Fairly new to Wellington’s small but growing collection of vegan and vegetarian eateries, The Botanist can be found south of the city centre in the seaside suburb of Lyall Bay. I decided to spend my birthday in Wellington as part of our travels through the North Island and being the foodie I am, had to find a great spot for dinner. When researching online, I came across The Botanist’s menu and instantly knew it was the place for me. With healthy doses of avocado, vegan cheese and aioli splashed across the menu, plus the prospect of jackfruit tacos and tempeh burgers, I couldn’t book my table quick enough…
The restaurant’s interior is beautifully decorated and cosily lit with candles and an array of dangling lights and plants. The botany theme is strong throughout – the bathroom has leafy wallpaper and even the bar is bushy! Completely meat free, their menu has a great selection of vegan and vegetarian options including small plates/ starters, main courses, platters, sides and desserts. I already knew before we got there that I wanted the jackfruit tacos – although jackfruit is pretty popular back in the UK, I hadn’t seen it on any menus in New Zealand until now. So that was me sorted! Gary fancied a burger, so went for the marinated tempeh and mushroom burger and we ordered a bowl of hand cut kumara (sweet potato) and parsnip wedges to share.
I also ordered a cocktail to slurp whilst we waited for our food. The cocktail menu has a list of eight options, ranging from the traditional (with a twist!) to the straight up original. All their cocktails are vegan too, so you can order whatever you fancy, without having to worry about ingredients.
I opted for the ‘Garden of Babylon’ which was made with organic white rum, passionfruit liqueur, passionfruit and mango puree, brown sugar, fresh lime and pea pods. Not only was the drink beautifully presented, it was the most delicious cocktail I think I’ve ever had! You could taste the rum but it wasn’t overpowering and tasted almost creamy and fresh passionfruit is always a winner.
We visited on a Saturday evening and the place was completely full… it’s clearly very popular here! There was a bit of a wait on the food – around 40 minutes from ordering to receiving our two mains and side. This wasn’t a problem for us as we were quite happy chilling out with our drinks, enjoying the cosy vibe. So my advice would be to order a few cocktails and some olives and appreciate that the food will be worth the wait!
Marinated tempeh with pan-fried mushroom, bell peppers, tomato, pineapple and coriander salsa, salad greens and vegan cheddar in ciabatta bun with herbed fries.
I’m not usually a fan of tempeh, but Gary’s huge tempeh and mushroom burger was incredible. The tempeh didn’t taste like anything I’d had before – the texture was smooth and firm, unlike the bitty, lumpy tempeh I’ve tried in the past. The bun was also loaded up with a giant portobello mushroom, tomato, bell peppers, salad greens, vegan cheddar and a pineapple and coriander salsa. It was served with a side of herbed fries which were tasty, but not necessarily anything to shout about. Our side of kumara (sweet potato) and parsnip wedges on the other hand…. Mind. Blown. Huge chunks, roasted to perfection. The best sweet potato we’ve had in a restaurant! Firm around the outside, fluffy and soft in the middle, with the edges slightly caramelised. Very, very moreish!
My jackfruit tacos were also fantastic. Again, the portion was on the large side; I got three soft corn tacos loaded with a generous helping of avocado, beetroot slaw and served with a dollop of coriander chipotle coconut yoghurt. I also added vegan cheddar to mine. The cheese was great, although a little lost amongst the other flavours so I ended up scraping mine out to eat on its own! The cheese worked great in the burger, but I’d say it probably isn’t worth adding to the tacos which are delicious on their own.
Jackfruit corn tacos with beetroot slaw, avocado, vegan cheddar, fresh coriander and chipotle coconut yoghurt.
The beetroot slaw was a combination of julienne carrots and beetroot and made up a large proportion of the plate. Having travelled in a campervan, living off minimal veggies over the last few weeks, I definitely wasn’t complaining. The chipotle coconut yoghurt was tasty but I think it could have packed a bigger punch! I’m obsessed with chipotle flavours and that didn’t really come out for me as the coconut was quite overpowering. The jackfruit was lovely and cooked really well – it had that perfect ‘pulled’ texture to mimic pulled pork and was smothered in a sweet marinade. Delicious!
We were so stuffed after all that, but couldn’t leave without trying the brownie we’d spotted on the menu. Rich, chocolatey and loaded with sauce, the heavy sweetness of the brownie was balanced with the fruity, tart berries and homemade sorbet. A perfect little palate cleanser between bites!
Almond and chickpea brownie served with ‘boozy’ citrus cranberries, Whittaker’s chocolate sauce and a berry sorbet.
It’s safe to say we happily waddled out of The Botanist after our fantastic meal! I’m sad we’ve had to move on to the South Island so soon after, as I would definitely have been back to try a few more dishes. The pale ale battered cauliflower bites and African spiced tempeh definitely have my name on!