You must have been living under a rock to not have heard about The Botanist. It's the place to eat in Newcastle, even though it's been in Newcastle for over 3 years it's still as popular as ever. So popular that every time I've tried to go it's been super busy and I couldn't get in. So when an email landed in my inbox asking if I'd like to come along and review their new vegan menu, I jumped for joy!
As you may have seen previously I took part in Veganuary at the beginning of the year. I have tried to stick to a Vegan diet as much as I can, but I'm trying to focus more now on following slimming world for the moment than a fully Vegan diet, but that's a story for another day. When I was taking part in Veganuary however, the one thing I struggled with the most was knowing where I could eat out that had Vegan options. More and more places are now offering Vegan menu's and I'm happy to see The Botanist is one of those places.
Originally I was informed there was a totally separate Vegan Menu with options such as Sesame Coated Falafel with Piri Piri sauce; Beetroot, Red Onion and Fig Jam Tarte Tatin and Grilled Pineapple and Watermelon Kebab with mulberry sorbet.
However, on arrival, I was told they had decided to instead incorporate vegan-friendly options into the main menu. I do prefer this way as you don't have to request a specific menu - which can sometimes make you feel like a nuisance. The only downside to this was some of the items I was excited to try are no longer on the menu - you can have a peek here to see whats on offer.
With such a vast menu it took us quite a while to finally decide on what to eat. Whilst we made our minds up our waiter gave us a large jug of water for the table and we settled on some drinks. I opted for the Raspberry, Grape and Elderflower Cooler (£4.50) which was a fruity, sweet alternative to a cocktail. Whilst Yasmina went for a Traditional Lemonade (£4.50) that I had a quick sip of and it was wonderfully sharp and tangy.
After a long peruse of the menu, we finally decided on food! The poor waiter must have been sick of his life as every time he came to take our order we hadn't decided yet. We finally settled on two starters to share between us; Curried Houmous (£4.95), which was served with an onion salsa, flatbread and crunchy vegetable to dip, and Tempura Vegetables (£5.50) served with a sweet and sour dipping sauce.
We both agreed that the tempura vegetables were our favourites, jam-packed with cauliflower, baby corn and crispy kale with a gorgeous dipping sauce that I would have happily had by the gallon.
The houmous was a nice alternative to the traditional style you're often served as a vegetarian or vegan. This one had a mild curry flavour to it, not too overpowering and made a nice change to what I'm used to.
For my main course, I opted for the Mayalsian Curry served with coriander rice (£9.95) - I'm not usually one to go for a curry when I'm out, but I thought I'd fight against my instincts and try something different.
Now usually I'm pretty good with spice when it comes to curries, I'm not saying I'm an avid vindaloo eater, but I can happily manage a Thai green or red curry without any issues. However, this curry was a tiny bit spicy even for me, and I struggled a little to finish this before my tongue set on fire. The curry itself I found was lacking a little, it certainly packed a punch but the flavour didn't get my taste buds tingling. I did enjoy the fact the curry contained potato to add a filling element to the dish, but part of me was a little disappointed with the other vegetables. It was by no means an unpleasant curry, it just didn't wow me that much.
Yasmina opted for the Falafel burger (£10.95) and upgraded to sweet potato fries. The burger itself was served with spiced onions, a spicy harissa jam with tomatoes, rocket and a tahini dressing. This was another dish with a little spicy hit - if you're not a fan of spice you could easily remove the harissa jam.
Being the only vegan burger on the menu I was a little disappointed the only thing on offer was falafel. Now don't get me wrong, I enjoy a bit of falafel from time to time. But its a pretty common vegan and vegetarian option when eating out. I'd prefer having a couple more burger options, something like a mushroom burger for those that can't eat beans and legumes. Maybe even a mock-meat burger like jackfruit for those like me who choose not to eat meat but still enjoy meat like flavours.
Now the dessert was the one part of the meal I was most looking forward to - we both decided to go for the homemade Banana doughnuts (£5.75) which were served with a salted caramel sauce and a tiny bottle of peanut milkshake.
The dessert, took a little longer to arrive at the table as they were a little overcooked and the chef wasn't happy with the quality of the batch - our waiter apologised for the delay, but it was reassuring to know the chef takes such pride in the food they send out.
I can assure you, the doughnuts were worth the wait. They were more like doughnut balls than the traditional doughnut and I did struggle to find the banana element of them. But they were deliciously indulgent - especially when dipped into the slightly salted caramel sauce. I failed to finish off the peanut butter milkshake as at this point my trousers were struggling to contain my ever-growing stomach, but what I did have was thick, rich and super nutty.
The vegan dessert options were a little restricted, only having two options available - the second being a bitter chocolate and roasted pineapple pot (£5.75) and as both of us aren't huge fans of dark chocolate this left us with little option.
Overall I was pretty impressed with the options available however, I do feel the burger and dessert options could be expanded a little - especially as when I was first invited there were dishes on offer that haven't made it onto the final menu.
I must add one final comment. I can't praise our waiter Jack enough, he was patient when we took three days to decide on what we wanted to eat. He apologised profusely when our doughnuts were delayed - which in hindsight was barely any time at all. But I was most impressed with how the end of the meal was handled. I don't know if this is just me but my least favourite part of reviewing a restaurant is when its time to leave. That awkward:
"do we leave? do we stay? are they aware this is complimentary? are they going to try and stop us if we just walk out?"
Does anybody else feel horribly awkward when it comes to the end of meals like this?
All restaurants need a Jack, when we were finishing up our drinks he came over to our table and told us that we were free to leave whenever we wanted as the bill was covered. That removed any of the awkwardness at the end of the meal and instantly made us feel comfortable, as there's nothing worse than feeling like you're running out of a restaurant.
Have you tried The Botanist's new Vegan options? Where are your favourite places to go for Vegan options? I'd love to know what you think in the comments below.