J and I celebrated our fifth wedding anniversary at the end of November (Yay for us!). We usually go away somewhere and/or have a nice dinner (except two years ago where we had pizza at our local because we were being evicted* from our rental place and needed to save money!).
This year we hadn’t yet planned anything when I received an exciting email. I had won a $200 voucher for The Botanical in South Yarra, thanks to The Very Very Hungry Caterpillar in conjunction with La Zuppa. It was quickly decided that this would be our anniversary dinner.
We also decided to stay at The Hatton hotel, just around the corner so it was only a short walk to the restaurant.
We were seated in a corner next to the service door that led outside, which was not great, and the guy at the next table had his newspaper spread all over the place, including my seat. I will also note that this person was dressed in shorts, t-shirts and thongs, while J and I were dressed up (apart from my shoes, which is another story), as is befitting a fine dining restaurant.
But is The Botanical a fine dining restaurant? It says so on their website and it also says they offer a formal restaurant, which to me implies fine dining. The decor was on the fine dining side, but the patrons and the food was not, it was more gastro pub. The special of the day was a cheeseburger and a glass of wine for $20. Interesting.
The view back out towards the bar seating and the street.
J promptly spent most of our $200 voucher on a Leeuwin Estate Chardonnay. He had to tell the waitress three times and then point to the item on the wine list before she got which one he was talking about. It is no secret that we love Leeuwin Estate, but this one was practically poured down our throats. Every time we took a sip the bottle was brought over and our glasses topped up, we were constantly being interrupted. Also, I noticed that the bottle was not being kept chilled. I have no problem with this if it came out too cold (it didn’t), but they should ask first. It had also been over 30 degrees that day so it definitely wasn’t cold in the room itself.
OK, onto the food.
The bread was brought out warm, which is always appreciated.
Three different kinds of oysters were on offer that evening (Sydney Rock, Coffin Bay and one from Tassie), and J opted to try one of each.
These were placed down in front of him and the waitress walked off. J would have liked an idea of which oyster was which. Another waitress cleared the plate and she was more than happy to point out which was which when asked.
For entree, I had the Mayura Station Wagyu beef, quail egg, pickled mushroom, edamame, kim-chi.
I was hoping this was going to be a tartare but sadly not (I should have asked first, my fault). All the elements worked well together and I really liked it, except some of the beef was tough and chewy.
J had the yellow fin tuna tataki, nori, radish, yuzu dressing.
We were both confused as to what style of food The Botanical wanted to serve. Our entrees were both Asian influenced but a lot of other items on the menu were modern Australia/pub food.
We both had the same dish for main course, the pork cotoletta (crumbed), fennel and radish coleslaw.
A more senior staff member noticed, just as our plates were put down, that we had been given ordinary knifes and quickly replaced them with something more appropriate.
This dish was a winner. A beautiful, well cooked piece of pork with the most amazing coleslaw. We both loved this dish, and I see the coleslaw being replicated at home.
We had only taken one bite when the waitress asked us if we were enjoying our meal. I hate this at the best of the times and find it a very American habit, but at least the Americans pretend they are interested in your response. This girl asked us as she walked past and didn’t even stop to hear our answer!
Our first two courses came out super quick, but the dessert menu took ages to arrive so we had a decent break.
J had the banana, hazelnut praline, passionfruit compote, coffee parfait.
And I had the chocolate mousse gâteau with citrus, cointreau Bavarois, citrus terrine.
Nice, but nothing amazing.
Maybe our expectations were too high but we weren’t overally impressed by The Botanical and agreed we wouldn’t rush back. The food was OK, but the service was lacking experience.
Thanks to Libby at the Very Very Hungry Caterpillar, La Zuppa and PR Edge for the voucher.
*The eviction was not because of anything we had done, the owner wanted to move back in, so we had to move out!