My birthday falls in one of those awkward times of year: in the holidays. More specifically, over the Christmas holidays, smack bang between Christmas and New Year. Owing to this, it’s often quite difficult to celebrate with others on my actual birthday so, some years, I’ll do something a couple of weeks later in January to give people a chance to come along.
This year for my delayed birthday celebrations we headed to The Botanist on Temple Street in Birmingham city centre. Temple Street itself boasts a whole host of eateries and bars so can always be relied upon for the buzz of revelry. The Botanist is a quirky looking venue with a veranda at the front and metal gates that wouldn’t look out of place at an RHS show garden. It is possible to book tables online up to 6 people, any more and you’ll need to ring up. I will say that booking in advance is essential, especially for a Friday or Saturday.
We rocked up on a Saturday (12 Jan) for a 6:30pm sitting and were told by the bouncers at the entrance that we’d have to book if we wanted food – “we already have!” – as we wandered in. You can’t see the restaurant seating from the street and it’s revealed as you meander through and past the bar area. There’s surprisingly more space than it seems from outside, and still quite limited if you count the numbers.
The staff were all friendly and helpful, if a little slow towards the end. A little unfortunately we were sat next to an over-crowded table, also celebrating a birthday, at a much higher octane.
Having pre-examined the menu and gone for a lighter lunch, starters were in order. I had the Cumberland Chipolatas with honey and sesame, which came off the “Small Plates” section of the menu. They were very tasty, if a bit sticky and the sweetness got a bit much by the end. There was quite a good portion included and I suspect they are more targeted at being a one-of-many tapas style plate to share. Nevertheless, well cooked and presented and quite scrummy.
For mains I had the chicken option of their “Famous Hanging Kebabs” with some regular fries. The presentation of these kebabs is the most striking element of the food, with a skewer hanging vertically over your chips. They do provide an empty plate onto which to decant your side and meat/kebab to make tackling it a bit easier. Again the food was well cooked and tasty; my dish came with a sweet chili dip that at the time I couldn’t tell what it was as it flavour wasn’t particularly strong.
Finally, between four of us, we ordered “The Botanist Allotment” to share. This comes on a large platter with a variety of mini desserts to choose from with the added spectacle of some dry ice spilling out from a little planter in the middle. It is definitely great fun. There were two of each dessert on the platter although after a full meal this was the perfect amount between us.
All in all the food may not look like there’s a lot there yet we were all satisfyingly full by the end of it. There is a lot of spectacle involved here but it isn’t overdone at the expense of the food quality. The decor is interesting and themed, although when watching some of the waiting staff ducking under some of the decorations it could look a bit crowded.
On the topic of refreshments, this is a gin-centric location but don’t worry, they have plenty on offer for everyone. I don’t consider myself a ‘gin person’ yet thoroughly enjoyed the “Poppy and Pomegranate Martini” even though I half expected to hate it while ordering. It was a chance and it paid off. I would definitely recommend The Botanist to anyone looking for some nice food in the city that’s a little more than burgers (which Brum has a lot of) that isn’t too stuffy.