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Botanist Restaurant

by Katarina Polonsky

Vancouver’s Fairmont Pacific Rim is an iconic institution where one can dependably find elegance, glamour, and that evasive sense of Pacific North Western cool-chic, all set on the waterfront against the city’s high rises. The bars in this venue are renowned for their cocktails, the rooms for their luxuriousness, but it’s the restaurant, the Botanist, that is the real feature of this Fairmont. Designed by award-winning Ste Marie Design and branded by Glasfurd & Walker, it’s a beauty.

Multi-award winning, recognised for both its bar and its dining, this beautiful, golden, curved space features oodles of vibrant, living plants that fill up the crevices and create a lively botanical garden feel (hence the name). The restaurant is plush. A dramatic 55-metre origami light fixture by Joseph Wu takes reign of the ceiling, adding welcome opulence to an otherwise warm, garden scene. Then there is the Champagne Lounge, The Garden Room (a green, leafy splendour with 50 types of plant, vine-draped trellis, and star like fairy lights), and the main dining area with an open kitchen. Live music beckons below the murmur of guests’ voices, and the atmosphere buzzes with a pleasurable air of fresh decadence.

Open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, the evening menu is split into a ‘Graze’ section for the starters, a ‘Hook, Hunt & Harvest’ part for the mains, focussing on local seafood, meat, and fresh regional produce, and then the inevitable dessert menu. There is also the option of a ‘We’ll Take It From Here’, a caring take on the tasting menu, which fittingly epitomises the overriding sense one gets from dining at the Botanist: that you are cared for, both inside and out.We decided to try the tasting menu with wine pairings, which priced at $108CAD per head for the food and just $50CAD for the wines, seemed very reasonable for its calibre.

We began our meal with the Botanist’s famous homemade ‘fougasse’ bread, a hot, soft, yet crispy on the outside roulade topped with flakes of sea salt, and served with whipped, creamy butter. Warned that this was a resident favourite of the restaurant, we became firm advocates of having a second helping, even before the starter’s arrival.

To drink, the wonderful wine director, Jill, suggested that we began with the Sancerre from Lucien Crochet, a 2015 vintage. A solid Sancerre, young and elegant, with generous citrus and crushed stone notes, topped off with a floral lilac nose.The actual starter, after two servings of this delectable bread, was a beautiful plate of immaculately presented Pan-Seared Scallops, served on a mosaic of green apple sauce, red onion, guanciale and madeira jus. The scallops were meaty yet tender, just as they should be, whilst the various elements – the red onion, the apple, the madeira – all combined together wonderfully. Unlike any other Scallops dish I’d had, this had a fresh and zesty bite to it, whilst retaining that savoury mouth feel that Scallops are so good for.

For the main, we had Duck Breast, with charred corn, fermented jalapeño, nettles and back shallot jus. As with the starter, this dish came out as a work of art: two slices of fatty, soft, duck breast, crispy and crunchy skin on, rested in the middle; next to the duck, a smear of dark green, the nettles full of earthy, vegetative notes to balance out the richness of the duck; little mushroom stalks littering the jalapeño to give comfort; on the other side, a mound of golden corn laced with crispy strips of deep fried shallots. Oozing with flavour, the meat was magnificent and the vegetables to accompany worked in harmony with the duck’s rich flavour. Filling yet more-ish at the same time, there was zero need for carbs or sides with this ample, yet elegant dish.

We drank the Wilhelm Walch, St. Magdalener, Schiava, Alto Adige, Italy, 2016. From the Trentino-Alto Adige, this wine is dense cherry red, with a slightly bitter almond note and hint of violet. Juicy and warm, soft and round, this fruit wine paired wonderfully with the flavoursome duck.For the dessert course, we tried the Inspiration Almond. An immaculate round tart of almond dacquoise with a folded ribbon of crunchy strawberry paper on the top, cardamom crumble and strawberry meringue, this was a truly masterful dessert, as each dig into the tart revealed another layer of unexpected delights. From the fresh strawberries, to the strawberry meringues, to the cardamom nestled in the heart of the tart, eating this felt like a quest that we didn’t want to end.

We had the Sperling Brut Rose 2013. A beautiful ‘classic method’ sparkling rose, made from 100% pinot noir, this is bottle fermented and spent 22 months sur lies. Perfect for dessert and celebrations alike, this was a welcome local discovery from Kelowna.

Having finished the meal, our eyes still marvelling from the meticulous aesthetics of the meal and our bellies beaming with a happy fullness, we nodded in agreement to each other that we would be returning again soon. That the Botanist has won so many accolades of awards comes as no surprise having dined here, and to that end, I recommend that you do too.

Fairmont Pacific Rim
1038 Canada Place
BC V6C 0B9

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