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)

Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
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

    Guru Careers: Events Coordinator / Junior Events Planner

    £24K + Excellent Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking an Events Coordinator ...

    Royal Yachting Association Cymru Wales: Chief Executive Officer

    Salary 42,000: Royal Yachting Association Cymru Wales: The CEO is responsible ...

    Guru Careers: Marketing Manager / Marketing Communications Manager

    £35-40k (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Marketing Communicati...

    Ashdown Group: Technical IT Manager - North London - Growing business

    £40000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A growing business that has been ope...

    Day In a Page

    Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

    Abuse - and the hell that follows

    James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
    Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

    It's oh so quiet!

    The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
    'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

    'Timeless fashion'

    It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
    If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

    Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

    Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
    New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

    Evolution of swimwear

    From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
    Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

    Sun, sex and an anthropological study

    One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
    From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

    Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

    'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
    'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

    Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

    This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
    Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

    Songs from the bell jar

    Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
    How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

    One man's day in high heels

    ...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
    The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

    King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

    The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

    End of the Aussie brain drain

    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
    Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

    Can meditation be bad for you?

    Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
    Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

    Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

    Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine