When all my dime dancin' is through
I run to you
“It’s a while since I’ve had a piece of pork that good in my mouth” is not a phrase you hear very often from a very heterosexual man of a certain age. But it was true, the Pork cutlet I was eating was very fine indeed. But I’m rushing ahead of myself here.
The Botanist is the latest venture from Tom and Ed Martin, the owners of (deep breath): The Gun, The Prince Arthur, The Empress of India, The White Swan and The Well. Don’t worry if you didn’t get all that, just ring their head office where the nice lady will recite it all again for you. Let’s hope they slow it down a bit on the new openings.
All the above were gastropubs and were based in locations whose post codes started with an E. But now the Martins are all grown up and want to play with the big boys so they’ve hopped on the District Line and alighted at, of all places, Sloane Square. That’s SW1 in case you didn’t know. So they must have been doing something right.
To be honest DH have been pretty underwhelmed by the previous offerings from these two: they’ve always flattered to deceive. We’ve always visited when the gaffs have been open for a while and wonder whether like Peyton’s places (see what I did there…oh suit yourselves) there’s been a subsequent drop off in interest or the good staff get moved on. Not so The Botanist where I had a pretty decent meal.
The restaurant is bang on Sloane Square which is not such a great location when the windows are open and buses, taxis and assorted juggernauts are thundering past just a few feet away. I’d heard there are plans to make Sloane Square into a crossroads which will definitely improve things, for the restaurant at least.
Décor-wise I liked the Sir Hans Sloane illustrations of flora and fauna on one of the walls but the rest of it was pretty anonymous high-end bistro stuff. The best thing you could say was that it didn’t intrude apart from the lights which looked liked they’d come from the mothership at The Aspley.
They’d had a couple of rehearsals before I visited for their first lunch service but wisely packed the place with staff so everything worked smoothly from a service point of view. There was a bit of gentle encouragement to drink more (I resisted) and they’ve got that stupid thing where the bottle of wine is kept out of arms reach somewhere on the other side of the room. Otherwise, no gripes.
The menu was a bit all over the shop but at its core is approximately seasonal British. Which should please El Gordo.
I wasn’t knocked out with my first course of Gull’s Egg, Peas and Alsace Bacon. It’s a good combination on paper. It didn’t quite work here because although the ingredients were excellent – especially the bacon - the dish needed something like a dressing to bring them all together. Gulls’ Eggs are apparently very de nos jours but although my one was cooked perfectly and had a rich taste I think I would have been just as happy with a good hen’s egg and a few quid knocked off the price. But then there’s no pleasing some people especially curmudgeons like me.
I had a long hard think about what would be a suitable main course especially given the current hot spell we’re experiencing. Yes, of course, it had to be the British Lop Pork Cutlet with Black Pudding and Mash (you know me so well). Now this was a very good dish.
A quick Google tells me British Lop is the rarest of all pig breeds which seems a shame as it’s probably the tastiest I’ve come across. The large cutlet, which thankfully wasn’t shorn of its wonderful section of fat, was cooked perfectly (slightly under) and had a deeply porky taste. A Granny Smith Apple had been hollowed out and some of the apple mixed with some decent black pudding and then baked. The splodge of Pommery mustard mash could possibly have been improved with a little butter but then it would have become more of a pommes puree which would have been wrong in this context – so, no they got it right. The cider jus was nicely judged: reduced just enough so that it didn’t become too intense or sticky.
On the side I had a little dish of more of those fresh peas, shallots and little gem lettuce bound in a vegetable velouté. It didn’t look much but tasted great. Although I didn’t have any, the chips looked good too.
I really wanted a Sundae for my sweet but was told they hadn’t been delivered. That’s right - they were fresh out of Sundaes. I didn’t fancy any of the other puds so I got the kitchen to construct one…especially for me.
A good meal then but what I found odd was that this was the meal I was expecting to get at Hix Oyster and Chop House – it just seemed very ‘Hixian’ – and the meal I got at HOACH was what I was expecting to eat at The Botanist. HOACH had all the pre-publicity guff and hype but failed to deliver whereas there’s been very little advance PR about The Botanist and yet it provided a better experience, at least for me. There’s a lesson there somewhere but damned if I know what it is.
Back to that pud. My pud. I was told they’re going to put it on the menu. They’re going to put it on the menu and they’re going to call it The Miserable Old Git. Honestly. Sometimes life is like getting a BJ whilst being slapped repeatedly in the face.