One criticism that certainly cannot be levelled at the people behind The Botanist is that they lack commitment to their brand.
From the assorted plant pots lining wooden shelves on the walls, to the shed-style booths and benches, to the tools hanging over the tables, they’ve really gone to town on the horticultural theme.
Even the waiting staff, decked out in braces, granddad-collar shirts (sleeves rolled up, obviously) and tradesmen’s aprons, look like they might be auditioning for parts in a screen adaptation of Lady Chatterley’s Lover.
The one surprise is that diners aren’t given miniature trowels, shovels and pitch forks rather than conventional cutlery.
Despite the earthy ambience, however, there’s nothing grubby about The Botanist – it’s one of the latest additions to Leeds Trinity and there’s a polished newness to all the rustic details.
The staff, too, have the endearing enthusiasm of new recruits who are keen to make a good first impression – all beaming smiles and nothing-is-too-much-trouble attentiveness.
Appropriately, given the gardening theme, the bar is somewhat buried by the shopping centre. Tucked away below ground level behind Trinity Church – with Burger King as its nearest neighbour – it can only be accessed from outside the main mall.
The bar’s focus is predominantly and explicitly on the drinks. Its drinks menu compares the bartenders with botanists (scientists who study plant life) – testing and developing the beverages they are concocting to “illustrate and highlight the delicate, subtle and sometimes very strong flavours that the best of British herbs are able to give”.
Nevertheless, there’s a healthy enough food menu, offering everything from a ‘deli board’ of meats, cheeses and vegetables to rotisserie and barbecue meats.
My dining partner and I both chose from the ‘home comforts’ section. Her chicken Kiev, with basmati rice, was exactly what you’d expect – a healthy piece of breaded chicken, well cooked and served with a sizeable portion of rice. The only novelty was the small jug of garlic butter served on the side.
In a quirk that is typical of the bar, my fish and chips were served in a wooden box. The fish was light and moist with a crispy, wafer-thin batter and complemented by an excellent tartare sauce. The fries were coated in a seasoning that made them incredibly moreish. There was a dainty pot of mushy peas on the side.
Dessert options are fairly standard – lemon meringue pie, chocolate fudge cake, raspberry creme brulee.
We declined, though if I went back I’d be intrigued to try the skewered banana dipped in coconut and toffee.
Ironically, but unsurprisingly, the fare is not dirt cheap. With a glass of wine, a beer and a soft drink, the bill came to a little over £30.
Nevertheless, there’s a feel-good factor about The Botanist that makes it the sort of place you’d be drawn to more than once. Our verdict? A definite grower.