THE trusty dictionary that sits on my desk defines alchemy as: n. medieval chemistry, esp. seeking to turn base metals into gold.

Well, there’s a new alchemist in town, one that is seeking to transform alcohol, fruit juices, syrups and a whole host of other ingredients into a something just as lucrative.

The Westgate Centre’s cocktail bar and restaurant, The Alchemist, is building quite a reputation as the in-place to be – and to be seen. Located on the roof terrace, it offers stunning views of the city’s Dreaming Spires on the outside – and views of the city’s young and glamorous cocktail set on the inside.

It’s all about the mixology here, with a veritable periodic table containing scores of drinks to choose from. There’s a real sense of theatre too, as the cocktails are delivered to their tables in flasks that could have come from a chemistry classroom, often billowing ‘smoke’. The emphasis is on fun...and a sense of drama.

So what about the food? Well, in some ways, it seems almost incidental – a bit like going to a Wild West bordello to check out the piano player. But if you’re imbibing flaskfuls of ‘Dead Red Zombies’, ‘Pornstar Martinis’ or ‘Shrub a Dub Dubs’, then it makes sense to get something inside you to soak up the alcohol, doesn’t it?

My family and I took up their invitation to see what the Alchemist has to offer, and the first impression was that word had certainly got around. It was heaving by 4pm on a Saturday, with standing room only in the bar area.

Lots of shoppers had obviously decided they’d earned a break from their dose of retail therapy.

The dining area is very modern, with lots of wood, copper, and comfortable leather banquettes. We squeezed in and tried to make sense of the cocktail menu.

A Bloody Mary or a gin & tonic is as adventurous as I’ve got on the drinks front, so I plumped for a Tickle Me Pink (£9.25), a combination of gin, elderflower and nettles. It certainly had a sting in its tail in the form of an accompanying syringe, filled with a vivid red liquid, which you squeeze on to your tongue to replicate the sensation of a stinging nettle. I’m not sure why, but it was certainly realistic.

My wife went Bond-style with a bracing Vesper Martini (£13), while the children had to settle for non-alcoholic Banana Mananas (£4.85). Yes, even the kids (or the designated drivers) are catered for.

Don’t worry though if your idea of a mixology is a lager-top – there’s beer and wine a-plenty to choose from.

The menu is a real eclectic mix of crowd-pleasing dishes, with big flavours, presumably to stand up to the potent drinks selection. Chinese, Japanese, Mexican, Indian, Italian, Moroccan and US influences rubbed shoulders with the good old-fashioned British 1970s classic of chicken in a basket, while there’s a hearty brunch selection too – if you’re early enough. The delicious-looking burgers were proving popular with fellow diners, while the inclusion of a retro fish finger sandwich on the menu demonstrates its absence of pretension.

For starters, we had the Social #1 platter (£20) – a selection of chicken wings, nachos, pork bon bons, mac ‘n’ cheese bites, battered prawns and California rolls. Unfortunately for the four of us, there were only three of each item – which led to the sort of negotiating that would have had the Brexit talks concluded within days, rather than months. All were delicious little mouthfuls – unctuous pork, creamy mac ‘n’ cheese (with a bit of a bite, thanks to some chipotle mayonnaise), sweet prawns, tasty sushi rolls and fiery wings. Perfect nibbles for cocktail hour.

My main of seared tuna loin with Mexican rice fritter and chilli tomato salsa (£17.50) was a seriously tasty piece of fish, cooked perfectly pink in the middle. The rice fritter, studded with sweetcorn and dense without being heavy, was the ideal accompaniment, and they were both complemented by the salsa – which was slightly over-sweet, but had a nice, sticky consistency.

My wife had the aforementioned chicken in a basket (£13), chicken goujons which came – obviously – in a chicken-shaped wire basket accompanied by sweet potato fries and barbecue sauce. Nothing earth-shattering, but they hit the spot.

The children’s menu (£5) was a hit with our under-11s – they were engrossed in creating chicken wraps from their bento boxes and loved their brownie desserts. To keep them company I indulged in a sticky toffee pudding with vanilla ice cream (£6) which was pleasant without being particularly memorable.

Like I say, these are early days, and it was extremely busy, but the service – though very friendly – was painfully slow at times.

When you give diners a two-hour limit per table, as the Alchemist does, they are going to have to improve their slickness and speed, or find themselves with some unsatisfied customers on their hands.