Botanist is nothing like the hotel restaurant and bar you would expect. As you make your way up the stairs at the Fairmont Pacific Rim Hotel to the Botanist on the second floor, and through the hallway flanked by The Garden and Cocktail Bar on either side to the dining room, you will feel immersed in the lush natural environment of the Pacific Northwest.
Botanist offers four different dining experiences, with a bar, garden, dining room and lounge.
At the entrance to the restaurant, a private room enveloped by forest green velvet drapes and lit by a single light fixture atop the half circle marble top table sets the mood for an intimate yet vibrant dining atmosphere.
The Cocktail Bar follows the natural curvature of the entryway leading to the dining room, and its design is in stark contrast to the rest of the light-filled space, exuding a more intimate social space with its Italian Terazzo, dim lighting and black leather stools. The Cocktail Bar is also home to ‘Calgary’s Best Bartender’, Jeff Savage, who has trade in the vast Alberta skies for the coast and mountain ranges of British Columbia to lead the innovative bar program at Botanist.
Above: The Cocktail Bar showcases a darker, mysterious mood in comparison.
The Garden, sitting opposite the Cocktail Bar and enclosed with glass walls, is brimming with natural greenery from British Columbia’s backyard and awash with natural sunlight seeping in from sheer drapes. Even though you are indoors, you will feel as though you are breathing in fresh air as you relax amongst the lively plants.
Past the Cocktail Bar and The Garden, the hallways opens up to the sunlit dining room, and you will first be taken by its inviting colour palette, with its shades of pink, neutral tones and abundance of greenery celebrating the natural beauty of the Pacific Northwest. Open and vibrant, the clever seating arrangement encourages intermingling, in particular the booths arranged in an “S” curve.
After spending some time wandering each of the interior spaces, we were seated next to the window in the dining room, we were served Provence-inspired Fougasse to start our meal, freshly-baked in house each day and available for guests to purchase to take home.
Though our visit was during lunch hour, we would be remiss not to try the innovative cocktails from the Cocktail Bar, and after much debate, we decided to try Poetry in Motion and What the Flower.
Poetry in Motion is a vodka-based cocktail with grapes, rhubarb, lemon and bubbles for a sweetly refreshing taste. The finishing touch is the Elderflower liqueur created using locally sourced elderberry, handpicked only when in season.
What the Flower infuses a taste of the orient with Cherry Blossom Tea, lemon, ginger and cardamom. It uses electric daisies grown exclusively for use in this cocktail, creating a feeling of ‘electric daises dancing in a soft light’. The lone floral mirrors the gentle movement of the cocktail.
Above right: What the Flower.
For the table, we had several signature appetizers to share and for each a miniature cup of hot, creamy Pumpkin Spice Soup to warm our stomachs. The soup is topped with a vibrant spread, with oxtail, pickled pearl onion and buffalo ricotta, a flavourful complement to the rich soup.
The Iberico Ham Salad with bright beets, burrata cheese and pumpernickel highlighted the quality of fresh ingredients, which perfected the supporting role for the concentrated savoury taste of the Iberico ham. The hand-cut beef tartare with smoked egg yolk, caperberries and parmesan offers an indulgent taste on the other end of the spectrum featuring high-quality beef.
For our mains we had the Glazed Pork Belly with scallops in Iberico consommé, the sable fish with saffron potatoes and a simple pan-roasted flank steak with natural au jus. The crispy Glazed Pork Belly is portioned into bite-sized morsels to make it easier to eat, moisturized by the Iberico consommé and balanced with the softer texture of the lightly-seared scallops.
The Sable Fish is simply cooked and sits atop a bed of saffron potatoes and topped with a seafood nage for a light, natural taste, allowing the focus to fall on the buttery texture of the fish. The vegetables are a notable touch, as each of the skinned tomatoes are unbelievably sweet and bursts with delicious juices with each bite.
The flank steak, though simply prepared, again highlights the quality of the ingredients, accompanied by rapini, potatoes dauphine and mustard seed.
Following the delicious mains, we head into the final chapter of our culinary experience, the dessert menu. Our highlights were the Roasted Squash, with chai tea sorbet and ube chips, and the Esmeralda Cremeux, designed to depict the how moss grows on logs, a familiar scene in British Columbia; cocoa tuile forms a delicate lumber-like shell, while pistachio sponge plays the role of vibrant green moss.
It is one thing to visit the Pacific Northwest, and another to experience it through an elevated dining experience that captures its definitive characteristics. Botanist has done a superb job adhering to this theme, whether it’s in the interior design or its curated menus and handcrafted cocktails. it is recommended to clear your schedule to be able to thoroughly enjoy the immersive experience and let each dish remind you of the beautiful surrounds that lay just beyond the window.