After a morning of shopping in Knightsbridge this weekend, as you do, I walked over to Chelsea where I decided impulsively to treat myself to brunch at The Botanist. Situated at the top of the Kings Road on Sloane Square, it’s an iconic Chelsea hotspot both day and night as the venue is part restaurant, part bar and lounge. I’d been here a handful of times before – to eat in the day as well as for drinks in the evening – but never for food without making a reservation first.
I braced myself to be turned away (I arrived at peak brunch hour, solo, and without a booking) but I was pleasantly surprised to be offered a table if I was willing to wait 10 minutes. Before I knew it I was seated in their restaurant section in a nice table along the far edge of the restaurant that allowed me to take in the venue from every angle.
There’s a bustling atmosphere at this time of the day: I can’t make out if there is music playing lightly in the background, but there’s a happy energy about the place that’s calls you to be a part of it. The restaurant is well lit and makes strategic use of mirrors, allowing customers to appreciate the art deco influences in the decor throughout the venue, as well as their fitting Botanist-themed wall of flora and fauna in the back. Because of where we are, the customers are of the well to do kind: middle-aged women in pearls and gentlemen in suits; younger crowds discussing their upcoming ski holidays in Austria. Frankly speaking, I feel more comfortable and at home in this more refined setting than the more trendy, graffiti-decorated hipster style spots in London, so this is all part of the appeal for me.
I’m greeted by my waiter who offers me the menu and it didn’t take long for me to choose: a peppermint tea, and the ricotta pancakes served with maple syrup, berries and bacon. When it finally arrived, I was delighted: both in the appearance of the dish, as well as in the moment in which the woman who brought my dish remembered me from my last visit (and yes, I remembered her too: she affectionately fawned over my friend’s beautiful baby while we were visiting on a slow afternoon). That’s a nice, personal touch.
The food here tastes as good as it looks, and it looks fantastic. My amateur photos don’t really do it justice. The ricotta pancakes are unexpectedly light and fluffy; I thought I could make out a hint of lemon zest which lifted the flavour even further. I appreciated the maple syrup was served on the side, and I must admit, I love that it’s American style bacon rather than British bacon that’s served with this dish. That statement is likely to spark some heated debate among some circles here in the UK, but considering these are pancakes of the more American fashion, the American style bacon simply complements the star of the dish that much better. The bacon was a little crispier than I tend to like mine, but that’s entirely personal preference. I couldn’t really fault this dish: it was light, delicious, and felt like a true brunch treat.
While I enjoyed my meal, I observed the dishes of others nearby and they all looked as appetising as mine did. Considered yet simple plating, the sight and smell of these dishes speak for themselves. And as uncomplicated as they might appear, the devil is in the detail: for example, the way the English breakfast below served to the table next to mine included the butter served on a separate butter slate (not pictured; arrived post photo). These touches of refinement without garish opulence sometimes make all the difference.
Perhaps my favourite moment of this experience arrived at the very end. Having enjoyed my food and still having a while to go before I’d finish my tea, I became aware that I was occupying a table for two while others were eagerly awaiting their turn to eat. And so, I asked the waiter for the bill. Having taken a moment to observe how much tea I had left, he asked me if I was in a rush or if there was something wrong with my food or tea. I explained I was conscious that I was occupying a table for two at such a busy period while others were waiting to eat, and he reassured me he would rather I enjoy my tea first: no rush. I really appreciated this (you’d be surprised how many times I’ve encountered the opposite, albeit typically outside of London), but nonetheless I finished my tea with a little more haste than normal and got the bill.
When the bill arrived, it was served with this lovely surprise:
Naturally, it was wonderful: the marshmallow was airy and chewy while the chocolate fudge bites were rich and creamy. But of course, the most wonderful part was the intention and motivation behind the gesture. It was explained to me that most customers don’t have that kind of consideration, and this was just a little ‘thank you’ gesture. What a heartwarming way to end a lovely meal. (Not to mention a reminder for us all about the importance of empathy).
Because this visit to the Botanist wasn’t my first, I knew I was going to have a lovely brunch and the experience did not disappoint. No doubt I will be returning here again soon, and I’d recommend it to anyone, along with a suggestion for a reservation in advance.
*Calories: This has been hard to estimate with this dish. I’ve come up with 678 calories as a rough estimate which does not include the maple syrup (poured to taste), but I feel like that’s possibly on the low side by something between 100-200 calories.
Food taste: 4 / 5
Food/table presentation: 4 / 5
Service: 4.5 / 5 (top notch customer service as described above, but the staff was less relaxed and understandably rushed around tables at peak hour)
Atmosphere/decor: 4 / 5
Value for money: 3.5 / 5 (these are Chelsea prices, but you get what you pay for)
Overall rating: 4 / 5