Suits, skyscrapers and scandal is what most springs to mind when you think of the City. Buzzing during the week, deserted at the weekend and not always the cheapest place to wine and dine, London's Square Mile doesn't have quite the same pull as some of its more characterful counterparts. Which is perhaps why The Alchemist chose to set up shop in Bevis Marks, a former banking hall just round the corner from the Heron Tower, the Gherkin and 20 Fenchurch Street - to change the scenery of city socialising.
It's an impeccably finished location, complimenting the building's beautiful original features with strings of industrial style lighting and a gloriously polished bar front and back. Deep leather sofas frame the windows while high tables allow you to get intimate - there's a decadent atmosphere too, a warmth that encourages you to stay for just another round, surely.
And talking of rounds, we were keen to put The Alchemist's cocktail menu through its paces. No ordinary cocktail menu this - as the name suggests, these concoctions aim to please with their signature, crafted 'Molecular Madness' drinks taking mixology to a whole other level. Forget about changing water into wine, the brilliant barmen use all sorts of secret tricks to conjure up new creations.
We started with the Dead Red Zombie - a fruity number with a rum base that came in a tall glass, topped with passionfruit, and bubbling and smoking like the mist in a horror movie. Our barman explained that they use a secret ingredient that reacts with the alcohol to produce this ghoulish effect, just perfect for Halloween, and incredibly moreish without being too sweet.
Next up was the Maple Manhattan - a Wild Turkey bourbon with bitters, citrus and a fluffy maple syrup foam that added sweetness to the dry whiskey. Served in a martini coupe, this was a sultry, warm and yet not too heavy starter for ten that hit the sweet spot jackpot.
And, knowing that every barman has his favourite, we asked for a recommendation and were presented with the Mad Hatter's Tea Party to share. A chemistry set was brought to the table, herbs and fruits were placed in glass beakers and after some boiling and burning and more secret ingredient pouring, a fragrant steam was being poured into china tea cups as an interpretation of our little sumer picnic. With mint, strawberries and elderflower all in the mix, this tasted like a crazy professor had got his hands on a classic Pimm's recipe and used plenty of vodka and Cointreau for good measure.
The great thing about The Alchemist is how interactive the drinks feel; instead of the traditional transactional experience, the friendly and knowledgeable team here really go to great lengths to make you feel involved. If you prefer to err on the more familiar side of the menu, they have whole sections for classics, for sharing, for the abstainers and even for those wanting a commemorative hip flask. And if you're one of those people who like getting their hands dirty - there are even cocktail masterclasses where they walk you through making and drinking some of your favourites.
But it isn't all about the cocktails. The Alchemist's open all day, serving up breakfast for you early risers and ones for the road for you late leavers. The restaurant covers all bases so it's the ideal location for a lazy weekend when the thought of suits, skyscrapers and scandal can take a very definite backseat - let these sorcerers work their magic.