The Alchemist

Posted on October 4, 2011

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I can’t remember where/when or how I first heard about The Alchemist (361 Brunswick Street, Fitzroy VIC), but for some reason the venue itself is very memorable to me. Every now and then it will pop into my head and I’ll think about visiting; and once in a blue moon, I will actually turn that thought into reality. Hence on an otherwise boring Thursday night I made my way there with a like-minded chum to eat, drink and be merry along to some live music.

The Alchemist looks like Dracula’s den and feels very Fitzroy. The vibe is laid back in a slightly moody way. Red velvet drapes, cushy armchairs, soft sofas and large candelabras complete with long drips of wax help set the scene. It’s almost straight out of a vampire movie set. Glass cabinetry filled with lab glassware then tie in the theme with its name, as do the black and white pictures of mad scientists lining the walls. It’s a bit Dr Jenkell and Mr Hyde in one, a little bit of romance mixed with a thrilling sense of darkness lingering nearby.

It’s more well known as a bar for their unique cocktail concoctions ($17-22), but they also tout themselves as a tapas bar. They even offer a degustation for $35 a head. Temptingly cheap, but we weren’t quite sure how hungry we were so it was safer to go a la carte. The menu was split up into four sections, the bar snacks consisting of mostly deep fried goodies were around the $10 mark, the smaller bites were for individual ‘tapas’ items for under $10, salads and then larger dishes at the $20 mark.

We went for the bar snacks, salad and a larger dish. For starters it was salt and pepper squid on rocket ($12) which came encased in a lightly spiced batter. Perfect bar snack right there.

Next up was the duck breast with parsnip puree, pea mousse and raspberry sauce ($21) and green beans with mushrooms and thyme ($11). The duck was reasonably price for its size – somewhere between an entree and main – and it was delicious. It’s not a combination I’ve tried before, but the raspberry worked really well to cut through the richness of the duck. The salad was also quite flavoursome, but the ratio was a bit heavier on the mushroom side than I would have preferred. Overall this little cocktail bar does surprisingly good food. Seems like this Alchemist can make solid gold despite being more known for its potions.

The live acoustic tunes provided a mellow atmosphere and a selection of old school board games added an extra element of fun. Service on the night was both fast and friendly and I thoroughly enjoyed my night – until I lost a game of chess. Looks like me, alcohol and strategy do not mix!

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