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The Alchemist Cardiff Restaurant and Bar Review

I went to the launch night of the much anticipated Alchemist a few months back, and i’ve been back since then for a cocktail or three. This time I thought i’d concentrate on what the molecular themed bar has to offer in the kitchen.

We were invited along to try lunch there a few weeks back, so we chose a Saturday afternoon to allow us the chance to tick a few more cocktails off the menu whilst we were there, without having to stumble back to work after.

We happened to sample some bite sized portions of some of the menu items at the launch, but there was far too much alcohol consumed to remember exactly what passed my lips that evening. This time I was back for a full portion and more.

The Food

Having just clocking off on the 3.5 hour Loving Welsh Food Tour 5 minutes ago, I had to dig deep into that special place in order to power through another three courses. For some this may be unreachable, but for me it’s second nature.

I opted for the duck gyoza to start. Llio was going for a salad for mains, so ordered two starters. Asian steamed pork buns with hoisin and a side of halloumi sticks.

The gyoza were soft and silky, filled with a fragrant mix of veg and shredded duck. A sweet, sticky dip added a burst of citrus. The steamed buns were decent in size, soft pillowy mounds, stuffed with soft pork. I drizzled the sweet, hoisin sauce for a tangy bit of moisture.

The halloumi sticks were fried in a layer of crispy, golden breadcrumbs, paired with a pot of mellow chilli mayo.

Not a bad start from all three dishes so far.

For mains I opted for a seared tuna, because I can’t remember the last time I ate fresh tuna. I opted for it pink in the middle and boy did they deliver on that front. Nothing worse than a sorry, dry and grey slab of tuna when it’s fresh.

tuna and rice cake - The Alchemist Cardiff

I’m not normally one to go for something with sweet chilli sauce, as I thought everyone had rode that wave to death a long time ago. I would of preferred something other that sweet chilli, that offered a fiery kick of freshness to add to the beautifully pink tuna but the dish sounded good apart from that. I loved the toasted slab of sticky rice that contrasted between spongy with a crisp outer layer, with ribbons of herbs layered through it.

I’m not sure what state the micro herb salad was in, when it went on the plate but it was a bit miserable by the time it touched our tables. It could of wilted in the heat of the kitchen or surrounding items on the plate, but the plate wouldn’t of missed it if it wasn’t there. The tuna was delicious though and made up for it.

crispy kale side - The Alchemist

I love a bit of crispy kale and often do them in the house to add to asian dishes for a seaweed like crunch so I went for a side of crispy kale with the main. This paired with the tuna really well with little crispy shards of garlic scattered amongst the leafy crisps.

The other half went for a Caesar Salad. More food her there.

caesar salad - The Alchemist Cardiff

After a bit of a breather to sample another drink after the mains, we decided on what sweets to order. I went for a white chocolate and rum mouse with coconut, rum, mango and lime salsa.

This was probably my least favourite dish of the meal. Not that I didn’t like it, it was just a bit boring. I couldn’t taste any rum what so over, but this might of been in part compared to the other desert, which was very potent in the alcohol department. I just thought the dish was a bit bland compared to the other dishes we had.

caesar salad - The Alchemist Cardiff

The other dessert was the cotton candy baked alaska. I’m not a fan of candy floss in cocktails as I think it’s a bit wanky to be honest so i was a bit apprehensive. I do like a baked Alaska mind, so we bit the bullet.

The mini mountain comes out with a mound of candy floss on, which I imediately though “Oh god, here we go” but they heated a little pan of spirit up, which was flambed and drizzled over the dish turning it a molten, sugar inferno. The candy floss didn’t last long and just shriveled into little pebbles of sugar luckily.

I saw the table opposite let her’s burn for a little too long before us and ended up a bit more singed that I would of hoped for so I blew out the flames just as the top of the Alaska started to turn golden in colour.

This was a much better dish that the mouse with it’s crunchy nuggets of warm sugar in a boozy syrup that I spooned with each mouthful of Alaska.

The Drinks

I’ve had a couple of cocktails here by now and tend to stay up towards the last block of boozy numbers that aren’t drenched in sugary syrups. Some of the tweaked classics like the white negroni, which was a lovely change and the old fashioned.

I was a bit disappointed with my last visit as I tried to order three drinks from the more potent, short and strong section but they didn’t have all the ingredients to make them. It was a Thursday, so I let them off. I was a bit peeved when the same thing happened with another couple of drinks this time considering it was a Saturday, you would think they would be fully stocked for t he menu.

cocktail at The Alchemist Cardiff

First up this time was the Penicillin drink, that came in a mini medicine bottle that i decanted over a large spherical ice cube. This was a bit more like some of the drinks I would order in Lab or Pennyroyal in terms of strength and lack of over the top sugary syrups.

My second drink, after not having the ingredients to my first option was a smokey number that came out in a round science lab beaker, on a tripod and was smoked in front of me. Having had my fair share of smoked old fashioned’s in my time, the drink would normally have been smoked in the glass, with a healthy chunk of ice to keep it cool.

smoked cocktail at the alchemist cardiff

This was smoked in the beaker and left on the tripod to sip at my leisure. The problem being the round beaker wasn’t the safest in the tripod and I just about managed to save it spilling several times. The other issue was the drink therefore couldn’t be chilled with ice, and i was left to sip the warm, smoked liquid like a 15 year old working his way through the ethanol in GCSE science.

I don’t care much for what glass the drink is in, well I do it should fit the drink. But I think the drinks tend to be a bit gimmicy here, whilst hindering on quality and taste. If you want to smoke it, fine. Just smoke it in a rocks or old fashioned glass with ice or a coupe as long as it’s been stirred the shit out of with ice. Just don’t give me a warm drink that I’m scared will plunge to the floor every time i put it down.

The Verdict

I was pleased with our starters, which were both flavoursome and decent in size. I really enjoyed the tuna and the rice cake, especially scattered with my side of crispy kale. I would of preferred something a bit less old school than sweet chilli, maybe a soy, gochujang or miso glaze but the rest of the dish was spot on.

Desserts were hit and miss. I enjoyed the boozy baked Alaska but the white chocolate and rum mouse was missing the main ingredient…rum.

I’ve had some decent cocktails here, don’t get me wrong but I don’t think the flavour and quality should be neglected just because you want to add a bit of dry ice for some theatrics or a bunsen burner and shitty round glasses that don’t sit in their tripod.

The staff are all really friendly and I like that they ask you before you even look at the menu if you have any allergies, so they can offer you a customised menu. That way you aren’t left disappointed, when you go through the menu ordering only to be told they contain something you’re intolerant or allergic to.

I’d probably have food here again, and it is a nice looking venue. There’s not much else like it in the centre of town, where you can get a decent cocktail (if they’ve pulled their finger out with the ingredients) and some good food that’s central.

It seems to be really busy in there every time i walk passed and every time i’ve been in there, which is unusual for Cardiff as most places are quiet apart from Saturday. If you are going for lunch on Saturday, I would recommend booking in advance as they turned loads of people away when we were waiting for the to clear our table.

Contact Details

117 St Mary Street
Cardiff
CF10 1DY

Web: thealchemist.uk.com
Tel: 02921 303755

The best places in Cardiff for a Gin and Tonic

Being the gin whore I am, I’ve pretty much tried most places in Cardiff over the past two years for a juniper based beverage. With so many craft gins on the market and new ones being released each week it’s hard to keep up but the list below will stand you in good stead to sample a whole range of gins from around the world.

There’s quite a few selling local Welsh Gin’s such as Eccentric, Dyfi, Da Mhile and Gower, with is very nice to see. Also something I’m a bit obsessed with these days is all things Japanese and and the Japanese gin’s if you haven’t tried them yet are bloody lovely!

Take a look at my top picks of where to go for a decent Gin and tonic in Cardiff below.

Pennyroyal

High Street, Cardiff

genever at Pennyroyal

 

A very good selection of craft gins including my fav Nikka Coffey, Welsh Gins such as award winning Dyfi Gin and one of the only places I’ve seen Gin’s older brother, Genever served in Cardiff. They also do shit hot cocktails and the Classic Club between 5-7pm Wednesday to Friday is a game changer.

Want something off menu? Tell Alex, Jay or Sam what you like and they will rustle something glorious up for you.

Lab22

Caroline Street, Cardiff

gin martinin at lab22 cardiff

 

This is probably where I fell in love with cocktails and all things gin in Cardiff way back when. I’ve tried many a new gin on the market here and learned a thing or two from mixologist extraordinaire Alex whilst sat at the bar interrogating him.

Their molecular mixology inspired menu looks something out of a nutty professor handbook with acids and potions I’ve never even heard of before featuring in the majority of drinks.

 

Cardiff Gin Club

Anywhere and everywhere

Cardiff Gin Club pop up gin tasting at Hawkes Bespoke Cardiff

 

Cardiff’s very own travelling Craft Gin Bar and quirky gin event pop up with over 60 gins in their arsenal. Tired of the same old boring gin tasting from gin’s that have been on the market for 20+ years?

Sign up at Cardiff Gin Club or give them a follow on socials to find out when and where their next event is taking place. Whether it’s sipping botanically infused water whilst doing yoga or zipping over the Bristol channel in a speedboat for a tipple on a former pirate and smugglers loving island they’ve got it covered.

 

Dead Canary

Barack Lane, Cardiff

East India Company Gin at The Dead Canary Cardiff

 

Cardiff’s original speakeasy, nestled inconspicuously off Barack Lane just behind St Davids 2. Bookings are usually a must but give the doorbell with a ring next to the gold feather on the wall and you might be lucky.

I’ve mainly gone here for cocktails with the new menu themed on Welsh Folklore but they’ve got a pretty impressive back bar of gin and whisky if you want to venture of piste later on in the evening.

 

Park Plaza

Greyfriars Road, Cardiff

park plaza gin tasting main

 

The only hotel on the list but this place has something for everyone. Not the biggest selection of gin to be found in the city but it was here I first tried a couple of gins they have on the menu at the new gin menu launch I was invited too back last year. The Caorun with apple was my fav for a little while too.

Did I mention they do a gin afternoon tea too? Well they do, and you should try it if you haven’t. This might not be the biggest seller coming up to summer but the lobby room in the hotel, slouched in a leather chair with a roaring fire, glass in hand and nibbling on a cheese board whilst it’s snowing outside was my favourite thing to do this winter.

 

Bar 44

Westgate Street, Cardiff

Cardiff’s most popular tapas bar don’t just know their food. Us Brit’s have borrowed the now staple Copa da Ballon glass from our Spanish friends and Bar 44 definitely know how to present them with full to the brim with ice, my favourite Spanish Gin Nordes a Gallician white grape gin then expertly paired with garnish and tonic.

Excellent food meat’s excellent gin. Oh and they don’t half know a bit about Sherry if you fancy one in between. Owner Owen, being a subject expert and recently crowned IMBIBE personality of the year at the prestigious London event they take their drinks just as serious as their food.

 

Small Bar

Church Street, Cardiff

zymurgorium gin at Small Bar Cardiff

 

My favourite pub in Cardiff hands down and mostly known for their delightful array of craft beers, sours, ciders and porters and more recently the Kerala Karavan takeover in the kitchen. If you cast your eyes behind the pumps behind the bar you will see some mighty fine examples of gin, found nowhere else in Cardiff.

Heavily beer influenced with some examples such as the Wild Beer Snoodlepip and Northern Monk Brewing Zymurgorium Gin and their own collaboration with Bristol gin ninjas Psychopomp.

 

Pitch

Mill Lane, Cardiff

With outdoor seating and set over two floors on Mill Lane, Pitch is bigger than it first looks outside. Recently refurbished with quirky, mind bending painting frames on the ceiling this tardis esque venue has an envious cocktail menu and tempting gin collection.

Fancy an afternoon gin teapot sat in the Sun? Look no further.

 

Curado

Guildhall Place, Cardiff

Gin and yuzu tonic at Curado Bar Cardiff

 

My other favourite tapas venue in town and somewhere you can just nip in for a drink without worrying about having to have food (not that I’ve ever been strong enough to fight off the urge) is Curado.

A great wine selection but they only sell Spanish Gin and most other than my fav Nordes I’ve never seen anywhere else in Cardiff. Santamania is their go to Gin with one being a collaboration with my Ozzie fav Four Pillars Gin. Oh and you just have to have yours with QYuzu tonic because Yuzu in anything is the bomb!

 

Potted Pig

High Street, Cardiff

Not only do the guys at Potted Pig do shit hot food, for a long time they had the biggest selection of Gin in Cardiff too.

Not exactly somewhere you can just go for a drink but something to bear in mind if you want to end a good meal with something wet and tasty.

 

Ten Mill Lane

Mill Lane, Cardiff

scapegrace gin cocktail at ten mill lane Cardiff

 

More of a late night venue, this basement bar comes to live after midnight. Most customers have probably been well oiled by the time they get here but they recently won the Scapegrace Gin Trail in Cardiff I recently tagged along in with their crazy out of the box gin concoction that blew us judges away.

A good gin selection and a very reasonably priced cocktail menu will see you through till lights on at 6am.

 

Peppermint

Mill Lane, Cardiff

Peppermint is a place you can go for an afternoon drink sat in the sun on Mill lane or for a knees up and boogie till late. Set over two floors with an outside seating area and food menu, you can be entertained for hours.

With a good selection of gin favourites on display and a tempting cocktail list this should definitely be on your list of venues to stop by on your gin tour of Cardiff.

 

Bootlegger

Womamby Street, Cardiff

ki no bi Japanese Gin at Bootlegger Cardiff

 

This prohibition themed bar might be easy to miss walking through Womamby Street but make sure you pop in to the 1st floor venue the next time you’re in the area. With an ever increasing selection of juniper based spirits, twisted classic cocktail menu and live jazz performances on the weekend it’s a nice addition to the music loving street. #VIVALAWOMAMBY

 

Gin and Juice

High Street, Cardiff

This spin off ginspired venue is from the coffee and tea house jugernaught that is Barkers. Formerly known for kitting out South Wales in denim and check shirts for 30 years, they’ve now basically taken over half of Castle Arcade with the addition of Gin and Juice next door to Coffee Barker.

With close to 200 gins from your household names to more niche and rare bottles there’s something for everyone. Those cut glass drinking vessels look the part too. I’ve heard they do a pretty healthy breakfast too if you fancy pairing it with your citrus spiked gin of choice.

 

Cathedral 73

Cathedral Road, Cardiff

Off the beaten track and one to think about if looking for somewhere to hydrate on a trek from Pontcanna to town. I attended the launch of the new food menu and management of the venue back towards the end of 2017 and was rather impressed with the collection of gin behind the bar.

With 30+ at the time including local Eccentric Gin they told me they were hoping to increase this to 73 in homage to the street number at which they reside. If you’re looking to make the most of the evening, I was bowled over by the quality of the rooms and accommodation there too especially the two story fully kitted out kitchen apartment.

Turtle Bay Restaurant Review Cardiff

Being a lover of independant’s it’s very rare I go to a chain restaurant these days let alone make a repeat visit within 6 months.

The restaurant in question is Turtle Bay, a Carribean themed restaurant located on St Mary Street next door to Kongs. If spice isn’t your thing you might want to skip this place as there are plenty of chilli’s of all varieties especially in the revered Carribean staple Jerk seasoning that pops up on many of the mains and sides with bottles to hand to smother some more onto the plate if you’ve not got enough heat to content with.

Turtle Bay is also a popular retreat for wetting the whistle as they are known for their cocktail happy hours offering 2 for 1 from open till 7pm then 10pm till close.

The Drinks

I’ve popped in for a cocktail a few times of late to take advantage of the 2 for 1 drinks offer. As i’ve got older and after being a recent gin convert I find most cocktails very sweet and remind me of 18-30 holiday in Magaluf compared to the subtle neutral flavours of gin.

There’s a good selection of cocktails in the offer to be had but you do need to choose two of the same. My first choice happened to be a Carribean take on the classic long island iced tea.

Not a bad choice as the cola substitutes the overly sweet mixers of most cocktails and had a decent kick to it compared to some other bars offering 2 for 1. I usually find the 2 for 1 cocktails at most places just means you get the same amount of alcohol just divided into two glasses so really you’re just getting more mixer. So instead of having a double shot in one for say £7 you get two cocktails for £7 but you get a single in each topped up with sickly pre packaged mixers.

After chatting to the barman and telling him we popped over to see what the place was about after being served watered down 2 for 1 cocktails nearby earlier in the evening.

Secret Cocktail Menu

I was glad to hear that they had a secret cocktail list not on the main menu and this happened to include gin martinis.

You get a choice of vodka or gin Martini and also get to choose Tanquery I think it was or Sipsmith, which of course I opted for the more superior Sipsmith option. Unfortunately they didn’t have any olives or lemon rind to hand to make a dirty martini or just a bit of citrus touch as I would normally use. They did have lime but I don’t like lime in my Gin and I couldn’t complain for that price.

Gin Martini at Turtle Bay Cardiff

The measures were spot on with the Martini too with a double helping of Sipsmith Gin, shot of Noily Prat Vermouth. So for around £7 you get two double decent quality gin watered down with fortified wine, what’s not to like but it’s not for the faint hearted. I let a few of my mates sample a sip and all but one winced in horrified fashion to the strength of the drink. I think they just need more practice.

The Food

As we’ve dined her twice i’ll mention the plates ordered on both occasions.

Starters and nibbles

First choice whenever we eat out is calamari or squid in whatever form they specialise in if it’s on the menu. Here they offered crispy chilli squid, which was right up both our street as we both love a bit of heat with the squid.

crispy chilli squid at Turtle Bay Cardiff

Served as described, spicy and crispy in it’s panko breadcrumb crust with a cooling citrus blast from the mango, lime and corriander mayo.

Second visit we fancied a few different bits from the starter menu so opted for the Just Jerked sharing platter . This included pit jerked chicken wings, glazed pork ribs, jerked beef riblets, sweetcorn fritters, spiced popcorn, salad and something i’d been craving since passing a random Carribean hut on the way back from Cardiff Bay Wetlands reserve the weekend before a Jamaican beef patty.

Jerk sharing platter at Turtle Bay Cardiff

This is basically like a Jamaican version of Wahaca in my eyes with each course oozing with flavour with a good punch of heat and spice from every bite, just how I like. I couldn’t fault any of the platter, you can’t go wrong with spicy sticky wings, the meat just fell off the pork ribs with a rich, spicy glaze on the beef ribs. The popcorn didn’t really do much for me mind and was just there to fill the try a bit I think.

Mains

First visit we ordered the pork ribs with sweet potato fries. Decent sized tender ribs with a slight spice, topped with chutney paired with something i’ve failed to ever create at home a really nice crispy sweet potato fry topped with cheese and spicy jerk sauce.

Jerk ribs with sweet potato fries at Turtle Bay Cardiff

We both loved the goat curry so much we opted to have another plate on the second visit. Slowly braised and very tender morsels of goat in a thick, spicy curry served with coconut rice and peas, chutney and a portion of dumplings. The rice made a lovely change with it’s subtle fragrance compared to somewhat bland offering of plain white rice at some restaurants.

 

Fancying a one pot wonder too my eyes hovered over the Bajan beef cheeks. The menu read “Six hour slowly simmered beef cheeks marinated in Caribbean spice, okra, potato, garlic, ginger, star anise, cinnamon, coriander & toasted coconut.” I mean come on, how could you turn your nose up to that?

Again I’ve not had a piece of meat that wasn’t tender and disintegrating on contact with my tongue at Turtle Bay yet and this was still the case here. A good bit of heat yet nothing too crazy warmed my sinuses with a little trickle of a runny nose is always a good sign in my eyes. The plate also came with steamed rice and roti flatbread to aid my favourite past time…making a sandwich out of absolutely anything on my plate.

 

Verdict

I would definitely recommend Turtle Bay for food and a cocktail if you’re going for the Gin Martini on the secret cocktail menu although it’s a shame they don’t have any olives or lemon to garnish it.

All the food i’ve tried so far was packed full of flavour and just the right amount of spice for me anyway. The vibe is very relaxed and always see big groups of people for what must be birthday’s and work outings in town. The bartenders are all very friendly and happy to help you pick a drink or food item. I don’t actually think i’ve ever seen bartenders so happy behind the bar anywhere like there saying that.

Starters are around £5 and mains from about £10 coupled with some 2 for 1 cocktails it’s a recipe for a good night with friends, family or work colleagues for an informal shindig.

I’m ashamed to say i’ve been there for food twice and still not tried the dessert so sadly I can’t comment but I might just have a side of dessert with my next cocktail visit to see if i’ve been missing out.