For years now I’ve heard murmurings about Chester’s critically acclaimed cocktail bar ‘The Botanist’ offering a sanctuary for both the young and trendy, and the well healed elite to quench their thirst with the latest ‘on-trend’ offering of botanical beverage. Relocate to Birmingham, where the hardened cocktails drinker is familiar with the well-established haunts set up by the Bitters and Twisted group, or the burgeoning independent market with the likes of The Bureau garnering attention from the Colemore Row legalites, and you’d agree that the market is already saturated (or more accurately paralytic on a Friday and Saturday!) So do we need another?Hiding behind its intricate wrought-iron exterior, Birmingham’s incarnation of ‘The Botanist’ is centrally located on Temple Street, a mere stone’s throw from the likes of competitors Bodega and The Bureau, first impressions are good. There has already been discussion amongst my teacher friends about a proposed trip here when it opens commercially on the 6th of April, rather annoyingly already a week into our Easter break! I didn’t tell them I’d landed an invite to the press launch last Thursday, obviously.
Inside, you’ll be greeted to a sophisticated décor that is simultaneously chic yet comfortable with the addition of tastefully acoustic live music to create an mellow vibe. On arrival I was greeted warmly by the staff and ushered to the bar to sample the extensive cocktail menu. From the outset, ‘The Botanist’s’ brand is exactly what it purports: delicate and subtle flavours that combine refreshing fruits and the best of British herbs. My criteria for a good cocktail bar is that you shouldn’t need to look at the menu and that you should rely on recommendation only. Test one: find a cocktail that will be good for a lunchtime-drinking gin lover. I was recommended the Watermelon and Sage Sling (£7.50), which was at it says, with the addition of a spritz of lime juice to add a sharp edge to the velvety smoothness of the watermelon. I was impressed: this was looking good!
After being ushered to my table with some fellow foodies, it was reassuring to see that The Botanist offers not only an extensive cocktail menu, but also a respectable food menu to boot. Unlike its competitors, The Botanist doesn’t position itself as a cocktail bar that does food, or vice versa, it very much stands in both camps.Both carnivores and veggies alike will find something to tantalise their tastes in the extensive food menu. I opted for the Smoked Haddock Fishcake (£5.95) to start with and it arrived promptly and was strikingly presented. The micro herb motif that adorned the cocktails that my fellow diners were sipping featured again on the food, and the opulent colours were set off by the retro style Willow Pattern plates that it was served on. A nice touch, considering that this is a chain.
Between starter and main, my attentive waiter managed to persuade me to try one of the English Mojitos (it took a lot of persuasion on his behalf, of course!) A mojito with gin and cucumber is such a simple change, yet the result in stunning. A definite recommendation from me, and if you don't like it, I'll finish it off!
The real selling point of The Botanist’s food menu is the signature Deli Boards. For £9.95 diners can select four items from an extensive range including: Roasted Red and Yellow Peppers, Scotch Egg and Picalilly, Poached Salmon Fillet and three different cheese, all served with Turkish Flatbread. For the gastronomically fussy like myself, this is a real selling point as you can tailor your menu to suit your requirements without having to spend the earth (or seem like one of those customers!) My board consisted of the Salmon Fillet, a Four Bean Salad, a generous helping of the Houmus and a slice of Lancashire Blue Cheese. Each portion was artistically presented, as I was now becoming accustomed to, and decently sized- certainly sufficient for both a city lunch to share, or a relaxed dinner.
Luckily, there is a dessert alternative of the kebab, featuring strawberry and marshmallow that I plumped for and was not disappointed. A simple dish presented in a novel way, with generous lashings of Sailor Jerry chocolate sauce. What’s not to love?So my verdict? The Botanist has hit a niche with its equal focus on providing quality food and drinks to a more discerning customer. Think sophisticated drinks and classy nibbles on a weeknight, a couple of inspired cocktails with colleagues on Friday, or a catch up with friends over a long drink at the weekend, The Botanist will not disappoint. With 25% off during April with online bookings it is definitely worth a try.