'We have loads of people that come to Alchemilla that would definitely come to eat chicken with us'

The  Staff Canteen

Chef Alex Bond discusses the announcement of a new chicken and soft serve restaurant, Mollis, opening next door to Alchemilla in November.

It was recently announced that Alex Bond, chef-owner of Alchemilla, was set to be opening a fried chicken and soft-serve ice cream restaurant, called Mollis after the subspecies of Alchemilla, on a site just next door to the Michelin-starred restaurant.

With plans to open the restaurant in November, The Staff Canteen sat down to discuss this announcement, what Mollis will be like, and how he feels about opening a restaurant in the current climate.

When it came to describing the restaurant, Alex said: "Basically, it's fried chicken and soft serve. We're gonna be doing a dead simple menu of different flavoured fried chickens. We might also do a burger, and might do a chicken sausage. That kind of vibe.

"It's not a new concept, in that sense, but it's a new concept for us. It's two things everybody knows but, approached differently is essentially the idea. So, it'll be fried chicken and ice creams that'll be f***ing mega."

Why Fried Chicken?

When Alex was asked why he chose fried chicken, he said: "Because the space is not huge, it's a really cool spot and it's a good size but it doesn't necessarily lend itself to tonnes of options. [Along with that] burgers are sort of done to death and I love fried chicken.

"It's f***ing banging and, while at no point is anyone thinking we're reinventing the wheel, we can definitely do something a bit different with it."

According to Alex, everything will be freshly cooked to order and made in-house, and, in his own words "be the f***ing tastiest chicken you've ever had."

Along with that, there are plans for the restaurant to also create cocktails and sell craft beers and natural wines. 

The ice creams served at the restaurant won't be the standard variety either with Alex saying: "We're not [just] doing f***ing chocolate soft serve.

"If we do it'll be like hot chocolate f***ing soft serve with like olive oil, salt and f***ing balsamic vinegar or something. We might do the combo ice cream with the koji vinegar caramel and vanilla oil. Or we might do pineapple with fig leaf vinegar."

Whatever flavours the restaurant does end up making are set to be interesting and unique with the main aim being to apply Alchemilla's style to everything that happens in the kitchen.

Alex said: "We can apply our level of cooking to those things and that's where others go wrong because they don't have that."

A different Market?

When asked if the new project was targeted at a different market to Alchemilla, as the two restaurants are right next door, Alex said: "Same market, different market, we have loads of people that come to Alchemilla that would definitely come to eat chicken with us."

Along with that, the chef discussed how Alchemilla's customer base was already  "pretty young" and that they are in an area that already has a large student population, so he isn't worried about attracting new customers with this venture.

Regarding who Mollis will be targeted at, Alex explained that it was completely different from Alchemilla and that anyone can enjoy fast food. 

He said: "It's like 'come and sit down with us, have a bottle of natural wine and some banging chicken or just come and have a drink if you like,' it's cool, it's easy." 

Alex was eager to talk about the fact that affordability was something he was keeping in mind with Mollis as he said: "We'll spend every penny that we have of our margin. Obviously, whatever the sale price is dictates your cost price, but, we'll spend every penny of that cost price finding the best bottle of wine for that price. We've got 14 wine suppliers that we work really closely with."

Profit Problems & Alex’s response

The British Beer & Pub Association, British Institute of Innkeeping, and UKHospitality recently revealed that only 37% of hospitality businesses are currently turning a profit, with 45% forced to reduce opening hours to avoid closing permanently and only 28% currently considering investing in their businesses. 

A fact that Alex is all too aware of, as he said: "Our margins have certainly dropped recently. The price of ingredients has just gone bonkers. But I don't think it's long-term. I don't think it's sustainable at this level.

"Maybe I'm just a bit optimistic, maybe we're all f***ed and heading headlong into at rapid speed into a complete and utter shit fire but I'd like to not think that's the case."

Because of the unstable situation, Alex said: "We've had to put prices up. Unfortunately, we're at the end of that knock-on effect. There's f*** all I can do about that."

When it came to customer responses to that increase, Alex was quite blunt and said: "I don't give a f***, tough shit. I only say that because if you want this restaurant to continue and you want to come back then we're doing it for that reason. I don't want to put my prices up at all - I'm happy with where they are - we were doing alright before this."

But he clearly stated: "It's not because we're greedy we're just trying to stay open. We've never made loads of money.

"If we continue with no increase we'd just go under and that's the bottom line. Without it, there is no restaurant to come to and I've got 42 members of staff who rely on me."

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The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 30th June 2022

'We have loads of people that come to Alchemilla that would definitely come to eat chicken with us'