Cheshire Life Feature The Botanist, Alderley Edge
BILL and BEN would love it
Dining at The Botanist in Alderley Edge is not only an enjoyable culinary experience, it's a feast for the eyes too and a trip down memory lane for some...
I have no idea whether hospitality entrepreneur Tim Bacon was ever exposed, as a child growing up in Australia, to Watch his Mother.
His Living Ventures' imagineers, however, have created the perfect set for a 12 inch to the foot re-run of the BBC's pioneering puppet show of the 1950s, The Flowerpot Men.
Bill and Ben - and of course Little Weed - used to inhabit an environment much like Knutsford-based Living Ventures' latest themed bar-restaurant, The Botanist. The potting shed ambience, all exposed boards, wrought iron, eclectic ‘shabby chic' furnishing - where you just know that the fact no one chair matches another is down to pure calculation - venerable garden tools, and specimen display cabinets with bell jars, is a show stopper.
But of course the site once occupied by the Number 15 Wine Bar isn't inhabited by linguistically-challenged marionettes (‘slob-a-blob!') but by the bright young things and their fun-loving elders of Alderley Edge. And that, I guess is the point of the Botanist. . it is tremendous fun, so much so that - be warned - the decibel level get very high from sounds bouncing off those hard surfaces.
The bar presents a splendid vista with its crazy chandelier, wagon wheel and appointments fashioned by rough-hewn wood. It's not all gimmick, however, for the beer list is an encyclopaedic selection of local and world famous brands - ale and beer tastings are a regular feature - and the cocktail list boasts some three dozen variations of Martini, long and short choices.
Bill and Ben would be more likely to recognise some of the fare in the dining side of the operation, for much of the menu harks back to the fifties - with of course a necessary not towards contemporary foodie fashion along the way. Hence you'll find chilli con carne, English hot dogs, belly pork and champ, steak Diane and roasts among the daily specials with fish and chips, bacon hot pot, chicken kiev and ‘Vesta-style' beef curry listed as ‘home comforts'. There are various deli boards too, alongside barbecue and rotisserie specials. The fact that by 7.30pm on a Thursday the ‘when it's gone it's gone, is testament to the Botanist's popularity; an hour later, the place was rammed.
We started in the spirit of our age with Warm Alderley Egg for me and Lancashire Cheese and Onion Tart for herself. Both, served on enamel tin plates, were tip top and the prices - £5.95 each - moderate. The former was the Botanist's take on that most fashionable of retro snacks, the scotch egg; in this case two quail eggs enveloped in well seasoned sausage meat and served with a crisp potato nest with mild, fine-cut piccalilli. The tart offered the classic sweet-sour combination of cheese and onion in an exceptionally good pastry case.
For her main, Mrs K had a Hanging Kebab (£12.95), something of a Living Ventures specialty, on which were threaded top notch, succulent king prawns, button mushrooms and pepper sopped with a dish of sweet chilli, ginger and garlic butter which drizzled down on to the serving of well seasoned chips. Delicious; the one drawback was that the food did not stay warm for very long.
I opted for simple: 9oz ribeye steak with garlic butter and chips (£13.95). The steak was excellent - property aged and showed - tender, flavoursome and perfectly medium rare. The sides of mustard seed and red cabbage coleslaw (£1.95) and corn on the cob (£2.75) were also very good.
Desserts maintained the retro theme; proving once again that British cooking wasn't as bad as some cheffy arrivistes would have us believe. Creamy baked rice pudding with special plum jam and fluffy lemon meringue pie - both £4.75 - were just what nursery ordered. The wine list is more limited than the beer selection - and this being Alderley Edge the fizz almost outnumbers reds and whites combined - but it did yield a characterful Australasian pinot grigio (£17) and a glass of Argentine malbec (250ml, £6.75) slid down a treat with a steak.
So, was it Bill or was it Ben? This time it was Tim, Again.
The Botanist, 15 London Road, Alderley Edge, Cheshire SK9 7JT. Tel 01625 865637; www.thebotanist.uk.com