With its Diagon Alley’esque views and a labyrinthine interior which seems to defy the laws of science (it’s bigger on the inside than it appears outside) we discovered a quirky, eccentric bar and restaurant, aptly named The Botanist. So pith helmets and magnifying glasses at the ready as I recount the tales of our adventure.
Ok I’ll try not to carry this metaphor on for too long and become lost in the Amazon, The Botanist is however a venue that’s ripe for adventure and discovery.
The menu is substantial with a large selection of dishes from deli boards, rotisserie dishes and BBQ-based fare. Actually the menu is so extensive and the drinks menu so large and interesting that I’d recommend to do what we did which was to start off with nibbles while you decide. We chose the Cumberland and Pork Chipolatas served with a honey grain mustard and salt and pepper onion petals and sour cream. Both perfectly tasty but not so much that it fills you up, just enough to keep you going on your journey.
For starters, we chose the Gambas Pil Pil cooked in chilli, garlic and olive oil. This was beautifully presented on a sizzling skillet. Why is it when the waitress says that the serving dish is really hot do we always have to test this when her back is turned, by touching the red hot skillet? Or is that just me? The prawns were succulent and pleasantly but gently spiced by the sauce.
We also chose the Curried Mussels. This is really a wonderful take on a dish that can sometimes be a little bland. We found that the perfect way to eat them was to take the half shell with the mussel meat and scoop up the broth-like curried liquid to slurp into your mouth, tasting the tender meat and the subtle spiciness from the curry broth. To add an extra little kick, you can top your mussel with the diced jalapeno peppers and onions from the broth.
Served with freshly baked bread to mop up the sauce it’s a dish that keeps giving. If all mussels were served this way I’d be a convert.
“Can I eat everything in the cocktail?” I asked Christina our waitress.’Yes everything,’ she replied, as I crunched into the hard shell of the passion fruit. ‘Have you eaten a passion fruit before?’ she asked. ‘You can’t eat the skin.’ I thought the ‘ Botanistas’ had invented edible passion fruit skin but maybe not…..”
Time for a slight diversion before the main courses and into the drinks menu. This is a fascinating odyssey into the world of creative cocktails, botanical concoctions and the divine New World Gin list, which represents some of the finest gins in the country, all local to the sites that discovered them. My choice was the Botanist Pornstar. A mixture of sugar snaps and passion fruit muddled with strawberries, rose sugar syrup, pineapple and lemon juice with Ketel One Vodka and passion fruit liqueur. Served with a shot of pink Prosecco and half a passion fruit.
Then on to the Gin List. And the ‘Forest’ (discovered in Alderley Edge and Knutsford), served with a grapefruit zest and fresh rosemary. The feedback: “The double act of gin and tonic was a refreshing and invigorating experience – like wind on your skin and smelling the air as though you were actually running through a forest. The drink is aptly named. “I can’t really add to that.”
Suitably refreshed now and on to the main courses. We chose the 10oz Ribeye with vine tomato and watercress. Perfectly cooked, medium rare and perfectly delicious. Served with a roasted mushroom. Scrumptious.
It’s worth mentioning at this point that many of the dishes and drinks here at The Botanist involve some form of theatre or quirkiness and I think it was a wise decision to keep the steaks out of this category relying more on the beautifully cooked and sourced meat.
I however, do love the theatre and showmanship in the dishes served in the restaurant so one of the famous Hanging Kebabs was a must have. I chose the Salt and pepper Pork and on Christina’s recommendation I had it with rice and peas. The kebab is ‘sopped’ with a sweet chilli and ginger sauce which is poured through a hole in the kebab hanger, that oozes down the outside of the kebab. The pork was tender and crisp. A light and reinvigorating dish.
We had sides of Winter Slaw with chilli and coriander dressing and charred corn on the cob. I’m not sure if there’s a summer slaw but this tasty crunch would be good all year round.
Feedback on the corn was “This is hands down the best corn I’ve ever eaten.” The corn on the cob was perfectly grilled. I couldn’t believe how easy it was to eat it. The salt flakes melted in my mouth as I took a bite of the warm sweet corn. If I’m ever craving for corn on the cob, I’ll be reminiscing of the time I ate it here at The Botanist.”
It’s about this stage when you start to notice that the crockery doesn’t match and in doing so it adds again to the idiosyncrasy of The Botanist. Tea and coffee are served in odd, antique China teapots with cups exquisitely mismatching. You start to feel like you’re in the home of your eccentric aunt, Gertrude, just returned from her Himalayan expedition. Again, that might just be me.
Time to venture on to the Botany and Beer it’s what they’re famous for so they just had to combine them) and on to the Flights of Fancy. Basically they are mini cocktails topped with beer served in a can. You do the topping up to your taste. The Flight Board Betty and the All Day ‘IPirinha’ were sublime. For the sweeter taste the Flight Board Betty was zesty and refreshing – with its mixture of lemon, mint and blackcurrant it was perfect, whereas the All Day ‘IPirinha’ would satisfy the less sweet toothed amongst us with the combination of lime, sugar and cachaça.
A detour now downstairs to an ale tasting session with Warren McCoubrey. He is without doubt a guru of all things ale and I have a feeling that there will be a review just on his sessions alone. In the 10 minutes we had (the actual tasting sessions usually last an hour and a half) I learnt a huge amount and it was great to hear about the Northern successes. I’m sure there will be more to follow.
Back to the last leg of our adventure and time for desserts. The White Chocolate and Peanut butter Mousse was crying out to be investigated along with the baked Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough. The Cookie Dough was blissful but the mousse has to be one of the most heavenly desserts I’ve ever tasted. Served on a silver trowel. Of course it was.
As far as restaurants to go to in order to discover new and exciting things, The Botanist, York, was a Galápagos Island of revelations, a delectable adventure, one where you would need to return again and again to get the full story of this gem.
Monday – Thursday 12pm-12am