The Botanist SW1
REVIEWS, May 19, 2008
Overall Value
out of 5
  • Food
  • Service
  • Ambience

An elegantly-conceived bar/brasserie, on a corner of a square which is a byword for fashionability; the latest product from the Martin (‘Gun’) brothers, it offers ‘high street’ fare at boutique prices.

Starting off at The Well EC1, the Martin brothers have made quite a name for their gastropubs. Arguably the best was their second establishment, The Gun E14, across the river from the Dome (O2) – a smart place offering good food, but with prices reflecting the proximity of Canary Wharf. They have since opened a string of other places, always on the east side of town, always offering good to middling quality, but never anything resembling a bargain.

The brothers’ latest opening is the first to be situated in what our west-centric guest described as ‘the polite postcodes’. And what a location it is! On a bright corner of the square which, for many, still marks the centre of fashionable London. The site has been given an expensively tasteful make-over, which is perhaps most obviously successful in the bar. The brasserie-style dining area benefits from the light, but is an awkward shape into which the smallish tables and (admittedly comfortable) chairs feel rather shoehorned-in.

The main reservation about the Martin brothers’ establishments has always been their prices, so one doesn’t expect their new baby – in the heart of SW1 – to be any sort of bargain. Even so, we were rather startled by a bill – for a standard lunch, and with total alcohol spend equivalent to one decent bottle of wine – of £120 for two. This included a 12.5% charge for service which was agreeable, but much too slow.

The food – from a menu of contemporary Anglo-French brasserie ‘classics’ – does not really measure up to the prices. Our guest used that word ‘polite’ again. If it were furniture, it would be the sort people expect to find at Peter Jones – the descriptions might be reasonably enticing, but the products are solid rather than inspiring. Our overall impression on departure was the mismatch between the toppish-rank bill, and the largely unremarkable fare that had preceded it.

Probably correctly, however, the brothers seem to have concluded, that – with this location – prices are unlikely to be a matter of particular concern.

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