A short walk from Putney tube stop, just over the bridge behind the church, Alquimia sports a rather bland and faceless exterior, although in the height of summer the outside tables could be a delight. Inside its better. For a long, lazy Saturday lunch its ideal. On leaving it was it was noted that the restaurant next door to Alquimia had a mass of empty tables while Alquimia was packed; testament I think to its quality.
We were invited to Alquimia to sample the calcots along with a glass of Vilarnau Cava; its traditional accompaniment in the bars and houses of Catalonia. It’s a seasonal dish and the season doesn’t last long. As the waiter explained to the lady on the table next to ours, you have to pull the inner portion out from the charred outer before dunking into romesco sauce. You use your hands so things can get messy; bibs are provided.
For £35 the Calçotada Menu offers excellent value. The starter – simple and traditional Pia Amb tomaquet I al I oli – bread rubbed with garlic and tomato and served with a garlic mayo accompanies the calcots and romesco sauce.
This is followed by a grilled meat platter (Catalan sausage, chorizo and Catalan bacon aka Butifarra Catalanas, Txistorra, Cansalada) which comes with a selection of grilled mixed vegetables and a bowl of Catalan white beans (Mongetes del ganxet).
With the Vilnaru exhausted the Sommelier got to pick a wine to accompany. Her choice was the Habla del Silencio 2011, Extramadura, Spain – a rich, well rounded, delicious bottle (£32.80) made from a mix of Tempranillo, Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon. Delightful name too – Silence Speaks.
With the dessert – Crema Catlana with Coca de froner – custard with biscuits – she also treated us to sample glasses of two dessert wines. The Apasionado de José Pariente (The Passion of José Pariente) from Rueda is stunning (£6.50 a glass/£30 bottle). Perhaps the desert was just a touch too sweet to match perfectly but a joyous match none-the-less. The Apasionado is a sweet Sauvignon Blanc, offering complex notes of hay and grass and a light fennel/aniseed edge that matched the Coca de Froner perfectly.
Also served was a glass of sweet and sticky, gloriously rich and wonderful, Gonzalez Byass Noe Pedro Ximénez (£6.50 glass/£30 bottle). This might, just, have been too sweet for the custard. Still lovely and a treat.
A special coffee to end on – a wonderful combination of coffee, Spanish Brandy and lemon peel.
Sherry features quite prominently on the Alquimia wine list with prices starting at just £3.50 for a glass of Manzanilla; the aperitivo del día. The white wine section lists 12 wines; Albarino and Riojas of course but also a Albarino/Godello mix and a Garnacha Blanca from Terra Alta.
The rosé list is disappointing just two listed. The red section is a more substantial with wines listed from Bierzo, Navarra, La Mancha and Toro in addition to the more familiar Rioja and Ribera del Duero. Prices range from £19 a bottle with the bulk in the £30-£40 range. You could splash out on a £320 Vega Sicilia 2002 if the mood took you however.
We are sadly out of the calcot season now but on the basis of this special menu it would be well worth heading down to Alquimia Putney for their usual tapas menu and wait to practice on extracting the edible bit of a calcot for next season. Just ignore the show-off on the neighbouring table…
3B, 30 Brewhouse Lane
SW15 2JX, London