In its 10th year under the stewardship of The Blanco Group, Botanic Gardens Restaurant is entering a new era.
Head chef Paul Baker took charge of the kitchen in 2014. Now, he’s done away with starched white tablecloths and, in turn, the traditional preconceptions that tend to attach to “fine dining”. “What we do here doesn’t really fit within any boundaries,” he says. “We just felt the tablecloths weren’t us anymore.”
Design firm Williams Burton Leopardi (Exchange Specialty Coffee) has steered the long-awaited two-stage redesign.
Stage one is complete. Tabletops of various shapes are either solid oak or Carrara marble, each with a corresponding style of Italian-imported chair. The mustard-yellow ones have a curved back you can really sink into. Perfect for the perils of an afternoon-long degustation.
Tableware is hyperlocal. Handcrafted plates come from Brambles Pottery in Strathalbyn and Bennett’s Magill Pottery. Clay vases by Jam Factory maker Ebony Heidenreich are two-tone, emulating the oak and marble tables they sit upon. Simple, it may seem. But the attention to detail is impeccable.
The tightly curated refurb is as light and bright as ever. But Baker is crystal clear on its best asset: the gardens. “What we didn’t want to do was detract from them,” he says. “You should be so comfortable all you want to do is take in the view, the food, your glass of wine. You shouldn’t notice [the interior] too much.”
Baker’s always-ambitious menu – reliant on produce plucked from the nearby Botanic Kitchen Garden – takes a slightly different form as well. “It’s a little bit lighter ... and lot more delicate than it ever has been,” he says. Given it’s tweaked multiple times a week, a new version is printed daily – just before service – once the kitchen has locked in the day’s dishes.
Stage two of the refurb is slated for completion by early next year. It will include a retiled and polished-up entranceway, louvers to catch the summer breeze and “slide-in” fixtures to fill a few nooks in the ceiling (without structurally altering the heritage-listed building).