Botanist is located in the Fairmont Pacific Rim in Coal Harbour. Just walking through the lobby, past the Lobby Lounge, and climbing the painted pink and floral staircase to Botanist builds anticipation. The first thing you see is the bar, set off to the right, while above, a decorative lighting fixture extends the length of the ceiling, drawing you forward into the restaurant itself.
The Art and Science of Cocktail Making
The bar feels like a stage with its dramatic lighting and curved, art nouveau architectural framing. This is where Head Bartender, Jeff Savage, and his team perform. They craft experiences as much as cocktails. Botanist was also, pre-pandemic, operating the Cocktail Lab, which was exclusively dedicated to innovation in the science of cocktails. It will hopefully be opening again soon. The Botanist Bar was just awarded “Exceptional Cocktail” by Michelin, a distinction only bestowed upon one bar.
I tried the Scarborough Fair cocktail which is made with green chartreuse, bitter bianco, fino sherry, and then a fantastically fresh herbal addition of the patiently extracted flavours of parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme. On the cocktail menu, each drink includes a poetic description. Mine includes a lyric from the eponymous song. Another, the Meadowland Tonic, reads “Shimmering light, caught in time between blades of grass.” These poems are not pompous gestures but instead a genuine effort to aid in your transportation to another world. They set the tone. They invite the imagination to engage and play. Just as Executive Chef Hector Laguna’s food does. The Botanist team has a collective ambition. Savage impressed upon me how collaborative and symbiotic the kitchen and bar at Botanist are. There is a palpable sense of mutual respect and creative inspiration between the two.
The Best of the Pacific Northwest
Chef Laguna hails from Hidalgo, Mexico. In this mountainous region north of Mexico City, Laguna learned how to cook from his mother: the best chef he knows. Most recently, Laguna cooked at Hawksworth. Previously, he gained experience in some of North America’s best restaurants including Michelle Bernstein’s Michy’s in Miami, as well as Lee Restaurant in Toronto. Laguna has brought his culinary experience, and his mother’s moles, to Botanist. One such mole, Laguna’s red mole is served with the Kurubato pork chop which comes with black beans, as well as brussel sprouts and crispy potatoes.
Botanist showcases the best of the Pacific Northwest. It is with excitement that Laguna says he can change his tasting menu every day based on what ingredients are available to him from local providers. Local Harvest Farms in Chilliwack has been working directly with Laguna to provide superb local produce. This family run farm utilizes regenerative farming practices to increase biodiversity. They provide organic ingredients grown using only natural methods. They have also worked with Laguna to cultivate ingredients new to the Fraser Valley such as Mexican peppers. Botanist is very much creating a farm to table experience, and in fact, when it comes to the foraged mushrooms they have on the menu, is cutting the farm out all together.
As a hotel restaurant, Botanist also serves a three course weekend brunch, which of course has its own accompanying custom cocktail menu as well. You can enjoy your Crab Benedict with a Velvet Morning cocktail which contains Anejo Tequila, chilled espresso as well as spices and cocoa, and is described as “An entrancing swirl of caffeine, spice and cocoa wrapped around an agave heart – perfect to set your day straight.”
The plating at Botanist is whimsical and slightly Wonka-esque. The colours are bright and botanical. Each drink, each dish has an element of enchantment and wonder. If the objective is to create a sense of surprise or awakening it is brilliantly achieved. The theme of art meets science results in a feast for all of the senses. Botanist will take you on an adventure.
The space designed by Ste Marie is soft and lush, luxurious but comfortable. The pinks and peaches compliment the greens of all the plant life. Indeed, there are so many plants that the dining room almost feels like an indoor garden which gives context to the plates of food that look like floral arrangements themselves.
As well as winning the Exceptional Cocktail award, Botanist was among the Vancouver restaurants recommended by Michelin. The whole team is proud and now has a star to strive for.
Botanist serves dinner from Tuesday to Saturday, and weekend brunch on Saturdays and Sundays.