One of the first things you notice when you step inside Botanic House is the outside. The reimagined restaurant in Sydney’s Royal Botanic Gardens – formerly known as Botanic Gardens Restaurant – has windows everywhere, and the verdant surrounds are calming.
What you see then is an intricate single-line drawing on the wall. It wraps and weaves its way around the room – even finding its way onto the cover of the menu.
The menu is less straightforward, a reflection of owner Luke Nguyen’s family history. The celebrity chef’s parents fled Vietnam in the ‘70s and lived in a refugee camp in Thailand (with the newborn Nguyen in tow) before coming to Australia. And his grandfather is Chinese. Those influences all combine for a genre-crossing collection of dishes.
There are hand-rolled crab-and-scallop dumplings; crispy barramundi with okra, tomatoes, beansprouts and a sour tamarind broth; Vietnamese coffee cake with soy-sauce ice-cream; and crisp-skin chicken that’s first poached in a master stock from Nguyen’s other restaurant, Red Lantern on Riley. Dishes are paired with wines, cocktails and loose-leaf teas.
There is a lemon myrtle tree Nguyen says you can smell when the breeze wafts into the kitchen. He decided to add it, and a few other natives, to his otherwise modern-Asian menu. You’ll find native finger lime with the seared yellow fin tuna, and tempura saltbush sprinkled over the grilled chicken thigh.
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