The Chelsea favourite continues to offer up delicious - though pricey - food in a convivial, relaxed environment.
Owned by the ETM Group, The Botanist is sister to a group of classic London gastro pubs, including The Gun and The Jugged Hare further east, yet it bears little resemblance to them. Situated at Chelsea’s beating heart (Sloane Square) the slick pewter bar is packed with stools, poofs and small tables enough for its well-heeled regulars. You wind through the gathered throng towards the restaurant to be greeted and seated in a separate cream room, which is lit by art deco style chandeliers and a softly glowing feature wall covered with sketches of plants and animals. Floor to ceiling windows curl the building’s length, offering ample chance for a spot of people watching.
Forget hushed rooms and starched linen. The Botanist might have one of London’s smartest addresses, but there’s no standing on ceremony here. The bar thrums with well-dressed professionals enjoying a post-work drink, while the restaurant is plenty busy, even on a Monday night. Tables are packed close to fit in as many of the tanned, relaxed Sloane Rangers as possible. Staff bustle about, ready to offer suggestions, and unlike other smart restaurants, they don’t hover over diners anticipating their every move – all the better for relaxing.
The menu has a decidedly French feel. Order a dozen escargots, Dover sole meunière or confit duck leg with braised puy lentils. British produce, however, is clearly the star of the show; think Longhorn beef burger or Duchy native oysters. A starter of sweet, juicy seared Isle of Man king scallops with oxtail ravioli and pickled girolles (£16) is tasty, but scallops as good as these need little embellishment. If you’re nostalgic for a classic prawn cocktail, properly made, try its big brother, the lobster cocktail with Marie Rose sauce (£17.50). Large, tender chunks of lobster are mixed with tangy sauce, chopped iceberg lettuce and avocado with lip-smacking segments of lemon threaded throughout.
A thick, perfectly cooked main of rump steak (£26.50) is served with crisp, flavourful chips, watercress and a choice of two sauces. Depending on your choice of main you’ll spend between £15 to upwards of £40. A spanking fresh special of wild Cornish brill with Scottish langoustine tails, spinach, white asparagus and chive beurre blanc is generous in size and comprises a quiet collection of harmonious flavours, but costs an eye-watering £32. It does the restaurant credit to source such fresh, British ingredients, but they are served at hard-to-justify prices, even for Chelsea.
The dessert list doesn’t disappoint. It would be worth popping in after an afternoon’s shopping to recharge with a classic Knickerbocker Glory or chocolate sundae (£8.50), which avoids cloying sweetness with silky cream and dense, chewy brownie pieces. A chocolate pavé with orange posset and blood orange sorbet (£6.50) is for the most part delicious, though its posset lacks a certain wobbly softness. The apple tarte tatin for two (£12) is a house signature and comes recommended.
The Botanist’s wine list is expansive and there’s a list of signature cocktails (£9.90) in the bar. The house rosé is easy-drinking (its house wines are blended in France specially for ETM’s founders Ed and Tom Martin) and the red is a tasty blend of merlot and lighter Grenache. An ever-so-gently smoky 2010 Chateau Lestrille from Bordeaux (£11.50 a glass) works beautifully with meaty white fish and, as for a sweet finish, you can’t go wrong with the late harvest Tokaji from Hungary (£9.50 a glass).
The Last Word
If you’re looking for good food and plenty of cheer in Chelsea, you’ll find it at The Botanist. But dust off your wallet, because prices aren’t cheap.