Sloane manger: The Botanist, Sloane Square

When you first visit The Botanist, you think to yourself: here is a place that needs absolutely no help from a restaurant critic. You can feel (and see and hear) its howling grooviness, its 24-carat trendiosity, from 100 yards away. It radiates heat. It palpitates with excitement. It is the hippest place in town since Sir Hippesley Hipman opened a hip-replacement clinic, to cries of hip-hip-hooray. It is, indeed, full of Hooray Henries and Henriettas. The nouveau Sloane Rangers stride in and out of The Botanist as if they own the place (a sure sign of its success) and crowd along the pavement in braying herds. The men are burnished by suntans recently acquired in Ibiza, and wear blue jeans with frayed hems; the ladies mostly favour a Mariella Frostrup blonde bob, and wear cream tops to render their pale skin even paler. Rich expatriate divorcees in Marc Jacobs shades survey the throng as if scouting for new husbands to conquer. Debonair, white-haired sugar daddies, fresh from a day at Ascot Races, sneak their arms around the lissom waists of young Pixies and Sukis, who later loll around on chairs wearing their benefactors' grey toppers, like spoils of war.

The reason I dwell on the place's physical appearance is because the true spirit of The Botanist lies in the bar and the street. Actually, it sometimes seems as if the bar is the street, because the floor-to-ceiling windows are open to the elements and the smokers outside sit on the low partitions. The actual restaurant, though it's an attractive room with cream leather banquettes and a back-lit picture wall featuring exotic flora and fauna from the journals of Sir Hans Sloane (the titular botanist), seems a secondary affair. And the food, when it comes, has a decidedly perfunctory feel about it.

The owners are Tom and Ed Martin, entrepreneurial brothers who gave the world The Gun in Docklands (it won an award for London's best gastropub, and is a favourite with Independent staffers). The Botanist is much classier than a gastropub, but the menu plays it safe with Anglo-French favourites: asparagus, Stilton and onion tart, seared foie gras, duck confit, sole meunière, tarte tatin. Regrettably, they then hang too many accessories on them, until each dish resembles one of the expatriate Chelsea matrons in Sloane Square, smeared with too much lip-liner and clanking with otiose jewellery.

My starter of pan-fried scallops, for instance, came with "curried apple and potato purée, with a golden raisin and caper beurre noisette". I ordered it out of sheer curiosity. Why would you want to do so many things to the simple scallop? Would they draw out some secret identity from its subtle depths? Of course not. Raisins and apple go together brilliantly in a pudding with custard, but shouldn't share a plate with scallops. As it turned out, both shellfish and purée were overwhelmed by the taste of raisins, the capers lacked any flavour at all, and the scallops had a secondhand taste, as if they'd been left in a warmer for hours; the beurre noisette had hardened on to the plate like an oil painting.

My companion's Cornish crab and avocado ravioli with tomato and chilli nage was an unlovely single green raviolo crash-landed in a dense, shallow soup. The crab and avocado were fine, but the edges of the pasta were hard and rubbery, and the soup seemed indistinguishable from tinned lobster bisque.

The main-course bream, sorry, "pan-fried gilthead bream with fricassée of summer vegetables, coriander pesto and shrimp sauce", was an improvement, nicely cooked, firm-textured, crisp-skinned and mercifully fresh; the summer vegetables were asparagus and peas, coincidentally the same ingredients as featured in the seasonal salad that we ordered on the side. My confit Telmara duck leg, served on sliced new potatoes with a dolly-mixture of salsa al rafano, was a touch over-baked; whether this was the result of long cooking or of being left too long on a sideboard, I couldn't say. It had the same tired air about it as the scallops.

We shared a sludgy cherry and white chocolate pannacotta and came to a conclusion: The Botanist isn't the place you'd choose to go out to dinner. It's a little too frantic, too rushed (the charming but relentless waitresses bustle you through the meal as if racing a difficult deadline) and insufficiently relaxing. It's the place at which you'd choose to meet someone for a drink and, after two hours of agreeable people-watching, might decide to stick around for dinner. For the moment, though, the place is a yelping success after only five weeks, and worth a journey for its sensational mojitos and hair-flicking thoroughbreds.

The Botanist, 7 Sloane Square, London SW1 (020-7730 0077)

Food 2 stars
Ambience 4 stars
Service 3 stars

Around £100 for two, with wine

Side orders
The new chelsea set

By Madeleine Lim

Tom's Place
The latest outpost of Tom Aikens puts sustainable fish at the top of the agenda – think posh fish'n'chips for the ladies who lunch. The fish is delivered daily from Newlyn.
1 Cale St, SW3 (020-7351 1806)

Tendido Cuatro
New sister of the Spanish restaurant Cambio de Tercio serving southern Spanish classics, including razor clams, croquetas and grilled chops.
108-110 New King's Road, SW6 (020-7371 5147)

Foxtrot Oscar
Gordon Ramsay's revamped bistro serves comforting classics; a Herefordshire rib-eye steak with snail butter costs a reasonable £14.75.
79 Royal Hospital Road, SW3 (020-7352 4448)

Iznik Kaftan
This sibling restaurant of Iznik in Highbury serves traditional Turkish cuisine for £20 per head; try the lamb dumplings with garlic and yoghurt.
99-103 Fulham Road, SW3 (020-7581 6699)

News
people
Sport
FootballGerman sparks three goals in four minutes at favourite No 10 role
News
Rumer was diagnosed with bipolarity, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder: 'I was convinced it was a misdiagnosis'
peopleHer debut album caused her post-traumatic stress - how will she cope as she releases her third record?
Sport
A long jumper competes in the 80-to-84-year-old age division at the 2007 World Masters Championships
athletics
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
Sport
Radamel Falcao was forced to withdraw from the World Cup after undergoing surgery
premier leagueExclusive: Reds have agreement with Monaco
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvHe is only remaining member of original cast
Life and Style
Walking tall: unlike some, Donatella Versace showed a strong and vibrant collection
fashionAlexander Fury on the staid Italian clothing industry
Arts and Entertainment
Gregory Porter learnt about his father’s voice at his funeral
music
Arts and Entertainment
tvHighs and lows of the cast's careers since 2004
Life and Style
Children at the Leytonstone branch of the Homeless Children's Aid and Adoption Society tuck into their harvest festival gifts, in October 1936
food + drinkThe harvest festival is back, but forget cans of tuna and packets of instant mash
Sport
Lewis Hamilton will start the Singapore Grand Prix from pole, with Nico Rosberg second and Daniel Ricciardo third
F1... for floodlit Singapore Grand Prix
New Articles
i100
Life and Style
Couples have been having sex less in 2014, according to a new survey
life
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Food & Drink

    IT Administrator - Graduate

    £18000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: ***EXCELLENT OPPORTUNITY FO...

    USA/Florida Travel Consultants £30-50k OTE Essex

    Basic of £18,000 + commission, realistic OTE of £30-£50k : Ocean Holidays: Le...

    Marketing Executive / Member Services Exec

    £20 - 26k + Benefits: Guru Careers: A Marketing Executive / Member Services Ex...

    Sales Account Manager

    £15,000 - £25,000: Recruitment Genius: A fantastic opportunity has arisen for ...

    Day In a Page

    Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

    Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

    Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
    Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

    Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

    The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
    The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

    Scrambled eggs and LSD

    Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
    'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

    'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

    Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
    Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

    New leading ladies of dance fight back

    How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
    These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

    Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

    Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
    Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

    Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

    His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam