You know it’s always a good sign when tweeting about visiting a city bar you get five or six replies from others saying it’s a great place.
From family to friends to other bloggers saying Newcastle’s The Botanist is well worth a visit, we’re glad we popped in after a lazy day mulling around the streets and hills.
The Botanist, bringing a little bit of London to Newcastle
The Botanist Newcastle, which only opened its door a few months ago, has had a bevvy of famous faces walk through its door – from footballers and their other halves to Geordie Shore stars.
It serves, in waiter Bret’s own words ‘good pub grub’ and cocktails an East London speakeasy would be envious of.
In fact, the venue itself roundly trumps pretty much every London bar I’ve been in through decor and design alone. After all, how can anything compete with a vaulted room topped by a glass dome and tree bar? Seriously?
Earl Grey’s monument and oh what a view
After arriving at the entrance, literally opposite Monument’s er, monument, we joined the growing queue and waited to get in. It was only after a party of six older ladies and gents spoke to the doorman and were ushered through that we said we had a table booked, and followed the same party.
Climbing three flights of double stairs (they’re numbered, so when you start getting to the fifties you know you’re there – or just take the lift) we were ushered into the main bar and dining room, and it took our breaths away. Paul, the manager, helpfully showed us to our table and we settled ready to order.
Botanical cocktails and craft ales
Bret, mentioned earlier, soon popped around and suggested we start with a cocktail while mulling over the menu, so I chose the Strawberry and Cucumber cocktail, with David opting for a All Day IPA (pale ale). Bret whizzed off and about five minutes later our drink were delivered.
The strawberry and cucumber creation is one of the most popular long drinks, and it’s easy to see why. I could have polished off a fair few of those bad boys and still had room for more. Deliciously sweet with none of the bitterness some strawberry purées carry, it was a great start to the evening. Pale ale to me, is pale ale, but David seemed impressed by the range on offer.
While waiting for our starters, I took a look around.
There’s a small dining room on offer, Granny Smith’s seating 12, and I thankfully managed to get a few pictures before the party came in. The room is styled like any granny’s front room, with velvet side lights and gaudy wallpaper, with doors that close off making the room private.
The bar is huge and right in the centre of the venue, with tables and perching stools dotted around for those lucky enough to nab one. We had our table booked for 18:45, and not fifteen minutes later the place started filling up so bookings for food would be essential.
Living up to its name, The Botanist was full of flowers and trees, and I’m sure I even spied a few garden gnomes…
Upstairs and one of Newcastle’s few roof terraces
Up one more flight (or try the spiral staircase if the cocktails haven’t had an affect) is the newly opened rooftop terrace. Non-smokers might find the area a bit too tobacco-infused to enjoy sitting up there (we know it’s a plant, but holy moly it stinks) but if you don’t mind the air not being so fresh, you can sit in one of the garden sheds and enjoy all the food and drinks available downstairs.
Heading back down the staircase, the starters had arrived. I went for battered calamari and David chose a baked Camembert. The calamari was light and not greasy all. It was served with a half lime and mayo, as well as a dressed rocket salad, which all lent to a light and pleasingly filling starter – even if the mayo was impractically served in a mini wheelbarrow.
David’s Camembert was creamy and peppered with rosemary sprigs, accompanied by slices of bread to dip in.
The wait between meals wasn’t noticeable at all, and Bret was attentive enough to know we were looking to try another drink. David went off his suggestion and tried the Number Three, a beer served with a complimentary rosebud and pineapple cocktail, and I tried the eponymous Botanist cocktail.
Mains were the lamb kofta kebab, served upright on a skewer with a little pot of sauce to drizzle down, chips and coleslaw, and a chicken and chorizo pie with mushy peas and chips.
Now, Gordon Ramsey would be throwing a fit at the chefs for the kebabs. Served vertically hanging from the skewer, they looked impressive but were extremely messy to remove. I had a handy side plate at least, and managed to transfer them without too much fuss. I’d have preferred these to have been served in an easier to eat way.
They tasted delicious, though, and with three full koftas, it was more than filling. The chips were a little over-seasoned, and the coleslaw far too strong for me – the mustard seeds were a nice touch but made it a little too nose-tingling to finish the portion.
David, being the Northerner he is, loved his pie, and polished it off in record time, using the last of his chips to mop up the gravy.
The cocktails were going down well, and after a little rest we both opted for dessert – me a family favourite Rum Baba and David a sticky toffee pudding. Two firm favourites we knew we could base our decision off, and which lived up to our expectations (although mum’s rum baba was far, far superior, of course).
An espresso to finish and a short jaunt down the stairs to kick-start the metabolism, and we left throughout impressed with the experience. Family members have said the place is definitely worth a stop off during the day for a drink or in the evening for a bite – though there can be long waits at the bar and you may well be turned away for a table if you walk in.
We weren’t massively over-enthused by the food’s presentation. The way the dishes were served was pretentious (they have a meal served on a garden trowel…), but perhaps that’s just because we’re a bit jaded with enforced quirkiness living so close to London. T
he cocktails are where this place really shines. It’s just such a shame we live so far away!
Expect to pay around £50 for a three course meal for two, less any drinks you decide to try. Cocktails are between £7-8 each.
The Botanist Monument, Monument Mall, Newcastle, NE1 5AU