My son is getting to an age now where eating out is a more pleasurable experience. Don’t get me wrong, he can still be very fussy, but he’s realised that he can enjoy himself in different environments. I’ve been to the new Westgate shopping complex in Oxford a number of times since it opened last October. It’s somewhere I can see us enjoying not only as a shopping experience, but eating out too. There are a number of different restaurant options to suit all tastes and at the weekend we tried family dining at The Alchemist in Oxford.
I’d heard good things about The Alchemist from a number of friends, but had thought that it was a rather wonderful rooftop cocktail bar suitable for adults only. Wrong!
I mean it is that, but it’s more than that too. Not only are you able to sample a whole host of cocktails, the like of which I’ve never seen before, but we thoroughly enjoyed family dining at The Alchemist in Oxford. Kids will love the theatre of it all, as cocktails and mocktails arrive looking more like chemical potions, offering magic spells. Then you move on to the dining, and I have to say, that we were really impressed with the quality and presentation of our choices. There’s a real theatrical feel to the delivery of food and drinks to your table and we enjoyed watching what others were receiving, almost as much as we did our own. It certainly kept my 8 year old well entertained throughout our visit.
The decor is modern but with a real feel of an old apothecary shop, if that makes any sense. On warmer days you can enjoy a table on the roof terrace. On a cold January day, we enjoyed a cosy booth, whilst others could sit by the windows looking across to the famous city spires. There was a real mix of clientele when we were there, and children much younger than my son were happily enjoying the atmosphere too.
Children receive an activity pack which also includes their menu choices. I couldn’t find the children’s menu on the website, which is a shame, as I should imagine that a lot of families would think that The Alchemist isn’t suitable for children, when really it is. For £6 children can choose to build their own bento meal or a wrap from Mini Burger, Fish Fingers or Chicken Strips served with either peas or baked beans and vegetable crudite, cheese nachos and fries or warm tortillas with cheese, served with either chicken or ham with cheese nachos and vegetable crudite. They have a choice of chocolate brownie with ice cream or mini milk lolly for desert.
Tables are supplied with bottled still or sparkling water. We had a really help waiter, who made my son feel totally at ease. He talked us through the extensive menu of mocktails and cocktails to help us decide what to try. He suggested the Bubblygum for my son. I wished I’d caught his expression when it arrived on the table, bubbling away. He’s been learning about volcanoes at school, and thought he’d got one sat right in front of him.
The Bubblygum is made with bubblegum, apple, cranberries, lime and bubbles. It is rather sweet, and a smaller version for kids would be a good idea in my opinion, as my son couldn’t drink it all. But he loved the whole idea of it and now expects a magic moment every time I get him a drink at home!
As I wouldn’t be driving home later I got to try one of the cocktails and it really was a moment of magic as it arrived at our table ready for me to pour. I can certainly see why the Lightbulb Moment is one of The Alchemist’s most popular cocktails! Made with Tanqueray Gin, Pimms, ginger beer, raspberry, lemon and mint, I really rather enjoyed it.
Being the designated driver Daddy P opted for another mocktail, this time trying the Banana Mañana. It arrived with a little less of a fanfare but was enjoyed nonetheless.
Made with creamy Malt, banana, white chocolate cream foam, apple and banana it good a thumbs up from him.
Now to find out if family dining at The Alchemist in Oxford would live up to the start of our visit.
I’d opted for Duck Spring rolls served with Hoisin Sauce, while Daddy P decided on the Pork Steamed Buns, also served with Hoisin Sauce.
Both choices were full of flavour and fillings and were the perfect size for a starter. The presentation left me in high hopes for the rest of the meal, and I wasn’t to be disappointed.
My son had waited patiently for his meal to come out whilst we’d enjoyed our starters and he loved the presentation, bento style. It worked a treat for him as he does like his bean juice to be away from everything else (anyone else relate to that??).
It was really rather refreshing to find a child’s meal that wasn’t 95% fries, and my son was soon tucking in, chatting away, enjoying his meal. He’s always refused to eat nachos with cheese before, but not on this visit. He’s one of those children who likes nachos, loves cheese, but wouldn’t entertain serving them together. But that’s all changed now.
I’m a sucker for seabass so I only had eyes for the Tandoori Seabass fillet served with sautéed vegetables. It was beautifully cooked, again, full of flavour, with a little spicy kick, but nothing that even my conservative husband couldn’t have enjoyed.
I was rather surprised when Daddy P opted for the Moroccan Lamb Rump with cous cous and shakshouka, as I thought he’d go straight to the steak of offer. I must be converting him! He did ask for the lamb to be well done though, so my job is not yet completed.
Of course I had to try a bit of this for myself, and it was delicious, the lamb was still juicy and the whole dish worked really well together. He’d made a good choice.
My son loves chocolate but won’t eat chocolate cake or puddings at all, so he asked if he could just have some ice cream for dessert. Not a problem.
I’m decided to continue my tour of the country’s finest Sticky Toffee pudding offerings naturally. Oh boy, does this one rate highly, it was devine.
Daddy P loves his cheesecake so he was looking forward to trying the Baked Lemon Cheesecake, and it didn’t disappoint.
We both agreed that there was a good selection of options on the menu, with good pricing. The quality of the food exceeded our expectations if I’m totally honest and my son loved every moment of our visit. Family dining at The Alchemist in Oxford got a big thumbs up from everyone and we will definitely be back again. In fact, my NCT group have been talking about having an evening out in Oxford in the next few months to celebrate my 50th and one of the other lady’s 40th and I think I’ve found the perfect location for our celebrations.
There are thirteen The Alchemist across the country, and you can find out more information about each location, the food and drinks menus available, as well as pricing by visiting The Alchemist in Oxford website. I can thoroughly recommend a visit.
disclosure: we were given a complimentary meal with a round of drinks in exchange for an honest review.