14-16 Temple St, Birmingham, B2 4JD

#LoveYourPub at The Botanist, Birmingham: Cocktails and Kebabs Review

“If you look the right way, you can see that the whole world is a garden.”- Frances Hodgson Burnett, The Secret Garden
Walking into a branch of The Botanist really is like entering a secret garden. The Botanist's locations, which are dotted around nearly 20 UK cities, offer a unique blend of botanical delights in a rustic setting reminiscent of the Garden of Eden. Last weekend, I was invited to the well-established Birmingham venue to sample some new additions to their autumn menu, which combines traditional home-comfort dishes with their famous hanging kebabs. Situated slap-bang in the centre of the city of Brum (within moments of the Bullring and New Street Station), The Botanist has plenty of competition when it comes to after-work watering holes and eateries, so I was intrigued to find out what makes this place stand out from the crowd. 

The Botanist Birmingham review vegetarian

Setting and atmosphere

The Botanist certainly makes an impression with its decor. One of the first things that you see when entering the Birmingham venue is a beautiful wrought ironwork chandelier adjacent to the bar, which looks like it has been decorated with the contents of a junk shop! The trinkets such as old metal watering cans, kettles, multicoloured lamps and other curiosities hanging from its arms make the chandelier a real conversation piece. The bar area is closest to the entrance and given the fact that it was a Saturday night, it was unsurprisingly bustling during our visit. Loud music was playing in the bar for the benefit of those enjoying a cocktail but moving past this area and into the restaurant did signal a welcome change in ambiance. The restaurant section is far more pub-like, with quirky shabby-chic decor and a relaxed atmosphere. The noise from the bar could still be overheard so I wouldn't say that The Botanist gives off typical sleepy English pub vibes but it was nevertheless very welcoming. The main dining area is substantial but has been divided up into smaller sections, each with their own decorative quirks, to create a more intimate experience. Everything was perfectly on-theme in each area. My boyfriend and I were quickly introduced to our lovely server Simone who looked after us wonderfully all evening. We began our Botanist experience with a few selections from the drinks menu.

The Botanist Birmingham review decor food drinks
The Botanist Birmingham review drinks

Cocktails

When you first think of The Botanist, your mind probably turns to cocktails. And the Birmingham branch certainly lives up to its reputation for truly tantalising tipples. I was spoiled for choice on the cocktail menu but eventually decided to try the Miracle Bulb (£8.95). This cocktail absolutely blew me away, it was like nothing I'd ever tasted before. The combination of jasmine syrup and apple juice in the concoction, alongside the Empress 1908 gin and yuzu sake made for a delightfully light, floral and slightly sour taste, as well as a striking deep purple colour. The theatre of the cocktail made it truly memorable - it arrived in an apothecary-style vase requiring you to pour the liquid out of alternate spouts to transfer it into your glass. I absolutely loved the drama of this experience! It was also great to see just how many of The Botanist's cocktails could also be made in a non-alcoholic form. This means that even the designated driver needn't miss out!

My boyfriend and I were equally impressed with the number and variety of beers on offer. To enable its punters to make an informed choice when picking a beer, The Botanist provided a really helpful ale inventory on every table. This included images of each beer, as well as a short written description. This enabled even those who are less knowledgable about beer to make a personalised selection when ordering. We really appreciated the attention to detail here - my boyfriend was able to find a beer that suited him perfectly. He also really enjoyed the Pineapple Mezcalita (£7.50) from the cocktail menu. While not quite such a unique taste as its cousin the Miracle Bulb, the combination of vanilla syrup, pineapple juice and El Jimador tequila made for a tipple that was sweet, smoky and much too easy to drink! 

The Botanist Birmingham menu cocktails wine gin
The Botanist Miracle Bulb cocktail review Brum

Starters

I kicked off my meal with a serving of Cauliflower Wings (£4.95). These weren't marked as vegetarian on the printed menu that we were given at The Botanist but the lovely Simone kindly verified with the chef that they would be suitable for me. When they arrived, I was really impressed with the portion size - it was huge and well worth the price tag. I was also delighted with the flavour of the dish. The Frank's hot sauce in which the cauliflower was coated has a red-hot spicy kick, but the heat wasn't overpowering. The spicy veg was excellently paired with a cooler ranch-style sauce served alongside. The only thing lacking from this dish was the texture: the cauliflower seemed like it had been boiled, which was a shame. It had been in the pan for a little too long meaning that with the addition of the sauce, the texture turned quite soggy. Had the cauliflower been roasted in the oven instead, it would've been massively improved: the crunch of roasted veg would have worked nicely with the sauce. Some crudités in the form of celery sticks came served alongside the cauliflower but unfortunately the pieces that made their way onto my place had seen better days. The celery was brown on both the top and bottom. 

While I was munching away on my cauliflower, my boyfriend tucked into a Cumberland Scotch Egg (£5.95). He raved about the beautifully cooked eggs with their runny yolks. The sausage meat on the outside was nicely seasoned and he preferred this to the richer black pudding scotch eggs that he sampled previously at The Cosy Club, Leicester. The eggs were served on a bed of roasted, shredded leeks which also went down a treat. Their crunchy texture provided a really nice contrast to the egg. My boyfriend would definitely have this dish again.

The Botanist review cauliflower wings spicy
The Botanist review hanging kebabs

Main Course

During our visit, almost every table at The Botanist seemed to have ordered at least one of their hanging kebabs, and it's easy to see why! The kebabs, available in eight varieties, are attractively and uniquely presented suspended on a skewer, with the accompanying chips being served in a wooden bowl below. I was really happy to see two veggie friendly options on the hanging kebab menu, the first being Crispy Halloumi (£11.95) and the second being a vegan Tofurky Sausage with maple BBQ sauce (£11.95). Being a huge cheese-lover, it had to be the former option for me. The halloumi on my skewer was obviously of high quality, it was really flavourful - firm and salty just as good halloumi should be. I also really liked the breadcrumbs in which the cheese was coated - this was not too heavy and gave an appealing bite to the exterior of the halloumi. As well as the all-important cheese, the kebab came complete with onions and peppers which were roasted until sweet and tender. Again, my only complaint about the meal was the texture. It was somewhat ruined by the garlic butter that came with the kebab. When bringing my kebab over to our table, the waitress recommended that the butter was poured on top and allowed to drizzle down the skewer. The garlic butter was a nice addition to the halloumi but when dripping onto the chips, it completely saturated them and made them greasy and unpleasant. Perhaps if I had ordered the chunkier chips, this would have been less of a problem.

My boyfriend was also lured in by the hanging kebabs, selecting Five Spice Duck with Hoisin sauce (£14.95). The duck was fragrant with nicely balanced salty and sweet flavours in the thick hoisin sauce. The pieces of meat were variably cooked - the first piece was a little tough and overdone but the rest were pink in the centre and very succulent. Accompanied by the salt and pepper chips for an extra Chinese-style twist, this dish was polished off in no time. For the most part, the hanging kebabs had substance as well as style and they make for an excellent trademark dish for The Botanist. I'd love to return to sample the vegan Tofurky version.

The Botanist review lemon tart cookie dough

Dessert

Having just about enough room left for pudding, I selected a Lemon Tart (£5.95). This is typically served with a raspberry sorbet but unfortunately I was unable to try this as the kitchen had run out. I chose vanilla ice cream to come with my tart instead - this was a great pairing with the crushed honeycomb also found on the plate. The honeycomb was sweet but not too sickly or sticky, I ended up not missing the sorbet at all. The lemon tart itself really hit the spot, it was tart and tangy and had a firm, luxurious texture. I wouldn't hesitate to recommend it. My boyfriend opted for Cookie Dough (£5.95), which was served in the skillet in which it had been cooked in the oven - a great trick for keeping the dessert warm. The cookie dough received full marks, it was gooey, sugary and moreish. The texture was varied by the addition of Oreo pieces on top.

The only other thing to be mentioned about the desserts was that the cookie dough wasn't our first choice - we had initially wanted to try the Chocolate Brownie Hanging Kebab (£6.75) to match our main courses but unfortunately, this and some of the other desserts from the menu (as well as the sorbet for the lemon tart) were unavailable when we came to place our order. Given that it was only 6pm on a Saturday night when we were ordering our puddings, this was a little disappointing. You would normally expect the chefs to be adequately prepared for a busy shift at the weekend and to have appropriate stock available. Nevertheless, what we did have was excellent and I certainly order both desserts again.

The Botanist Birmingham review cocktails bar

Overall, there were more hits than misses at The Botanist and I would return for food and drinks in future. The menu has a lot of potential, only a few small tweaks are needed to make the experience a real standout. If you'd like to try The Botanist for yourself, you can enjoy 1/3 off your total food bill by booking direct via their website.

You can find The Botanist at 14-16 Temple Street, Birmingham, B2 4JD.

*My meal at The Botanist was complimentary in exchange for a blog post and social media coverage. I was not paid for any aspect of the collaboration.

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