The Alchemist receives yet another great review
The Alchemist Spinningfields (city centre)
(Casual dining review)
Arguably the most important bar opening of last year came right at the end of it, with The Alchemist.
Not only because of its excellence (CityLife bar writer Rachel Esson gave it five-star status last month) but because it solidified Spinningfields' coming of age as a retail and leisure quarter.
There were times when many thought the shiny, high-rise area would end up as a gilded flop, but bizarrely it has been during recession that Spinningfields seems to have turned the corner and is now in vogue rather than in trouble.
The Alchemist is primarily a bar – and a handsome one at that – but there is a food offering there, too. It gets very busy at night, so I'm not sure how happy I would be to eat there in the evening. The tables at the back of the L-shaped building reserved for diners have been clogged up with noisy drinkers on the times I've been in.
Much better to come here for lunch, or brunch. Brunch seems to be the fashionable time to eat nowadays. Maybe restaurants and bars are cashing in on the city break trend which attracts well-heeled couples here on shopping and nightlife trips.
You can book a cheap hotel room without the usual grim buffet breakfast, have a lie in and get up a lot later, check out and have some brunch at a more civilised 10.30 or 11.30am while you nurse the hangover from the bar crawl the night before.
The Lowry Hotel introduced a brunch menu last summer, Kendals' new Cicchetti restaurant has a superb breakfast/brunch menu and now Living Ventures new landmark bar is also a contender.
The main food menu at The Alchemist is the usual bar-ish, all-bases mix of wings, wraps and burgers with a couple of more unexpected choices: the cottage pie with red cabbage is a rather unpretentious offering for such a chi-chi place.
The brunch menu says it serves to 5pm – that's serious lie-in territory.
It includes a full English for £7.95 and a full American £8.95, which is an abomination of eggs, bacon, sausage on top of a waffle, with maple syrup drizzled over the lot of it.
There is a good selection of coffees and especially teas, too, or breakfast cocktails if you want to extend the party from the night before.
My colleague had the interesting Mish Mosh, a tasty mess of eggs, chorizo, bacon, cheese, spinach and mushroom, with toast, for £6.95.
It reminded me of the time my mate ordered an English breakfast in a Prague café. He had to describe it fully before you saw the waitress's brain bulb light up. It came back as an omelette.
I had the eggs royale (£7.45), which came as a double portion of a perfect poached egg on a nice slab of salmon with fresh spinach and a foamy,
light, bright hollandaise sauce to boot. Lovely.
And there was enough of it to give us the energy to open The Alchemist's heavy metal door on the way out – and enjoy a day at the sales.
Isn't that what brunch is all about?
The Alchemist, 3 Hardman Street, Spinningfields, Manchester, M3 3HF (0161 817 2950, alchemist.uk.com).
The Alchemist is open for morning coffee, brunch, lunch and dinner offering everything Living Ventures are renowned for – excellent service, innovative cocktails and great food.