In case you’ve been on planet zog for the last month, you’ll know that this is “Movember” – up and down the country, teenagers with smelly socks disguised with Lynx have been trying desperately to grow a bit of chin fluff for charity, and older generations have relished the thought of finally finding out exactly how they’d look with a Hercule Poirot ‘tache. Everyone, that is, except Neil of superb whisky blog CaskStrength who in a defiant mood shaved OFF his legendary groomed moustachio and faced this chilly month with nary a protective bristle for his upper lip.
Which is how we met him at The Botanist – under the thin pretense of a press lunch, I was here to sample to goods and see if it lived up to the hype I had created for myself.
First off, oysters for me. Yum, lovely Maldon rocks, sweet and plump. Neil had White onion soup with garlic croutons, which smelled heavenly as it wafted across the table. Nina went for the Shetland Island mussels, Atlantic prawns, roast salsify, lobster consommé and frankly, whilst the consommé might have been rich, the seafood was slim pickings with two mussels consorting on a lonely looking plate with two rather shrivelled shrimp and thin twizzles of charred salsify.
We moved on to mains, but were not moved so to speak. Although we were drinking a charming and quite buttery Brazilian Chardonnay Los Nevados 2009 from the Miolo winery, of which i have so far only drunk rich, hearty reds.
I opted for pan-fried Cornish sea bream with spinach. Well, it said spinach, but I had to look for it under my sliver of bream. Now I get the whole “plating” issue and the prettiness of a small piece of fish on a plate, but spinach, with its virtue of shrinking to oblivion even when you cook a kilo of it, is not a veg to be stingy with in a posh restaurant. My three wilted leaves were delicious, had they not lasted barely long enough for me to blink. Neil’s risotto with classic Italian flavours of sage, chestnut and pumpkin was sweet and perfect winter fodder. Nina had the monkfish tail with more “barely there” kale, what with kale being a real hard-to-come-by vegetable.
We didn’t have puddings, although the option of popcorn sorbet (with no doubt, a surprise and minuscule piece of popcorn lurking under it) intrigued me… The Botanist is the epitomy of Belgravia, pleasant surroundings, everyone very lovely and well-mannered, exorbitantly expensive food marketed to bright young Sloane Square things with the sort of “Daylesford Organic/Wholefoods faux rustic market kitchen/French deli” branding you would expect. The food is ok, the surroundings delightful. The spinach… virtually non-existant.