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Veganism no longer feels like a niche choice for society, and consequently, it feels increasingly less like the half-hearted obligation of cafe’s, bars and restaurants. With plant-based living becoming more visible through continued growth in social media, it was natural that the high street would begin to cater to a growing vegan audience – or get left behind. Proving their commitment to their vegan customers, The Botanist got in touch and asked me taste-test their new Vegan menu.

The menu arrives on an A4 clipboard, where you’ll find all of their menu offerings. Sitting pride of place at the top of the pile is their vegan menu. This wasn’t done for my benefit; this is how every customer has the selection of menus presented to them. This stood out to me and felt like a welcome contradiction to an almost apologetic afterthought, experienced in many venues, where the vegan menu (if there is such a thing), is often stuffed in a drawer where your waiter will have go and find it for you. That may still happen in other venues, but not here; here it’s the headline act!

The menu comprises of three options for all courses and initially, I was surprised to see falafel make an appearance both in the starter and main course choices and wondered whether this lacked imagination when the menu is so concise. Personally, I love this Middle Eastern treat and in particular, the Botanist’s use of a sesame and nigella seed coating. It serves as a more interesting texture, and they only gently roll their falafel balls, giving them a much lighter feel. The Piri-Piri dip was an excellent accompaniment, and the sweet chilli coleslaw added a punch of garlicky sweetness. I was enjoying slightly smaller portions of each dish as I was sampling multiple dishes, and even the more modest portion size I enjoyed, represented good value at £5.25.

Moving to the main course, I opted, predictably, for the  Malaysian Curry (£9.95), accompanied by coriander rice. It was delicious – and spicy. I’m a big fan of a curry that’s spicy enough to render me numb from my nose to my toes for several hours. If that level of spice-induced paralysis is achieved from a spice level five, this was comfortably a three and yet no flavour was sacrificed for heat here. The introduction of a little coconut milk, lemongrass and palm sugar would have given it a more authentic Malay taste. That said, I wouldn’t hesitate in ordering this curry again. Does it matter that it’s not authentically Malay in style – Nope! Westernised equivalents of Asian cuisine are typically anything but authentic, with the ‘sauce rich’ style curry that we’ve become accustomed to, invented in an Aldi’s Curry House, in Birmingham in the 70’s. So don’t get your undercrackers in a twist over authenticity and enjoy what’s in the bowl – A generous helping of courgette, broccoli, red chilli, spring onions, new potatoes and bean sprouts -all of which were cooked perfectly. We’ve all endured curry where the vegetables have been stewed for long enough that they disintegrate upon the lightest touch of your fork; leaving you feeling like a dining room resident of a low rent retirement home. You won’t have to worry about that here. I’ve recommended that they introduce the option of a rainbow salad with fresh mango or papaya, as a side order or an alternative to the coriander rice.  This will be great for diners who, less of a fan of spice than me, would enjoy something sweet to hamper the heat. 

Now let’s take a moment to talk about the Banana, Peanut Butter and Chocolate Ice Cream (£5.50). I could have dedicated this entire review to this dish. I was very nearly Meg Ryan in the iconic scene from the movie ‘When Harry Met Sally’. It was all I could do not to get on bended knee and ask for the chef’s hand in marriage. Dairy-free ice cream disappoints more often than it delights. The most common issue is ice crystals, which ultimately makes it taste like value-brand supermarket ice cream. This ice cream was thick, indulgent, creamy, and packed full of flavour. The salted peanut crumb gave a superb contrast in texture. If you order this and you’re dining with somebody who is inclined to want to share with you, have them order a bowl of their own. Sharing is enormously overrated and splitting this ice cream will test the foundations of even the most loving relationship.

Fancy a tipple with lunch? Try their Hazy View, South African Chenin Blanc at £4.50 for a 175ml glass. The vegan-friendly wine offering doesn’t currently extend beyond this; however, they are revising the list in April, and this will include a far more extensive variety of vegan-friendly wines.

In summary, I wouldn’t hesitate in recommending that you pay The Botanist, Chester a visit and try out their Vegan Menu. If you do, take the time to complete the feedback questions on the reverse of the menu. Over the next three months, they will use this feedback to help develop a vegan food offering that you just can’t get enough of.

It’s competition time!

We’ve teamed up with the Botanist so that you and a guest can enjoy a three-course dinner for two from their exciting new vegan menu. This fantastic prize doesn’t end there. You’ll also receive two tickets for a Raw Chocolate Masterclass, at The Botanist on 28th March.

It’s easy to enter! Head over to our Facebook page here. Comment with the name of the guest you’ll be bringing with you, and share this competition. If you’d like to double your chances of winning, head over to Mr Watson’s and do the same there. You must name your guest, then like and share this post otherwise it will invalidate your entry! Good Luck! Winners will be selected on Friday 23rd March and notified via Facebook.