Q&A with Alex Bond, chef-patron at the soon-to-open Alchemilla, Nottingham
Who are you?
My name is Alex Bond I have been cooking for 19 years. I have worked in Michelin-starred kitchens since I was 19 years old, including 42 The Calls in Leeds, Restaurant Sat Bains in Nottingham, Auberge du Lac in Hertfordshire and Turners in Birmingham.
How did you get the idea for Alchemilla and how did you discover the building?
It has always been my ambition to open my own restaurant and Alchemilla is the realisation of that. As my career has progressed I have come to find my own style of cooking, which is broadly vegetable based. I am an avid gardener (and even married a gardener!) and I love using vegetables and plants to cook with and surprising people with the flavours you can achieve by letting veggies take centre stage. Alchemilla has been two years in the making, getting a thorough business plan together, finding investors and starting the renovations. I found the building through a mutual acquaintance of the landlord and I.
Further reading: Nottingham’s Alchemilla takes shape
Why did you choose to embark on such an ambitious project? After all, presumably you could have chosen a readymade building for Alchemilla…
I’m not really sure why, but as soon as I saw the building, I loved it. The restaurant has grown more than we originally anticipated but, to be honest, once we got a feel for the space we realised there was so much more scope than we had originally planned for. So, the restaurant has grown into the space it deserves to be. Just come and see it and you’ll understand!
Is it all on track? What has been the biggest challenge in getting the building ready so far?
It’s on track, but due to the fact that we have expanded the original space it was always going to be a sprint finish. The scope of the project in the space has been the most challenging aspect for our architect and builders. We are renovating a Victorian coach house that has been untouched for over 125 years. There have also been the issues of shape and access restrictions to the building, so it has been a really unique project. However we all hope that this effort really shines through when we open and people see what an original restaurant we have created. Our official launch date is August 1, 2017 and we are now taking bookings via our website www.alchemillarestaurant.uk where you can also see a sample menu and the menu options.
You’ve worked in some top kitchens. Which was your favourite experience and why?
Every chef that I have worked for has taught me different skills and attributes, including discipline, organisation, creativity and inquisitiveness. They each had good parts and bad, but you hold on to the good and forget the bad.
What sort of food should people expect at Alchemilla?
The food will be clean, fresh and a good talking point, pairing flavours that diners won’t have necessarily tried before. We want them to be wowed of course! We are trying to create something that you can’t do at home, so coming to Alchemilla will be an occasion but also something new and fresh and vibrant, which is reflective of the menu.
My style of cooking uses lots of vegetables. I honestly believe we eat too much meat and all too often vegetables play second fiddle to proteins. I want to bring vegetables to the forefront and let them shine, supported by the high-quality protein that we use. It’s important to celebrate the growers as well as the farmers who supply us and highlight how the fantastic quality of their produce allows us to create a beautiful menu.
If a mate came to see you from the other end of the country who’d never been to the Midlands before, which food and drink places would you recommend they visit?
Cafe Roya in Beeston, Iberico World Tapas, and look out for Ben Tesh’s new project in Birmingham.