Here at Wine and Dine we absolutely love The Botanist, which has three Yorkshire branches – Leeds, York and Sheffield. The idea behind The Botanist was to create a secret garden of food and drink, a place where antiquities and trinkets hang from the walls and resident botanists craft unusual concoctions. The food is all about casual dining and socialising and in this issue we spoke to James Scott, one of The Botanist’s executive chefs.
James realised he wanted to be a chef at school. His teacher entered him into a BBC Good Food competition and he came second. From the age of 14 he was working in restaurants as a weekend job and worked his way up from there. He has worked at kitchens in some of the top restaurants in Edinburgh and Northern Ireland and landed his first head chef role at the age of 22.
James told us: “I joined New World Trading Company as senior operations chef two and a half years ago and started working as executive chef in June 2016. I’ve particularly enjoyed the challenge and excitement of creating our brand new menu for The Botanist for spring 2018. Our key ethos in creating it was that it needed to be fun, fresh and flavoursome.”
The Botanist’s dishes are undeniably Instagrammable. Sharing plates of dishes such as Lancashire macaroni cheese, polenta and halloumi chips with harissa jam and roast chorizo with tomatoes, shallots, rosemary and red wine, activated charcoal flatbreads and rotisserie chickens all look stunning and taste delicious.
Earlier this year The Botanist launched a vegan menu, a vibrant selection of vegan and dairy-free dishes incorporated into the main menu. James said: “We’ve noticed in recent years that more and more people are becoming more health conscious, with a focus on gluten free, vegan and dairy-free dishes. That’s definitely something we’ve tried to incorporate with the new menu – lots of comforting options for all diet requirements without scrimping on flavour.”
Vegans can enjoy a range of dishes including courgette, kale and potato soup, tempura-fried cauliflower, tenderstem broccoli and kale Manchurian and houmous, roast sweet potato and sun-dried tomato flatbreads as well as harissa aubergine steak with saffron and almond Israeli couscous and Malaysian vegetable curry.
James explained: “Playing on the name ‘The Botanist’ we’ve really focused on the use of vegetables with the new menu, too. Kale is one of my favourite ingredients to use. My favourite dish has got to be the whole camembert baked in garlic and rosemary sourdough and served with Braeburn apple and smoky apple ketchup – a great one to share.
“What I enjoy most about being a chef is creating different menus for different concepts. Basically, I like playing with food! It’s really rewarding to rise through the ranks and be able to get c
reative, producing an exciting new menu.“My ultimate passion is home-cooked food, which fits in really well at The Botanist. When dining myself, I really enjoy the comfort of cooking at home. Unless I really want to try something new!”
To check out The Botanist’s new spring menu – just head over to www.thebotanistuk.com