Review – The Botanist, Newcastle
I recall around this time last year lots of chatter about a new restaurant opening in Newcastle, and the clamour to get a table when it opened its doors. There was a lot of hype surrounding the opening, especially as it had a key location overlooking Grey’s Monument. This restaurant was Jamie’s Italian, and I’ve visited a few times since it opened. I think there are better restaurants in Newcastle though, and it isn’t as if Jamie Oliver is personally cooking for you. It is a glorified chain restaurant, and we have some fab independents that are far more worthy of your hard earned, in my opinion.
Around the same time I heard that another chain was opening within the former Monument Mall complex. I have fond memories of dining out on food court pizza and jacket potatoes in my teens. At the time it was the epitome of cosmopolitan chic. I was pleased this building was getting some much needed TLC as the views from those cafés was incredible.
I heard this chain was The Botanist, and they had other locations in Leeds and Manchester. I looked online at the menus and venues, and was wowed so much I even made a point of visiting the Leeds bar when I was in the area. This whetted my appetite for the Newcastle launch, and I looked forward to the end of year opening with eager anticipation.
I’ve been lazy with my blog in the past, and decided to make a special trip here just for review purposes. What a chore! It took 3 weeks of waiting to secure a Friday night reservation for food, which tells you something of its popularity at the moment. One Twitter friend told me that he was jealous of my visit to the ‘best bar’ in Newcastle, and even more envious when he realised what I was eating. More of that later though.
Walking past Jamie’s I couldn’t help notice how quiet it was compared to how it was at the beginning. There was a small queue to get into The Botanist, but because we had a reservation we skipped this. We stupidly walked up the 52 steps to get into the bar (I think this is correct!), but the exercise probably did us good! As you walk in you can’t help but be captivated by the twinkly old tree that acts as the focal point. Those who remember the domed roof from the Food Court days will be wowed by the lights which adorn it now. The feeling you get is one of awe, & I watched countless people whip out their phones to take photos upon entering. The interior is shabby chic- lots of wood and iron- and the food is served on decorative plates. Him Indoors commented on the fact we only seem to drink from jam jar glasses when we’re out these days because we’re so hipster 🙂
I had a non-alcoholic cocktail called a Watermelon Dew, which was lovely. Raf had a pale ale, and he was impressed by the selection they had.
Food and drinks were served quickly, and the guys were helpful and attentive. I ordered the hanging chicken kebab skewer, which was served with fries. Him Indoors ordered the lamb tagine, which came with cous cous and pomegranate. Having been to Morocco he said it wasn’t authentic, but he still enjoyed it. He didn’t really appreciate the pomegranate though. We were advised the portions were small and should order sides, and we chose the red cabbage slaw. I’d refute the size comment as I personally felt they were just right. In somewhere like The Botanist you want light bites rather than full-on stodge because you’ll definitely want to hang round and try the watering can cocktails!
We decided to share a chocolate fudge cake, which had a delicious gooey centre. It wasn’t the best cake I’ve ever eaten, but it was a nice end to an enjoyable meal.
The queue was large as we left. Jamie’s, by contrast, still appeared quiet in the bar area. It made me wonder whether The Botanist’s appeal will last beyond the next ‘Big Thing’ opening its doors in the Toon. From a selfish perspective I’d like not to have to wait 3 weeks for a table on a weekend, but for the sake of those involved I wish it every success. We had a nice experience and will definitely return.
Thanks for reading,