Wednesday, 31 May 2017

The Botanist, Reading Review

If you're local to Reading you'll probably know that the building which housed the old Barclay's branch has been vacant for quite some time so, to have it occupied is a surprise in itself, but for it to be replaced by something as magical as our very own branch of The Botanist is super exciting and as such the press night was one of the most highly anticipated dates in my diary this month!

Serving brunch, lunch and dinner (and of course their Sunday roasts), The Botanist's extensive menu has a hearty, British gastro-pub vibe. Fear not night owls, there's all sorts for you too, with live music every night and a drinks menu boasting a curious collections of botanical-inspired cocktails, a lengthy list of gins to choose from as well as their own ale anthology made up of over 80 craft beers & ales.
With Juan as my plus one, we arrived at the venue slightly early so made the most of it by having a drink at the bar and taking some photos of the picturesque decor. Over the duration of the night I had six cocktails (cue slight hangover at work the next day), which were all amazing but I have to give a special mention to the Grapefruit Rum punch which was so fruity and refreshing and the Raspberry Disaronno Sour which was super sweet and a visual spectacle.
Once at our table, I was so happy to be seated so close to the acoustic act, who were playing over the course of the evening. They were so incredibly talented and playing all sorts of fun classics for us to sing along to whilst we chose what to eat and really added to the atmosphere.
There are so many good-looking starter options that I struggled to pick one starter so settled for two instead. The first was this calamari dish served with lemon, rocket and piri piri mayo - I love that this came in a cute watering can which is in keeping with the botanical theme. The calamari itself was soft and meaty but not rubbery. The only downside was the batter wasn't as crispy as I'd hoped for but it was delicious nonetheless.
My second starter was the Camembert with smoked bacon and onion crust which was amazing. The cheese was melted properly and the bacon and onion crust added a bit of crunch as well as a pop of flavour. Next time I visit with a veggie or meat-eating friend, I'd love to try a deli board - you get to make up your own starter of 4 with 22 options to choose from.

As you may or may not know, Juan is vegan and whilst he wasn't exactly spoilt for choice when it came to vegan options, he was happy with the houmous board to start. The presentation of this dish is awesome - a cute garden spade with vegetables that look like they've been plucked fresh from the garden. In terms of flavour, the houmus tasted fresh and unique - not your run of the mill shop bought houmous which can sometimes taste really bland. His only improvement would be an extra piece of bread.
On to mains, and I had the 10'oz sirloin steak and switched my fries for sweet potato fries. The waitress asked if I wanted peppercorn sauce but I was after garlic butter. Although not on the menu, they were able to rustle this up for me, no bother. The steak was cooked fantastically and medium-rare as ordered. I like that the salad garnish is quite minimal and am in love with the toile patterned plates!
Juan had the Tenderstem Broccoli, Beetroot and Avocado Salad. Normally, he'd prefer not to have a salad when eating out, as dining at a restaurant is a bit of a treat. However this was a healthy meal that tasted really fresh. The portion size was reasonable and the lemon dressing added a extra touch of acidity. He had some sweet potato fries as a side too. As there's a couple of falafel dishes on the menu, it would be great to see one of those as vegan-friendly.
I can feel you all judging me right now but somehow I still just about had room for dessert which is just as well as the Baked Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough had caught my eye. This is a dish I always plump for, if available so I guess you could call me a cookie dough connoisseur and this was hands down the best I've tried thanks to it's almost cake-like soft centre and inclusion of both white and milk chocolate chips. And boy, are they generous when it comes to the salted caramel sauce.
All in all, we had a fab evening at The Botanist in Reading. The food, drink, service, decor AND live music were fantastic and I can't wait to visit again. A huge thank you to The Botanist for having us!

The Reading branch is now open! Don't live locally? Not to worry, there's also branches in Marlow, Farnham, Newcastle, York, Chester, Birmingham, Alderley Edge, Manchester, Didsbury, Knutsford, Sheffield and Leeds so be sure to check one out!

*Written in collaboration with the Botanist. All food & drink were provided for my review. All content and views are my own.

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