I've been wanting to eat at Alchemy for ages, so it was very fortunate that I managed to get an invite to a work lunch there recently.
Alchemy is in a great spot, overlooking the river next to Customs House. Although it doesn't have the wide frontage of Jellyfish, it's still a great view out over the river. Our friendly waiter came to the table with lunch menus - all the staff were wearing their "Vote for Brad Jolly GQ" shirts.
When I opened the menu, I was impressed with the range of food on offer - there were 12 entrees and 12 mains (including specials). The flip side is that with so many dishes to choose from, decisions are very tough.
Entrees that I wanted to order included the spiced sweetcorn soup with sautéed spanner crab ($24), cod brandade with coddled duck egg, herb vinaigrette and petite salad ($26) and the charcuterie of cold cured meats, venison bresaola, salami, prosciutto marinated olive and crusty bread ($28). After plenty of to-ing and fro-ing, I picked the scallops with slow roasted peppers, confit cherry tomato and garlic puree ($26). I'd had scallops as an entree for lunch at 1889 Enoteca the day before, so I thought I'd see how the two dishes compared.
After enjoying a refreshing gin & tonic (made with Bombay Sapphire - my favourite gin), we shared a bottle of 2007 Escarpment Pinot Gris from Malborough ($79). Although I'd had the Escarpment pinot noir before, this was my first taste of the pinot gris, which turned out to be a good match with the scallops.
We didn't have to wait too long for the entrees to arrive. The scallops were impressively presented and were perfectly cooked. There's nothing worse than a tough, overcooked scallop, but these were excellent - only just cooked in the middle. I found the flavour of the slow roasted pepper and cherry tomatoes overpowered the delicate flavour of the scallops, so I didn't end up eating too much of the puree, and focused on the lovely scallops instead.
In between the entree and main course, our table (and most of the restaurant) were startled by some very loud swearing being shouted around the room. I thought that some crazy person must have wandered in to the restaurant and started shouting some pretty terrible language. I won't repeat what was said, but let's just say it made Gordon Ramsay sound like a kitten. We were even more shocked when we realised that it had come from the kitchen - not what a diner wants to be hearing at a top Brisbane restaurant while enjoying a slow Friday lunch. If that's going to happen in the kitchen, then the door to the dining room should remain well and truly shut. As the person said sitting across from me - if her mother had been there, she would never return. I think that probably went for a few others in the room as well.
After that bizarre event, our mains arrived. All except one of us on the table had ordered the beef cheeks, which were one of the specials for the day. I had a really hard time choosing my main course from the menu, which included swordfish sous vide with tomato compote, celery & artichoke noodles and jus gras ($38), glazed pork loin with white wine cabbage, apple and cider purée, pork crackling and mustard dressing ($38) and grilled rare tuna with braised orange endive and red wine sauce ($38).
The beef cheeks were served with big, chunky lardons, button mushrooms and potato mash. As you'd expect, the beef cheeks were meltingly tender - our waiter told us they'd been cooked for 18 hours. Although I enjoyed the dish, it reminded me of a beef bourginon, and just lacked a bit of wow factor. Maybe I had just ordered the wrong thing off the menu.
We had a bottle of 2005 St Hugo cabernet sauvignon from Coonawarra ($75) which was drinking well, and went down very easily with the beef cheeks.
I hadn't really been blown away by my food so far, so I was really looking for something different by the time it came to dessert. Luckily I noticed on the menu that they were offering liquid nitrogen gastronomic nibbles, which was exactly what I needed. It immediately reminded me of the frozen chocolate I'd had as part of an amazing dessert at Absynthe.
Apart from the liquid nitrogen nibbles, there were some delicious sounding desserts, like coconut and palm sugar panna cotta with caramelized pineapple financier ($17) and hot chocolate marbre with crunchy honeycomb and vanilla bean ice cream ($17).
Our desserts took a long time to arrive, even though there were only four ordered around the table of six people. For the liquid nitrogen nibbles, I was invited up to the special station at the front of the restaurant. The chef put his industrial gloves on and poured in a decent amount of liquid nitrogen into a little bowl - it was all very theatrical. First up was a small chunk of honeycomb, which had been flavoured with a bit of mint. After a minute or so floating around in the liquid nitrogen, the chef popped it onto a little napkin and told me to throw it straight into my mouth. It pretty much disappeared as soon as it hit my tongue - even more crumbly than normal honeycomb. The mint gave it a great zing on the finish. This was my kind of dessert!
Next up was some apple sour mixture, which was probably my favourite of the liquid nitrogen nibbles - it had a fantastic tang to it after being completely frozen in the liquid nitrogen bowl. Finally I was served some black forest cake mousse, which was probably the least impressive of the three nibbles. While the chef was whipping these up, a few restaurant guests came up to watch and had a chat with me. It's great to be able to interact with other guests during a meal - I thought the liquid nitrogen stand was a great idea.
I had an espresso to finish up the meal, which was very well made - if only I didn't have to go back to work afterwards.
All up, the location and view over the river meant this was a really enjoyable lunch, on a perfect Brisbane afternoon. I walked in holding extremely high expectations, and although they probably weren't completely met, it's hard not to enjoy a lunch in this fantastic setting.
What does all this mean? A huge selection of modern Australian food, solid wine list, unique liquid nitrogen desserts and a super view out over the Brisbane river.
food bling ratings
Food - Good
Service - Great
Ambience - Modern, understated room with a fantastic river view
Value for Money - Ok
Wine - Good
175 Eagle Street
P - 3229 3175
E - firstname.lastname@example.org
W - http://www.alchemyrestaurant.com.au/
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