The Alchemist launched in Newcastle earlier this year after what felt like the biggest hype of any new bar offering the city has ever seen. Dark, gothic skull murals hid the space that was to be occupied by this curious new nightspot, only fuelling the anticipation.
When The Alchemist Newcastle finally opened its doors, I was lucky enough to bag a ticket to the VIP launch party and what struck me that night, was that despite the gorgeous copper and black decor and the bar theatrics, it not only takes a long time to get served but once you’ve ordered a drink it can take a good 20 minutes before it crosses your lips. Bo and I found ourselves ordering four drinks at a time to beat the bar line and subsequent wait for drinks.
Initial social media feedback about the brand new venue and it’s darkly gothic interior was awesome with people travelling from all over the North East to grab a piece of that signature alchemy for themselves, but the length of time it took to get a drink in your hand was a sticking point. Rather than sit back and do nothing, the team behind The Alchemist put their uber coiffed heads together and came up with a solution: Late Lab. A suite of drinks packages that you order in advance of your arrival. Sounds simple? It really is. The principle behind the idea is cutting out that wait time at the bar and those repeat visits that eat into your night out.
I was invited to the VIP Preview of Late Lab to get the skinny on what it’s all about and whether it really is worth checking out. Our small group of four was greeted on arrival by our host for the evening and we were shown a specific Late Lab menu which ranges in price from £90 to £270. Now don’t disappear just yet, yes it sounds pricey but consider what that gets you, each package varies dramatically, from party size to the selection of drinks included, we’re here to check out the Hip Flasks package, priced at £90. For that we get a large booth reserved for our exclusive use all night (The Alchemist have, up to now, never allowed reservations on tables for drinks only), a host for the evening who will make sure we’re never without a drink until we’ve drunk our package dry, a ginormous Zombie Apocalypse sharing cocktail, and 4 smaller cocktails. It might not sound like much but if you’re a cocktail drinker then you’ll know you can rack up a serious bill pretty quickly, especially when they average £10 each.
It’s a pretty neat package for four peeps, bundled up with a chrome hip flask bearing that Deathly Hallows-esque logo for each of your party. A quick calculation tells us that if you were to rock up without Late Lab, £88 would buy you all of the drinks in the package, minus the table, add on the time taken for trips to the bar and the wait for drinks to be prepared, carry the one, you get my drift…. If you’ve visited The Alchemist before, then you’ll know that this is a nice and very necessary idea and if you do the math you’ll know that it’s super easy to spend way more than that on a night out in Newcastle. There’s also a sneaky little secret you’ll definitely thank me for sharing; if you book online, you get a pretty sweet 25% off and if there are cocktails in the package that you and your squad aren’t keen on (step forward Little Miss Awkward Elle Blonde) then you can switch them out for something you prefer. Princess equilibrium restored.
The Alchemist is famed for it’s exotic cocktails and attention to detail, you probably already know that the menu is pretty extensive. The spectacle is a big part of a visit any branch of The Alchemist throughout the UK, with copper pans and bunsen burners in their arsenal these mighty mixologists know how to put on a show. If you have your designated driver in tow then there’s a selection of non-alcoholic cocktails that are given just as much thought and flair as the alcoholic version, ‘Kaleing Me Softly’ and ‘Mango Shake’ are my personal favourites and they look pretty dramatic so you don’t feel left out.
Considering it? In terms of monetary value, the cost of the cocktails with or without the package is very similar. What you gain is time, and a table which comes with table service – something that’s hard to come by on an evening at The Alchemist. If you’re intending on consuming multiple cocktails at The Alchemist then the benefit of cutting out the wait is worth it, add to that the discount you get for booking online and you’ve got yourself a tidy little saving whilst still looking like a total baller.