Are you dreaming of a restaurant where you are welcomed as a warm friend; are provided with seamless friendly professional service; can relax in a pleasing to the eye environment; and dine on dishes that not only use fresh well-sourced ingredients but are also skillfully put together and taste sensational? Then look no further than The Botanica, Vaucluse. In our books, it's a perfect venue for a date night dinner, a family celebration, a catch up with friends, or a just because dinner after a hard week at work. The Botanica's philosophy centres around local, seasonal, natural, Australian products. Many of the ingredients are either sourced from the on-site gardens, or the restaurant's own NSW permaculture farm located in the Jamberoo.
As you may have also experienced, sadly one common thread that is seen too often these days in Sydney is a lack of career hospitality staff on the floor. So, it was a very pleasant surprise to find ourselves in an environment where the expertise of such staff was clearly appreciated. During our visit to The Botanica, we were well looked after by the very professional and personable restaurant manager Elaine and waiter Jeremy. Their knowledge and enthusiasm regarding both the food and beverage menu, made it a delight to receive their guidance in our course and wine selections. There was thought and expertise behind every moment of the service received from this capable professional pair.
Regarding the menu itself, it is quite extensive for both the food and drink.
Drinks are an important part of the initial welcome to a restaurant. Maybe, to bide some time while you wait for the company to arrive (as was the case for our Editor-in-chief, Rebecca Varidel, as she waited for my arrival), or to savour while deciding on your course selections for the night.
The Botanica has broken the drinks menu up into Spritzers / Cocktails / Non-alcoholic / Beer, Cider / Soda, Water / Aperitifs / Digestives / Wine. There are four spritzers, eight cocktails, and four non-alcoholic concoctions on offer. All of the spritzers and non-alcoholic drinks and two of the cocktails can be purchased by the glass or the carafe.
There's Sparkling/Champagne, Rose, White, Red and Dessert wines. The majority of the individual selections within each category can be purchased by the glass, carafe or bottle, except for the Sparkling/Champagne which is by the glass or bottle.
Wines from all around the world have been carefully selected. You can escape to France, Italy, or New Zealand in a glass if you wish or stay local with a good sprinkling of Australian offerings from strong wine areas such as the Eden Valley, McLaren Vale, Coonawarra and the Barossa in South Australia, the Yarra Valley in Victoria, Margaret River in Western Australia, and the Tamar and Coal River vallies in Tasmania. The grape varieties showcased are varied but include familiars such as merlot, cabernet sauvignon, pinot noir, Riesling, chardonnay, sauvignon blanc, moscato as well as some treasured varietals such as grenache, garganega, pinot blanc, gamay, and others. We are sure you will find a favourite. Rebecca certainly found a couple of food pairing delights through guidance from Elaine.
I began the night with a sneaky glass of prosecco (NV, Prosecco, Tenute Arnaces by Campagnola-Glera-Friuli Venezia Giulia ITA $13). Rebecca went with a glass of rose (2018 Grenache Rosé, Yangarra, McLaren Vale SA $14). We kept to these wines during the bread and entree.
The Botanica has a gluten free policy although they offer sourdough for those who just can't do without it. As a taste comparison we tried the Brasserie Bread sourdough and Botanica teff & quinoa bread (gluten free) with extra virgin olive oil or Pepe Saya butter. I was very complimentary about the teff and quinoa and would be happy to have it instead of gluten bread.
Elaine chose three entrees for us to share. Each entree came out a good share size which made the task of providing both of us with a good tasting portion very easy. We would really recommend asking for suggestions or even passing over the decision of course choice to Elaine. She really knows what excites her customers' palates as well as understanding the mastery of Chef Perry Hill. The combination of the entrees was perfect. The sweet dense fluffiness of the Roast butternut pumpkin, chermoula, labneh, sunflower seeds was a lovely contrast to the light savoury offerings of tender Grilled octopus, warm potato salad, smoked paprika, caramelized onion and the feathery Kingfish ceviche, black garlic, lime, jalapeno, Jamberoo Valley Farm coriander.
As Rebecca and myself are both lamb connesuriers there was no thought required for the main. On the menu is a beautifully presented share dish of a whole lamb shoulder. All the succulent sweetness of the meat is brought to the fore via a slow roast with ras el hanout spice, carrots, mint, and leatherwood honey. Think fall off the bone deliciousness. No words can truly describe our appreciation of this dish. To accompany it I chose the broken Dutch cream potato mash. Well, mash n roast are such a dream match so it was hard to pass.
Our wine pairings were a glass of the 2017 Gamay, Esmè Rouge, Sinapius Pipers Brook TAS ($16) for Rebecca and a glass of the 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot, Balnaves of Coonawarra SA ($13) for myself. Both excellent choices.
Now, we were able to squeeze in dessert, because, well, it had to be done. Yet again we were very easily able to share these dishes. Chef Perry Hill is not only sending out exquisite entrees and mains. He can definitely do a dessert or three at a very superior skill and taste level. I chose the Pear and praline parfait, chocolate, macadamia biscuit - not too rich, lots of bite and crunch to go with the immaculately diced pear. Rebecca went with the seasonal Toasted moroccan passionfruit and chestnut cake with yogurt sorbet - sinfully scrumptious and definitely worth savoring.
It is great to see a chef going beyond the nursery favourites to produce sophisticated desserts suitable for adult palates. Once again, with Elaine's assistance we matched our dessert with a lovely sticky that was just right in terms of sweetness and texture - not too cloying. All too often I find myself going into a diabetes coma after consuming a dessert wine, but not so in this case. Definitely have a try of the 2016 Riesling R69, Pressing Matters, Coal River Valley TAS (150ml - $17).
The final notes of our magnificent girls Saturday night out dining experience at The Botanica were two cups of well made coffee. I opted for a cappuccino and Rebecca a machiatto.
Sydney Scoop hasn't been this excited by a restaurant for a while. Definitely check it out. You may like to choose three courses from the lunch/dinner menu as we did, or go the Winter Special - 2 Course $45 or 3 Course $55 Set Menu that includes a glass of either white, rosé or red wine available at selected times. Another option is the very well-priced four course Bottomless Champagne tasting menu served with artisan bread and The Botanica's famous hand cut chips and free flowing Veuve Clicquot Brut Yellow Label or Moët & Chandon Rosé Impérial Champagne at $140 per head for 1.5 hours.
Opening times, contact details and menus for The Botanica, Vaucluse can be found >>