The Botanist opened at the beginning of April amongst a fanfare of events and hype. I went along to their ‘friendly fire’ evening on their very first night and recently went back again a couple of times to see how things had bedded in.
The venue itself is very hip; expect wood, flowers, watering cans and everything on a botanical theme. It really is very pretty although a bit twee, and the light fittings are quite something! Though not to everyones tastes I would imagine.
To start with, a word about the cocktails. These really do standout; the lists are copious and to the most part they all sound interesting and extravagant. The few (well, I say few I’ve tried about 10 so far!) have all been delicious. My top votes so far go to the Passion Fruit and Basil Crush – Amaretto Disaronno and Drambuie churned with basil, fresh passion fruit, passion fruit syrup, orange juice and lime and the Botanist Pornstar. They even serve a sharing cocktail in a watering can if thats your thing, but more about their ‘props’ later on.
The few times I’ve been so far it has always been rammed. I put this down to the hype, so we’ll see how long it continues. Staff have always been pleasant and efficient and our food has always come in a timely fashion, so thumbs up so far.
Now onto the food. The most recent time I visited I tried the Calamari with Lemon Mayonnaise whilst Lee sampled the Chicken Wings & BBQ sauce. The Calamari was on the tough side, and the mayo had a touch too much sharpness to it but the batter was crispy. Lee’s chicken wings themselves were well cooked but they were served with sauce on the side, which created a dilemma – the pot was too small to dip the wings into it, and if you poured it over the wings then sauce leaked out the bottom of the wicker basket they were served in. On a previous occasion a friend tried the Garlic Mushrooms (served on a trowel….) and I tried the Chicken Liver Paté which tasted really lovely but again presented some issues because of the way it was served making it difficult to eat easily – see pic below!
Now I’m quite indifferent to ‘quirky’ presentation. In general I don’t mind it too much, but I also spend quite a lot of time laughing at the @wewantplates twitter account! It doesn’t make me go ‘wow, how amazing and cute’ but at the same time I don’t run away screaming like my husband does. Unless it interferes with the eating process which in a few cases at the Botanist it has done! (Chicken Wings, Paté etc…)
For main courses on my first visit I tried one of their ‘legendary’ hanging kebabs. The beef was a bit tough, but I enjoyed the flavour and the skin on chips. On my most recent visit I had the Malaysian Chicken Curry. This was perfectly pleasant and was full of chicken and other veg, but for me could have done with more of a kick to it and just didn’t have me leaping about with joy. Lee chose their Beef Burger with salsa, lettuce, gherkin, tomato & extra cheese. He found it ‘quite average’ and a bit dry. I have heard others praise the burgers, so maybe he was just unlucky. We’ll see.
Desserts wise, we skipped them most recently, but I have tried their Choc Fudge Cake which was yummy, ooozy and very bad for you, although I’m not convinced it was made fresh on site. (Feel free to correct me if you know it was!)
I felt that the Botanist menu was a little bit unusual – they are clearly trying to cater for everyone and anyone, but without a clear direction. There’s everything form curry to tagine to scampi & chips to pies to a steak sandwich. The point I guess I’m trying to get across is, to me, it seems a bit confused. And instead of doing one type of thing well, they’re doing everything averagely.
So in summary, we love the decor, the enthusiasm of the staff, and of course the cocktails but I wouldn’t rush back for the food alone.
Disclosure: Food on our first visit was complimentary but paid in full both other times. All opinions are honest and our own