Five years on from my initial review, The Botanist functions at full capacity like a well-oiled machine.
Arriving ahead of my party, I’m quickly settled at our table with the pair of Smoke & Mirrors ($18) I ordered at the bar delivered right to me. It’s a likeable mezcal-based cocktail combining smoky Del Maguey Vida Mezcal with poached mandarin, lemon, mint and orange bitters balanced with a cinnamon sugar rim.
The beer list holds interest too, producing a La Sirène Citray Sour ($11) made with real oranges that have been naturally soured and brewed with naturally occurring indigenous yeast in inner city Melbourne. It’s sharp and enjoyable, though I prefer Sailor’s Grave Brewing’s Down She Gose ($12) with its gently salty tang, citrus and seaweed - think of it as the endless Aussie beach-side summer captured in a can.
As the long tables around me quickly fill up with large groups, staff show their skill in patron wrangling. Despite packing a few too many people around our table making it less than comfortable, particularly when people walked past, there were pleasantly few hiccups. The Botanist Banquet ($49/head) is applied as a matter of course to all big groups.
Kicking off with marinated olives, it’s an eight-course affair selected from their main menu of share plates. As we moved through a healthy-tasting buffalo ricotta and spinach dip with flat bread, I noted that the kitchen has clearly chosen a menu they are confident about delivering quickly. Our table was never devoid of food, with my highlights being the pretty plates of well-smoked buffalo mozzarella with macerated peaches, thyme and honey, and the char-grilled chicken with smoked paprika, wild grains and radish, tempered by whipped buttermilk.
While I didn’t quite understand why the promised Tajima waygu had to be switched out for Tuscan roast pork belly (communication is challenging in the ear-splittingly loud space), I did like the treatment of the crisp skinned pig. Apple and sweet and sour peppers both helped to cut the fatty richness. Fun dishes, like wooden paddles of oxtail croquettes, were well received at our table. With their rich meaty intensity balanced with preserved lemon, sharp capers, and a dab of green romesco, it was hard to stop at eating just one.
Our table of thirteen friends opted to avoid complex restaurant accounting by each ordering our drinks at the bar. While our request was accommodated, we could have done without the snippy comment from staff: “it kind of defeats the point of table service.” Regardless, The Botanist is definitely eating better than it did on my first visit, five years ago.
17 Willoughby Street, Kirribilli
Ph: (02) 9954 4057
NOTE: You can see previous reviews for this venue back HERE and HERE.