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Up until fairly recently, my sister’s idea of a fancy cocktail was a Malibu and coke. But just lately she’s been telling me all about the bars she’s been trying around the city, and her instagram feed has become dotted with beautiful pictures of all sorts of exotic drinks: a Hummingbird from Turtle Bay, Mai Tais at Island Bar. So when I was invited to preview a new cocktail bar restaurant, I absolutely had to take Alex with me!
The Botanist is stunning. Untreated wood floors, a mix of vintage looking furniture, and the most beautiful and unusual lighting fixtures. Alex said that if Laura Ashley made bars, then this is what it would look like. And I think she’s right: it has quite a feminine feel, but with industrial touches like the wrought iron gates, and lamps constructed from rope pulleys and watering cans.
I’d had a peek at the cocktail menu on their website a week or so ago, and it’s impressive. As the name of the place would suggest, the use of herbs and other edible plants feature heavily: a Raspberry & Thyme Martini? Yes please!
Everything, seriously, EVERYTHING on their cocktail menu sounds amazing. But hard as it was, I chose one. A Watermelon Martini: Fresh watermelon, Green Mark vodka, watermelon syrup, lemon juice and sugar. Yum. Alex ordered the Strawberry & Cucumber Breeze: Fresh cucumber, mint, Beefeater gin, apple juice, vanilla syrup, cranberry juice, strawberry liqueur, lemon juice and strawberry purée.
As I expected, they tasted delicious. The only obstacle was trying to drink it without impaling myself on the huge wedge of watermelon!
We were taken to be seated in the restaurant, and wow! The place is actually huge! You can’t tell how big it actually is from the bar, as a wall divides the two areas.
Alice who served us, was so enthusiastic about the menu, you couldn’t help but want to try everything!
Our starters arrived looking an absolute picture. I mean, Plum & Apple Chutney in a teeny tiny wheelbarrow – off the scale cute!
The Chicken Liver & Rum Pâté was hidden beneath a ginger crumb in a small terracotta pot. It was a huge portion, but the ratio to bread was perfect. The chutney was mellow and sweet, not at all overpowering.
The pork crackling was light and puffed, not like the stuff you get that you fear will break half of your teeth. And oh my, the Salt & Pepper Onion Petals were the stuff of dreams. They had a subtle Chinese Five Spice flavour, which the manager Julian confirmed was used in the batter, along with some other secret ingredients and, of course, some herbs.
So far impressed, out came the mains. Lamb Tagine with Pearl Couscous for me. A rich and meaty sauce served over chilli and pomegranate flecked couscous. The meat was tender, but a little fatty for my taste. Alex chose one of their Chicken Hanging Kebabs™.
Just a tip: when they say to pour the melted butter slowly over the hanging kebab, it’s for a very good reason. Alex was a bit too enthusiastic and ended up with half of it spraying out onto the table and almost all over her shirt.
More cocktails? Oh go on then!
The Botanist Pornstar (ahem): Black Cow vodka and Passoã shaken with fresh passion fruit, strawberry purée, rose syrup, pineapple juice and lemon, served with a shot of Prosecco. Not the prettiest of cocktails, despite the name, but that hardly matters when it tastes that good.
The Botanist: Green Mark vodka, Havana 3 rum, elderflower liqueur, red amaranth, mint, jasmine syrup and lime juice topped with lemonade.
Carrot & Ginger Crush: Fresh ginger, mint, carrot juice and apple juice served over crushed ice with an optional dash of tabasco. Now this was unusual. It had a clean, fresh taste, I suppose coming from the carrot and mint, but with a heat that caught in the back of your throat. The apple juice sweetened it a little, but we both agreed that it needed a little more sugar in it.
Orange & Thyme: Appleton VX rum, Grand Marnier, orange juice, lime juice, vanilla syrup and fresh thyme. I LOVED the fresh thyme in this. I wont normally touch Grand Marnier, but this was a delight. Try it.
Alice told us how the Sticky Toffee Pudding was a long standing dessert in their other branches found in Manchester, Leeds, Newcastle, Chester and Alderley Edge. So good that it would never be taken off the menu. Sold.
I was only going to try a little as I was so full by this point. I ate it all. Enough said.
Alex tried the Strawberry & Marshmallow Kebab. It wasn’t the most attractive looking desert: toasted marshmallows dripping down a kebab of fresh strawberries. She said it tasted nice enough, but would have expected something more impressive.
Would we recommend The Botanist? Definitely. The food was lovely, the surroundings were beautiful, but for me, the real draw is the cocktails. I’ll be back again and again, working my way through that beautiful menu.
The Botanist, 14-16 Temple Street, Birmingham B2 5BG
Opens Monday 6th April.
We were invited to attend this press lunch by WPR Agency. All food and drink was complimentary. However, I was not paid to write this post. All opinions are my own.