London is most certainly a city of villages: whether you are loyal to the tribes of the north, south, east or west, you are never too far from a venue owned by the ETM Group, which has gastro pubs all over town. Over the past 15 years brothers Ed and Tom Martin have learnt a thing or two about adapting successful concepts to their location. The Botanist Broadgate Circle is virtually unrecognisable from its West London counterpart, with smart tweaks ensuring it suits the City clientele the new venue is already attracting in droves.
The Botanist Broadgate Circle opened recently as part of the redevelopment plans to transform the tired bit of concrete near Liverpool St Station into a new, buzzy restaurant hub with big names like Jose Pizarro, artisan coffee house Beany Green, sourdough pizza specialists Franco Manca, and brand new surf&turf concept Crab Tavern.
The Botanist Broadgate Circle is the latest addition to the ETM Group, and the first time they’ve used the same name for a new site. Named after its “sister” restaurant in Chelsea, the family resemblence can barely be detected: something was lost in translation in the few miles travelled from West to East. Arriving at the restaurant is a bit of a shock if you’re expecting the genteel vibe of the original outpost of The Botanist. In this neck of the woods, you’re greeted by an outdoor terrace heaving with thumping music and suit-types fresh from their Square Mile offices.
The familiar name is there to appeal to punters who know the Sloaney stomping ground, while the wholly new offering has obviously been designed to appeal to punters from the Square Mile heartland.
The interior is all handsome dark wood and leather banquettes over two floors, with surprising flourishes such as exotic taxidermy in the downstairs nightclub the “Soda Room”. Unfortunately the sound system for the whole venue is connected to the club, meaning it was impossible to hear anything.
At the risk of sounding like an old fogey, having to strain to understand the waiters and your table-mates, and going hoarse from shouting to be heard, is not an enjoyable experience in a restaurant. By all means, crank up the volume when the night has moved on from dinner to dancing, but most people don’t want to dine among nightclub-level volumes – it can’t be good for digestion and unfortunately taints the whole dining experience. I’ve been assured that what we experienced was part of the experimentation phase of the early days of opening, and that they are reviewing the sound systems to create different zones for dining, drinking, dancing.
The only similarity to the Sloane Square Botanist is the drinks. The waiting staff know their way around the cocktail and wine lists, recommending a bottle of South African Kanu wine with confidence that we would enjoy the unusual variety.
The menu is an appealing mix of British and European dishes, with market-fresh fish sourced daily from Billingsgate and a solid selection of steaks.
For a starter, I ordered the special of salmon cured in Thai flavours of galangal and lemongrass. Slivers of fried lotus fruit, crisp radish and shiso leaf scattered on top added crunch to a pleasingly fragrant, fresh starter. Meanwhile my companion was busy piling forkfuls of her dressed crab onto delicate melba toast.
Monk’s beard is an underrated green vegetable which is available for so short a time each year that I am compelled to order it whenever possible. My main course of roast cod, clam chowder and monk’s beard was like a showreel for the best foods in season.
If it hadn’t been so good I would have succumbed to food envy for my friend’s Iberico pork shoulder, served rare with almonds, pickled nectarines and nasturtium flowers – one of the restaurant’s signature dishes.
The dessert menu was a surprisingly long list of tempting dishes, all vying for our attention. In the end we settled on the sticky date pudding, served with a refreshing, clean-tasting cornflake milk sorbet which captured the very essence of cereal bowl dregs, in a good way.
It alternated beautifully with spoonfuls of the other dessert we shared, a silky coconut and lime panna cotta with a tangy mojito sorbet.
The Botanist Broadgate Circle is a decent, dependable addition to the City, but will be vastly improved once the issue with the music is sorted out.
This restaurant’s food is commendable, and deserves an appropriate setting; it is a disservice to the kitchen’s skilled cooking to serve it in an oppressively loud environment.
While my ears recover from the evening entertainment offered at The Botanist, I will return for one of their weekend brunches: great value at £25 for three courses and surely 11am is a quieter time of day (depending on the number of bottomless Bloody Marys you order)… Until the sound system is improved, I will have to agree with the Sloaney saying, at least when it comes to The Botanist: west is best.
The Botanist, Unit 5 Broadgate Circle, City of London, EC2M 2QS, 020 3058 9888.