The Botanist

October 2, 2016 at 5:54 pm | Posted in Restaurants | Leave a comment
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Leopold Square has seen several restaurants come and go over the years, and now we have another newbie to add to the list: the Botanist, which has just opened in the unit formerly known as Popolo.  

The Botanist isn’t a name I’ve encountered before, but a quick look at their website reveals quite a few Botanists dotted around the UK, so they must be doing something right!

Before visiting the Botanist on opening night, I had a sneaky peek at a few photos on the venue’s Facebook page, so I already knew they’d gone for an extravagant, more-is-more theme. However, even looking through numerous photos didn’t prepare me for just how beautiful this restaurant truly is!

Our party was greeted at the entrance and taken up a flight of stairs that felt familiar from all my years spent sipping cocktails at Popolo’s, but then we were take up another flight of stairs, and another, and everything began to feel very different. For starters, this place is enormous!

Eventually we emerged into a corridor that was completely covered in branches, leaves, vines, flowers and other assorted foliage, and decorated with twinkling green and white lights. I didn’t think it was possible to be wowed by a corridor, but apparently I was wrong!

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But this was nothing compared to the main dining area.

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The Botanist is beautiful, with vines, leaves and flowers all curling and creeping artistically across every surface, and lots of intricate latticework. Fairy lights, street lamps, and decorative butterflies provide the finishing touches to this pretty, whimsical dining room. I felt like I’d stepped off the streets of Sheffield and into some kind of secret garden (as corny as that sounds, I challenge anyone to visit the Botanist and not get caught up in the magic!)

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I must have spent the first 5 minutes snapping photo after photo, without even thinking to look at the menu – and I was ravenous, so that’s testament to just how lovely this place is to look at!

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But you don’t visit a restaurant just to look at nice furnishings, so was the food any good?  

My first course was very good, as I tucked into a starter of curried mussels (£7.50).

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These mussels were tender and juicy, and were served in a deliciously light, fragrant broth that contained just enough chilli to provide a nice kick, without overwhelming the taste of the mussels. After I’d polished off the mussels, I spent ages scooping up every last drop of the broth, as it was just too good to waste!

If you love your seafood, then this is your dream starter.

My friend opted for a baked camembert, which was served with a smoked bacon and crispy onion crust (£6.95).

My friend is pregnant, so she asked whether the staff could make sure the camembert was cooked all the way through. Not only were the staff happy to oblige, but they made a point of popping back to the table to let us know that the starters would be a while longer because the chef was making sure the camembert was really, truly piping hot all the way through. Clearly, the staff took this request seriously, which was very much appreciated!

When it arrived the camembert looked delicious, and was baked all the way through as promised.

baked-camembert

Kicking off a meal with a full camembert may sound a bit daunting, but this particular camembert is the perfect starter size.  

I can see myself ordering this at some point, especially now the weather’s turning cooler – because if there’s anything better than baked camembert on a cold day, then I’ve yet to discover it!

Onto the mains, and the chilli broth from my starter had left me craving a spicy main, so I was excited to spot a Malaysian curry on the menu. You can order this as a chicken or a vegetarian curry; I went for the veggie version (£9.95).

malaysian-curry-botanist

This was my first taste of Malaysian curry, and I found it to be a much lighter, fresher take on your typical curry. Instead of a rich tomato or creamy coconut sauce, this curry had a light broth that wasn’t too dissimilar to my starter.

The Botanist’s curry delivered a subtle heat that was warming and tasty, rather than being spicy just for the sake of it – an approach that I’m a big fan of, because what’s the point of having your tastebuds burnt off by a curry that doesn’t even taste good?!

My only niggle is that, for a main course, this portion is a bit on the small side, so if you fancy the Malaysian curry then you should probably make a point of ordering a starter or a dessert as well.

My friend ordered something truly exciting for their main meal: one of the Botanist’s famous Hanging Kebabs. The menu promised a hanging kebab of either chicken, lamb or beef (priced at £11.50, £12.50 or £13.95, respectively) “sopped” in sweet chilli sauce, garlic and ginger butter, and suspended over a bowl of chips.

I was curious to see what a hanging main course looks like, and the Botanist didn’t disappoint, as this definitely isn’t your typical main meal!

hanging-kebab

The idea is that the sweet chilli, garlic butter and (there’s no nice way to say this) meat juices drip down onto the chips and seasons them. The Botanist’s hanging kebab is one of those culinary guilty pleasures, like chip shop curry sauce or super noodles covered in melted cheese. It isn’t elegant or sophisticated, but it is lots of fun and is absolutely packed with flavour. This got a big thumbs up from my friend!

We’d reached the final course, and I had serious doubts about whether I had room for pudding. Then I saw that the Botanist serve a Rocky Road hanging kebab (£5.50)  and I realised that yes, I did have enough room for dessert after all.

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The Rocky Road kebab is a mix of strawberries, hazelnut brownie chunks and yummy toasted marshmallows, all suspended over a bowl full of chocolate crumbs and served with a tub of biscuit sauce. The idea is that you pour the sauce over the kebab so that it drips over the fruit, brownies and marshmallows, and eventually melts into the bowl of biscuit crumb, where the two merge into the ultimate sweet, sticky sauce.

This isn’t just a novelty dessert, it’s really tasty too! I particularly enjoyed the chunks of hazelnut brownie, which were wonderfully rich, and the marshmallows which were perfectly toasted so they were warm and gooey on the inside.  

This dessert also isn’t too heavy, so it’s perfect if (like me) you’re struggling to find room, but still fancy something sweet to round off your meal. Plus, pouring the sauce over the kebab is just fun! This dessert is guaranteed to leave you with a big smile on your face.

My friend had opted for a regular, non-hanging dessert: warm chocolate fudge cake with vanilla ice cream (£5.50).

fudge-cake

This is a dense, indulgent dessert served with lashings of thick chocolate sauce – basically, everything you could want from a slice of cake!

And thus concluded a fantastic evening at the Botanist.

I’m recommend paying a visit just to gawp at the gorgeous decor, but the Botanist isn’t a case of style over substance, as they also serve great food at reasonable prices. I’m now obsessed with the idea of hanging mains and desserts, as it just brings something new and fun to a regular meal out. The staff were also very friendly, attentive and only too happy to make adjustments to our meals, which was very much appreciated.

There’s no shortage of restaurants in Sheffield, but we certainly don’t have anything like the Botanist, which makes this a really exciting addition to the Sheffield food scene.

You know a place is good when you immediately want to share it with other people, and I can’t wait to introduce my friends and family to the Botanist, partly so I can see their reaction to the interior but also just because the Botanist serves some really fantastic food. 

5-stars

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