When The Botanist’s website appeared a few months back, offering free menu tastings pre-launch, I (plus a lot of friends and people I’m following on Twitter!) jumped at the chance! With a very comprehensive menu and a lot of self-promotion on Twitter, we were keen to see what the place was like…
Situated on Berkeley Square, this new Mitchells & Butlers venue occupies the site of the old Bar Ha Ha. The whole place has a very fresh and airy feel to it, with wooden flooring leading to a tiled area in front of a large bar, and seating areas scattered throughout the building. The kitchen is open plan, meaning that we were hit with the delicious smells of other diners’ food cooking as we walked in.
The bar seems fairly well-stocked, with continental lagers and local ales on tap, a range of spirits (including a number of whiskies), bottled beers, and fairly reasonably priced cocktail and wine lists. Just a shame about the lack of decent ciders, with Aspalls on tap and Rekorderlig in bottles! Expect most of the drinks, however, to come at Clifton prices – we paid around £7.50 for a pint of Peroni (after the Guinness that was initially ordered was sent back by my dining companion…) and a 330ml bottle of Crabbies.
After a short wait at the bar, we were shown to our table, situated in a cosy alcove at the left hand side of the venue as you walk in. Great atmosphere, but it seemed as though they’d tried to cram in as many tables as possible, and we were incredibly close to the table of two and the table of four either side of us.
The menu is a combination of British and Mediterranean classics, with a huge amount of choice! I opted for the scallops as my starter (£8.95): these were listed on the main menu, but appear on the specials list as the way in which they are served will be changing daily. On the night, they were presented with a salad of rocket, tomatoes, red onion and crispy chorizo – the salad was lovely, but the scallops themselves, sadly, were undercooked…and a nearby table had the same complaint.
My dining companion, however, seemed happy with his lamb koftas (£5.95), served with a kohlrabi, cumin and carrot salad – he was particularly impressed with the accompanying mint yoghurt and the flavours of the meat, despite the koftas themselves being a little on the dry side.
The pork Milanese main course (£13.95) was enormous! The meat itself was cooked well, and the flavour of the sage in the lemony breadcrumb crust was delicious. I also enjoyed the thin batons of raw apple in the side salad, which added both texture and a sweetness to combat the crust of the pork and the salty baby potatoes with which it was served.
John ordered the fillet steak (£21.95), accompanied by grilled tomatoes, watercress, a flat mushroom and hand cut “Jenga chips” – the meat was beautifully tender and could have been cut with a spoon, but the chips were a little on the disappointing side. He also chose a red wine and shallot sauce (£1.50), which went down well, but the inclusion of whole shallots was a little bizarre…
Overall, a little hit and miss. The Botanist definitely seems like it’s aiming to be more of a dining than a drinking venue, but the prices seem fairly high for what it is. Bizarrely, though, as my dining companion pointed out, they’re charging high end prices for the standard menu, yet offering 2 pizzas for £10 on the same menu. It feels slightly like they haven’t quite decided what sort of venue they want to be, but I’m sure this will become evident in time…
Address: 20a Berkeley Square, Bristol BS8 1HP
Telephone: 0117 927 7333