Pub Of The Week: Tony Leonard reviews the Botanical Hotel, South Yarra
169 Domain Road, South Yarra.
When? September 6, 2019.
A truly iconic landmark of Melbourne dining, the Botanical (Bot as affectionately known), has worn, and continues to wear many guises to this day.
The famous exterior, tables set across from the Royal Botanic Gardens, are constantly in use day and night and a must if people watching is your thing while enjoying the pub’s finest offerings. (The bottle shop still trades if you need to take something home on the run).
Inside, the interior is made up of a number of areas, (6-7), all pitched differently, expertly set out ranging from the communal public bar, a delightful bistro, brasserie, private dining area inside, public and private courtyard, kitchen.
But the Bot is the sum of all the parts joined up and inside it links up and makes sense.
Or, to quote the great Dr. Nick Riviera, ‘the kneebone’s connected to the something, the something connected to the red thing, red things connected to my wristwatch’ etc, etc.
There is a misconception about the Bot, and that is is high end food and service only (that’s only a part of it) and not embracing the pub side of things.
Wrong. Since the previous hosts at the excellent Grosvenor Hotel in St Kilda have taken block, the offer is spread to embrace everyone to come to its bar, enjoying excellent pub grub with fair dinkum specials and watch the sports. (Probably goes without saying but no TAB and Pokies). Happy hour every day of the week, but Friday would be my pick from 5-7pm.
Evidence on a recent Thursday confirms that whatever you want from a pub, at any price level, the Bot is can accommodate. The response to the daily bar specials has been enormous. Breakfast yes from 6am, one late around Midnight.
The Botanical is one of Melbourne’s best pubs.
Each day there’s a banger of a special for $25 which includes a pot of Stone and Wood. Thursday night for the grain fed porterhouse, fries, sauce, salad; Friday is Blue Grenadier, Salad, Chips. The burger, full whack including McClure’s pickles (told they are the best) is $27.
Great range of seafood, ranging from Spanner crab, malt crumpets, salted cucumber – $28, to the majestic chilled platter ($110 but feeds 3-4) that contains the freshest and not a trace of fried.
- Jumbo Clarence River Prawn, red harissa butter. Large, meaty, fresh, $12. This is an excellent start, and a treat you have to try.
- O’Connors eye fillet, 250g, w/grilled cos, fries, and lemon, choice of sauce. $48. The produce from O’Connors is regarded as one of Australia’s best. This is a very fair price to pay for this.
Plenty of choice from the taps, and cleverly incorporates Carlton D, and a range of craft from Burnley Brewing, Urban Alley, Young Henry’s motorcycle oil Porter to name but some. Beer brilliantly served, priced right from $5.5-6.5/pot.
While the wine list travels far and wide, and has a real point of difference, to be honest doesn’t come cheaply. About $15pg is the entry level, but you will buy well.
Barely noticeable at lunchtime. All good. 8/10.
On a busy day, the wait staff worked the tables as professionally as you could hope to enjoy. Professional but casual, warm, engaging, this staff knows its stuff.
Nothing that stands out per se, just that one place has so many different levels of offer in a seriously good setting, trading 18 hours per day (no pokies remember) is testament that you can be all things to all people.
After 24 years of talking pubs with Neil, this is the first review of the Botanical.
There has been a resistance to embrace this as a pub, but (and I have said this before), it has all the attributes – real and perceived that a pub should be, summed up best as a place of comfort and community.
It also helps when a good operator pitches the pub like Rahmi (ex Grosvenor) has. Happy Hour, Music, Sport, Meal Deals. All the basics of a pub, done here and all done very well. Ditto the high end.
A definite contender for pub of the year.