The highly anticipated Botanist restaurant in the Fairmont Pacific Rim hotel has officially opened to much fanfare and great reviews. I went to the Grand Opening party last night and if the small bites and inventive cocktails were any indication, Vancouver has added another gem in its crown of fine dining. Highlights for me included the delicious charred octopus, the English pea soup with dungeness crab, the roasted wagyu zabuton and the honey-glazed pork belly. The herb-encrusted lamb saddle was also divine. (cont'd below)
Hector Laguna is at the helm in the kitchen, pushing out these delicate but flavourful dishes that are as subtle and delicious as its subdued but lush interiors by Ste. Marie. The first sips of the cocktail program crafted by legends Grant Sceney and David Wolowidnyk are wonderfully refreshing, with their Poetry in Motion cocktail as the highlight of the evening. Sceney and Wolowidnyk even have their own cocktail lab to play in, sitting adjacent to the 16-seat elevated bar. There's even a glass shaped like a bird. (No, you cannot take it home.) (cont'd below)
In most fine dining establishments you'll see the bar take the role of supporting cast, but at Botanist it seems to be treated as an equal, if not leading, actor. The champagne lounge, for instance, sits at the very front of the restaurant on your left, overlooking the Fairmont Lobby Lounge below. On your right, is where Sceney and Wolowidnyk call home. And only until you keep walking down the hallway do you realize that this is actually a restaurant and not another bar.
Halfway down the corridor you'll encounter dining rooms surrounded by dozens of plant species, left to right and from above. There's plenty of natural light for the plants to absorb and for diners to feel like they're sitting outdoors. The pale blush banquettes past the rooms and in the open space with Roman columns crowned with ivy somehow add a modern touch of warmth without being kitschy.
It's all very Mad Men, but better.
Fairmont Pacific Rim Hotel
1038 Canada Place, Vancouver
(more pictures below)