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Floral Display: Lunch At The Botanist, Cardiff

The Botanist have over twenty restaurants around the UK and has been described as one of the prettiest chains, but does it bloom when it matters?
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Yes, is the very simple, short answer. We’d never been, so were unsure what to expect. Often chains promise a lot but sometimes fail to come up with the goods, The Botanist is not one of those. Certainly not in Cardiff anyway.

We do like The Botanist’s branding. Lovely typography. Very Herb Lubalin.

It’s tucked away in Church Street right next to Honest Burger (one of our favourite burger haunts in Cardiff). We’d always meant to try it but never quite got ‘round to it. We’re glad we finally have.

The street entrance takes you up to the first floor, a little like the old Burger & Lobster place on The Hayes. I think there is a lift but didn’t notice (worth checking if access is an issue for you).

First impressions? It’s very floral. No surprise really, the clue is in the name. It’s beautifully done. Reminded me a little of The Ivy. No expense has been spared on the interior. It really is quite beautiful – the perfect setting for lunch. There’s a sizeable water feature around a central pergola which is home to what appears to be a baby grand piano. Wrought iron is everywhere and the bar glows like backlit amber. It’s quite a sight and we were suitably impressed.

We enjoyed a very warm welcome and shown to our seats. The staff are lovely, and service definitely arrives with a smile. We ordered some drinks and were kindly offered some cocktails on the house as they had been doing a photo shoot with staff near the bar. Who are we to pass up free drinks? A Rose Spritz; a delicious fruity Aker English aperitif made with Chapel Down rosé, raspberry eau de vie and English botanicals, and a Spring Spritz; with Bacchus wine, pear eau de vie and botanicals – both finished with soda. Very nice they were too.

Having not eaten here before, we thought it a good idea for the three of us to order different things, that way, we could have a taste and get the measure of the menu. Besides, it’s fun and we never feel we’ve missed out.

The Camembert is worth visiting for all on its own? Delicious.

I ordered Gambas Pil Pil; king prawns in a spicy garlic butter with sourdough bread. Huge mistake for me. While I love prawns, I’m not good with spicy hot and, frankly, it took the breath out of me. No problem, Jen is good with heat, so an immediate swap was made. So glad we did, her Camembert; whole melted camembert baked in a sourdough loaf with sweet onion marmalade was unbelievably good (if there was a starter winner, this was it). Jack’s Calamari with crème fraîche and sweet chilli dip was “as good as anywhere else in Cardiff”. He’s quite the expert. The sweet chilli dip was excellent.

Boredom between courses here is certainly not an issue. There’s much to look at, and we all agreed that it was beautifully designed. It was pretty busy for a lunchtime, so clearly other people are fans. Having said that, it wasn’t noisy and had a really lovely, relaxed atmosphere. I recall thinking I could stay here all afternoon.

For the main course, I seriously considered their famous hanging kebabs but went with the classic Fish & Chips with mushy peas and tartare sauce. I wanted to benchmark it against others I’ve enjoyed and it more than made the grade.  The batter was light and crispy, and the fish was perfectly cooked – good skinny fries too.

For Jennifer, an 8oz ribeye with chunky chips – no sauce, just butter. She asked for it super rare and it was cooked perfectly.

Jack, being a burger slave, went with his usual Cheeseburger with pulled beef, cheddar cheese, crispy onions, and truffle mustard mayo – skinny fries for him too. He gave a thumbs up and said it was, and I quote “up there”. I’m assuming with the best. He polished it off in no time so that says a lot.

The portions are excellent, so desserts were going to be a struggle, but we persevered. The thought of passing up a Knickerbocker Glory; vanilla ice cream, peach slices, raspberry coulis, chocolate sauce, whipped vanilla cream and nuts, was too much and Jack couldn’t resist the Sticky Toffee Pudding with toffee sauce and vanilla ice cream. Both were very good. Mine especially.

I’m guessing, seeing the piano, they have music occasionally. And the website mentions cocktail masterclasses and Botanist Bingo. Probably a good idea signing up for their newsletter to keep informed.

On the strength of this meal, we would definitely return. The beautiful interior helps, and the staff are really lovely. So, it’s official! We love The Botanist!

The Botanist
Unit 5, 10 Church St, Cardiff CF10 1BG
029 2013 0053

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