Much like my fellow Buncher Vicky and her visit to Ho Modern Vietnamese, I too need to confess to cheating on the Boozy Bunch at a boozy brunch without them (*gasp*). I’d like to think of it as giving the place a test run though!
The place in question was one of the several interesting new openings on Broadgate Circle: The Botanist. I’d thought it was a gin bar from the name but it’s actually part bar, mostly restaurant (and I’m told also a club downstairs?!). It looks fairly unappealing on a weekday, forcing you to wade through hordes of city-workers drinking outside, but on a sunny Saturday when the City’s deserted it’s far more welcoming.
It took me a while to find the door (you’ll understand when you get there yourself) by which time I’d missed the ‘SURPRISE!’ part of the surprise birthday brunch my friend’s husband had organised for her. Doh. Better than getting there at the same time as them and ruining it though, no?!
Inside it’s a modern-looking brasserie decorated with lots of dark wooden furniture and quite dimly-lit (which is err the excuse for the lighting in my photos), with a large curved bar counter in the centre. I wouldn’t say it has a very memorable identity, though the one decor item that does stick in my mind is the large stuffed swan(?) hanging over the staircase down to the toilets. Bizarre. We took a while to settle down given there was an extremely cute baby to be cooed over, before she was handed over to daddy and sent packing so mummy could enjoy her return to the alcohol scene for the first time since giving birth. Eventually the harassed-looking server managed to get us all to sit down and look at the menu, and the prosecco clock could start ticking!
The bottomless brunch menu struck me as very good value, particularly once I’d seen how generous the portions were. It’s two courses for £20, three for £25, and an extra £15 for unlimited Prosecco, Mimosas or Bloody Mary’s for two hours while you brunch. There are about 5 or 6 broadly British/European choices for each course. We started with some delicious warm sourdough bread, and most of us opted for the straight prosecco option on the drinks.
Starters were a good sign that they weren’t going to skimp on the portion sizes; I went for the Eggs Florentine which still had a lovely oozy yolk that was a happy bright yellow. Others went for less breakfast-themed options such as Crispy Squid with Sriracha Mayo or Shrimp and Bacon Croquettes.
This was followed a pot of the biggest mussels I’d ever seen for my main course. They were delicious, tender and well-cooked, flavoured with garlic, white wine and cream. I don’t think I found a single closed shell in the whole pot. I didn’t get the chance to feel too smug as the other choices looked quite impressive too, judging the popular (and giant) salmon fishcake by its appearance.
Our happy ending came in the form of sticky toffee pudding, which was drowning in plenty of butterscotch sauce just how I like it, ensuring the sponge was nicely moist. The cornflake milk ice cream had sadly capsized as they put my plate down but otherwise the presentation was pretty, particularly the rhubarb cheesecake which arrived deconstructed (i.e. looking nothing like cheesecake). Sadly they’d run out of the dark chocolate torte that the birthday girl wanted but they did bring out a specially decorated treacle tart for her (which the rest of us got to eat).
And what about the bubbles, I hear you ask?! A crucial variable for any boozy brunch as the Bunch well know. Well the top-ups were sadly a little slow to begin with, but they soon picked up – as did the volume of the giggles around the table. Our lovely server also more than made up for the slow start at the end when he acknowledged that they hadn’t started pouring right from our booking time – which was entirely our fault for all the hello hugs and faff time – and carried on pouring for another half hour to give us a full slot. What a star!
There were a couple of other nice service touches – they were attentive in offering mocktails to the non-drinker next to me with each round of bubbles. At the end of the slot our waiter also arranged a table on the other side of the bar where we could finish up our drinks (probably hoping we’d stay and order more!) but I liked that we could move here then each go up individually to pay our bills. Much better than everyone staying sat at the table for the interminable wait for the card machine to go round.
Overall this was a decent value prosecco-fuelled brunch in swish (if not particularly memorable) surroundings, that might just see the City getting a little bit more action on the weekends…
Broadgate Circle, London EC2M 2QS