The Sloane Ranger Eats Rather Well at The Botanist:
When I was young and impressionable, thanks to the perceptive wit of Peter York, the term ‘Sloane Ranger’ emerged. Of course you can spot a Sloane Ranger anywhere – but their spiritual home has always been Sloane Square. It is an affordably expensive part of London, somewhere quintessentially English with little in the way of major tourist attractions and so lacking the invasion of foreign language student. And, of course, it is home to the department store Peter Jones. Personally I am of the opinion that the nature of Sloane Square is at least partly due to the presence of this icon of the English home. You shop at Peter Jones for cashmere sweaters, silver polish, cushions, bed linen and the occasional vase. It’s where anyone sensible puts their wedding list and in the nicest possible way it is somewhere time has passed by.
In the past, once you’d finished shopping at Peter Jones there wasn’t much to do other than walk across the square to Oriel – perhaps the closest thing London has ever had to a French brasserie. Service came, eventually, with attitude. The food was on paper British, in style French and in taste rather variable. There’s a legend that Oriel was forced to close after the landlord, Earl Cadogan, refused to renew the lease following an unsatisfactory meal. Now, in it’s place you’ll find Colbert – to my mind a little too similar in style, despite being part of the Corbin and King group (the food IS better!). Across the road, The Botanist is doing good business too and the bar is always busy. I’d never eaten there though so was curious to find out what might be on offer.
We make our way to a table by the window – much to the delight of my companion who is enjoying people watching (or to be more precise ‘woman’ watching). The menu is classic, with a wide range of dishes, starters mostly around £10-£15 and mains from £15 to £30.
Simon’s whitebait with tartare sauce is beautifully presented and nicely cooked.
My dressed Dorset crab with mayonnaise and toasted sourdough perhaps lacking in a bit of flavour, but pretty on the plate with a nice watercress garnish.
I’m more than happy with my wild venison loin with smoked pancetta, poached pear and red wine jus. It arrives pink and rare but piping hot and the meat is lean, tender and well flavoured.
The guinea fowl portion is a little small and Simon is disappointed that there’s not much of a difference in taste to chicken. I laugh. It was an old student joke to serve a small chicken pot roast in wine and tell your boyfriend it was guinea fowl. In all honesty I’m not sure I could tell the difference between a good free range chicken and guinea fowl. Except you do get less…
Pudding for me is chocolate parfait with blood orange. Which I really rather like, despite not being a great ice-cream fan.
And Simon of course, picks the creme brulee which is served with a piece of millionaire’s shortbread.
Throughout the meal our ‘matched wines’ are ETM house white and red as appropriate (the Botanist is part of a small and well managed group of restaurants that includes The Gun, Chiswell Street Dining Rooms and the Jugged hare and they have their own red and white wine label). I’d be a churlish dinner guest to complain about perfectly sound wines that worked nicely with our respective dishes.
And, it’s hard to fault the food. Nothing astonishing, in both a good and a bad way. It’s really well cooked, well presented and ultimately safe. You could take your parents here. You could take your Boss here. You could even come here on a date. But, perhaps what The Botanist is best for is dinner with friends, where you want to talk, you don’t want to have to think about the food but you DO want to eat well.
We dined as guests of the restaurant.