Sunday, May 17, 2009

Happy Birthday Me IV: The Botanical

Botanical dessert selection (minimum 2 people) - $17.5pp

I promise, this is the last post about my birthday this year... (it was already more than 2 weeks ago, but I'm just a bad, bad blogger!) As is tradition, we had a special family dinner at a venue of my choosing...

The Botanical
169 Domain Road
South Yarra
Victoria 3141
(03) 9820-7888
Website

I wanted to choose a restaurant that was good, but that wasn't too hot-off-the-press new and popular, or one that we'd been to a million times (sorry Tutto Bene). I'd heard good things about Paul Wilson's food, and my dad had been wanting to try it forever, so I chose The Botanical. Checking out the online menu, I'd already decided on the incredible-sounding: "450 gram dry aged, 200 day grain fed, Stockyard QLD select Angus entrecote steak served on the bone with truffled butter & twice cooked chips". I know, doesn't it sound amazing? That, plus Will Studd's cheese platter, would have been the perfect birthday meal. But alas, when we got there, we were told it wasn't on the menu that night. Cue cries of pain and disappointment (in my head). Luckily, the cheese platter was still on the menu. But more on that later.

There were a couple of little problems with the service - nothing huge, but enough for us to notice. For example, while we were waiting for the rest of our table to arrive, we didn't get shown a wine list or have our drinks order taken. Later in the evening we were given poor explanations about the food, and so on.

Let's move to a more positive note - the food! After everyone came and we placed our order, we got some fantastic bread (and refills when we finished it, yay).

Warm bread - crusty on the outside, soft and fluffy in the middle.

Only my mum and dad got entrees, while the rest of us went for mains/dessert. The entrees seemed quite tiny, but they were both very impressed with the quality.

Risotto nero with wood roasted calamari,tomato, parsley & toasted garlic - $26.5

BBQ octopus salad with soft boiled egg, smoked potatoes, chorizo sausage & red pepper aioli - $22

That salad, in particular, was great, and my dad loved it. After trying a tiny bite, I wish I'd ordered that myself! The combination of textures and flavours was just lovely.

After seeing those delicious entrees, we were all eagerly anticipating our mains. Overall, however, we were a bit disappointed. Not because they were bad per se, but they seemed to lack the balance and delightful flavour-combinations of the entrees. That, and they were absolutely massive, leaving us gasping for air.

No entrecote available, so I ordered a different steak:

BBQ 150 day, grain fed bavette steak, with Café de Paris butter & borlotti bean salad - $36.5

The salad was delicious, as was the butter, but I wasn't particularly impressed by the steak. It was very tough (which is probably the way it's supposed to be, considering the waitress described it to me as "textural")... but it was a mistake for me to order it rare, as this made it even more difficult to cut. What is the point of a massive steak knife if it isn't even sharp?

I'm not posting photos of the other mains, mainly because it was dark in there and I couldn't get clear photos of them all. And we all ordered meat, so all the pictures looked quite similar. The general response from my family was that the mains tasted nice, but were too big to be eaten comfortably.

With our mains, we also ordered a butter-leaf lettuce salad, a serve of fries, and the "Thrice cooked hand cut chips with Provencale salt & aioli". This was to share between 6 of us, so we thought it would be an appropriate amount. What we didn't realise (i.e. what wasn't written on the menu and what our waitress didn't tell us), was that 2 of our steaks already came with fries... and despite all evidence to the contrary, I am not the Gobbledok and we couldn't even get through half of them. What a waste!

Thrice cooked hand cut chips with Provencale salt & aioli - $9

The fries that came with our bavette steaks...

French fries - $8

I wouldn't go as far as Ed to say that Maccas chips are better, but they definitely weren't as good as the ones at Bistro Guillaume.

For desserts, my brother ordered the Will Studd cheese platter, Su got a grown-up sized prune & armagnac souffle, and Sandra and I shared the dessert selection (picture at the top of the post), as we couldn't decide.

Selection of fine cheeses selected by Will Studd of Calendar Cheese Company - $25

Best. Cheese. Platter. Ever! It proved too big for my bro to eat on his own, so the rest of us (mainly me, heh) had to help him out. Some of you may remember the cheeses that Ed brought to the latest Bloggers' Banquet (kindly donated by Will Studd). They were beautiful, so I knew this cheese platter would be quality. And they even topped up our bread and crackers when we asked.

Clockwise from left: Munster (washed rind); Roquefort, Sevre et Belle Chevrot (goat's) and Cantal Entre-deux (firm cow's milk cheese).

The dessert selection was good value - generously sized and gorgeously presented.

“Rhubarb & Custard” Baked vanilla custard with variations of rhubarb & ginger sponge
The variations on rhubarb included two poached sticks of rhubarb, some rhubarb sorbet, sauce, and the rhubarb jelly which sat atop a baked vanilla custard, which itself sat atop a rectangle of white chocolate. Beautiful. Rhubarb fans rejoice! (Anyone still remembering my How to Eat project will know just how rhubarb-obsessed the lovely Nigella is).

Caramelised pressed apples with lemon curd, honey, & thyme
This was a very interesting dessert, cleverly put together, with a thoughtful combination of flavours - a lot cheffier than what I'm used to. The ice-cream was thyme-flavoured, as were the pressed apples. The cubes of apple themselves had a sharp, vinegary taste to them. Overall very well done, but a bit out-there for us.

Prune & Armagnac soufflé with honey ice cream
The souffle had a wonderful texture, but was very sweet (I'm starting to think that this is the way souffles are meant to be, as I can almost never find one that's not too sweet for my taste). The honey ice-cream was gorgeous, and I'd love to re-create it at home one day. Su had the full-sized version of this dessert, which came with strongly spicd poached quinces and candied cumquats.

The chocolate dessert (I'm sorry I can't remember exactly what it is..). It included an oblong of dark chocolate mousse (perhaps a pave?), with intensely dark chocolate sorbet.
Very, very nice.


Despite a few small issues with the service, we had a good time and enjoyed the food at The Botanical. They do breakfasts too, which I've heard are very good.


Highlights:
Amazing entrees, beautiful desserts, and the best cheese platter EVER
Lowlights: Average service, inhumanly large main dishes
Strategy for future visits: Order an entree, skip the mains and get straight into the cheese

Botanical on Urbanspoon

2 comments:

stickyfingers said...

Sounds like a lovely family birthday celebration.

FYI Paul Wilson left the Botanical and Half Moon in Brighton a while back, just before Cornerstone - who own the venues - went into liquidation.

There have been mixed reports about the food since. I have been told that staff have been ringing Paul for guidance in the kitchen ever since his departure. Apparently he is now looking to find for placements for up to 50 staff that were under him at the venues.

Sarah said...

Hi Sticky,

Aah.. I didn't realise Paul Wilson had left! Thanks for the heads up. His photo still appears on the website (when you click on the "dinner" link, his is one of the photos that flashes up), so I assumed he was still there.

I'd probably still go back for the breakfasts... have been drooling over the menu online, hehe!

xox Sarah