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I don’t know why Elijah Holland didn’t call Botanik ‘Persephone’ instead. It’s only around during the summer months (May – October), its food seems to come from the heart of Mother Earth herself, and it’s about as difficult to find as a kidnapped goddess.
On that last point, there aren’t any signs to Botanik. In Tianzifang, follow the arrows for The Plump Oyster instead. When you get there, look around for the verdant vertical garden growing out of the staircase wall, and climb up to the rooftop. When your surroundings feel like a particularly charming scene in a bucolic fairytale, you’ve arrived.
We started with some cocktails, which showcase the focus of the restaurant. Everything is based around foraged ingredients, and the flavours are bold: from truffley and mushroom-infused to sharp coconut. They also have a great wine selection, including some natural and orange wines, and bar staff so friendly I almost expected hand-woven bracelets and hugs with the bill.
At the table, there was a folded menu for the evening with its own little Botanik wax seal. It was long. Seventeen courses long. The menu changes every week or so, and I’m not going to spoil the surprises, but there was some beautiful cooking. The mushroom and jujube charcuterie made us both laugh out loud because it was just so good. The sprouted coconut heart with black garlic was unreal – smokey, soft and comforting. And the ice cream. My goodness. It involved bay leaf, bee pollen and buffalo milk, and it was one of the best moments of my year.
There are so many lovely little touches at Botanik. Until you speak to the chefs, it’s hard to imagine how this tiny, rustic open kitchen is turning out things like delicate, cheesey cracker “shells” for its razor clam course, or the lightest little peach jelly with Thai basil seeds. It makes sense when they come over to introduce the food, though. The whole team is committed to Holland’s magical vision, and they’re delivering it to their twenty guests each evening with finesse. The tasting menu is 688rmb per head; with drinks, we paid around 2600rmb for two.
Botanik is a magical little rooftop garden serving gorgeous, pretty, clever food. If you can’t get a dinner reservation this summer, go along for some of their idiosyncratic cocktails anyway, and set a reminder to book early when they (hopefully) reopen next May. It’s more than worth the effort.
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