gone into this venue and menu, all with creative flare, but with some clashes within the dishes for me making this meal a minor disappointment but with some very good moments in the mix. On a miscellaneous note, the shortest menu I had, took just under 2 hours, (the staff being kind enough to oblige my table in the first place being so unavoidably late) and sped up service so I could get on the road in quicker time, meaning, give yourself a wide berth here if you are going for any of the longer menus with plenty of space for the fully 10-course tasting menu. If you are having the latter at lunch, frankly, I would ensure you have written-off the rest of the afternoon to properly enjoy. Whenever I am in Nottingham next, I will try here again to give another go and try to make that in the warmer months to see the garden in more of its summer glory.
Food Grade: 69%
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