Now you might think that any restaurant sitting on the corner of Sloane Square would offer an opulent, stylish dining experience... and of course, you'd be right. But The Botanist in Chelsea goes that little bit further and still manages to surprise you. Proving that there's more to Chelsea than spoiled twenty year-olds, over-priced lattes and ridiculous first names (I'm talking about you, Binky), the venue somehow manages to marry together both casual and fine-dining vibes.
The Venue & Ambiance
The Botanist could not have chosen a better location if it tried, setting up shop on the North West corner of Sloane Square. Before you approach the door, you sort of already have a hunch about what it'll look like, given that its neighbours include Hugo Boss and a Tiffany & Co. store. At this point, I was beginning to regret my choice of a denim shirt and Adidas trainers.
The cocktail bar is the first thing you see and is as suave as you'd expect it. Curving around one corner of the venue, it's made up of crystal clear glass shelves and shiny metallic pieces that wink at you as you walk in. The bar and the main restaurant area sit side-by-side and are separated by two huge sliding glass doors. These might look like just another swanky, unnecessary piece of decoration, but they actually play a crucial role, splitting the frivolous vibes of the cocktail bar with the serene feel of the elegant restaurant. After all, no one likes tucking into a 3-course meal with a heavy bassline thudding overhead. Unlike the bar, the restaurant's calm and dressed in beige tones. The high ceilings work with the dark brown tabletops and smattering of plants to create a bit of an airy, almost refreshing feel about the place. This is only enhanced by the fact that you have huge windows wrapped around the corner of the restaurant, showing all the chaos of the rush hour traffic outside. It's cosy, it's sleek and it's surprisingly easy to relax here, even if you're surrounded by suits and dressed like a fresher.
The Food & Drink
Given The Botanist is part of the illustrious ETM restaurant group, I already knew that the menu was going to offer wonderfully complicated dishes, all created using only the freshest ingredients. To get the ball rolling, we opted for the Italian burrata, served with salt-baked beetroot (£11) and the fresh Dorset crab, served with Melba toast (£16). The crab was light and mild in flavour, but was brought to life by a spicy mayonnaise sauce and the contrast in texture offered by the wafer thin toast slices. However, it was the burrata that stole the limelight. As soon as I see those seven beautiful letters on the menu, I always know what I'm starting with. This burrata has to be up there with the best I've ever had. The smooth taste of the cheese was perfectly balanced by the sweet beetroot and the tang of the truffle honey. Perfectly balanced and really whetting your appetite before the mains, in my eyes, it's the perfect starter.
The mains quickly followed our clean starter plates. The first dish, the 45-day-aged sirloin steak (£29), came with thick cut chips and two additional sauces that we ordered on the side - garlic butter and blue cheese hollandaise (£2.50 each). The meat itself was tender but came slightly overcooked and could have used a pinch of more seasoning. Luckily, the two stunning sauces acted as cavalry on the hill, saving the day with their smooth consistency and explosive flavours. The second dish had more success with us. We were just intrigued to see what a king scallop and shrimp burger (£24) would actually look like when we placed out order. Served between two brioche buns, the burger itself was something I'd never tasted before. Mild in flavour but working really well with the healthy helping of Thai slaw that came on top, the contrasting textures really brought everything to life. I can't stress just how delicious the slaw was - think creamy and smooth, with a kick that hits you late on. We had no problem polishing it all off.
Feeling like we were going to burst, we stayed clear of the huge coupes (posh for ice-cream sundaes) and instead enjoyed the great crème brûlée (£7). Served with a slither of chocolate-topped millionaire's shortbread, the entire dish was set on fire to really caramelise that top layer of sugar. After blowing it out and singeing a few eyebrows in the process, I found a rock hard layer sitting above a rich, soft, creamy custard bottom. It's everything you could want at the end of a meal; light, rich and leaving a sweet note in your mouth. Framing all of this was the medium-bodied Gaillardia del Itata white wine (Chile 2015; £29). Each glass was very easy to drink and left a crisp finish, proving to be the perfect choice for our mish-mash meat and fish dinner.
Whereas some venues just stuff you with crazy amounts of decent food, The Botanist chooses the quality side of that famous saying. From the first bite, you know that the venue's fresh feel is going to be mirrored by the dishes produced in the hidden kitchen. But best of all, everything about this place - from the serene decor to the smiling waiters - makes you feel at ease. Mr Botantist, I can't wait to see you again.