The Botanist

Botanist muesli header image

219 Onepu Rd, Lyall Bay, Wellington
Opens: 9am; closes 10pm
Muesli $14.50; Peoples Coffee, t-leaf-T tea

The Botanist is, as the name suggests, a vegetarian/vegan eatery serving plant-based food (eggs and cheese in some dishes excepted). It is in a renovated two-story wooden building opposite Lyall Bay beach not far from Maranui café. Though you don’t get much of the sea view experience of the latter, its a quick hop over the road for a walk on the beach after eating. Plus there is a suburban ambience that’s a welcome break from the industrial fit outs and high intensity dining of the inner city.

The dish I review here is not billed as muesli, nor even granola as such. It is listed on the menu as chia coconut yoghurt, fruit smoothie and granola. Granola is definitely a misnomer here as there is no crunchy aspect to the grain component. I’m classifying it as muesli, but it is devoid of oats, so I may be stretching a definition myself, but it does have the three ingredients typical of mueslis: grain (if you call quinoa a grain and not a seed), nuts and seeds, and dried fruit.

Botanist interior to back

Lets be more specific: the muesli bit had chopped dried fig, goji berries, sunflower and pumpkin seeds, walnuts and cashew nut pieces, and toasted coconut and quinoa flakes. The texture was very dry, almost sawdust like, and impossible to eat without moistening. While there was plenty of moisture in the bowl from the smoothie and chia yoghurt, mixing these all up like an infant would just make a homogenous mush. The two of us dining decided we would rather exercise our adult selves and eat each component separately. So we requested soy milk for the muesli.

Botanist interior to front

The fruit mix was described as poached apple, berry and banana smoothie. I could definitely taste pureed cooked apple but didn’t pick up banana. I suspect the berry was strawberry. The chia coconut yoghurt was nice. I like the idea of popping some chia seeds into yoghurt and letting them swell. Must try it sometime. Overall, I detected very little sugar in the dish, so good marks there.

Botanist interior - brick wall

My Americano coffee was served very hot in a large cup and was quite strong, as Peoples Coffee seems to be. I appreciated the large volume, as you certainly need something to drink with the powdery muesli.

Botanist outdoor area

I spied copies of the Dominion Post newspaper to read, and there were relatively few patrons present through to 10am at least, though I have been to Botanist later on a weekend morning when it was hard to get a table. Still, there is something about The Botanist that doesn’t make it feel like a comfortable place to me. I think it is the dark tiled floor and the many black metal-framed tables and high stools (that the place operates as a bar/restaurant in the evening explains the stools). How nice a wooden floor would have been.

Maybe I need to try some different tables though. The two either side of the door give you a sea view, while towards the back there are some mid-century modern repro chairs, and couch seating. Outdoors at the back looks pleasant at first sight, but stools and black, wire-framed chairs are the only seating option.

The Botanist building was once the location of the Silver Slipper Tearoom. All I know at present is that the tearoom was operating in 1938. It would have been conveniently located on the tramline and done well in the weekends when Lyall Bay beach was probably much more popular than it is today. Any further information gratefully received.

Conclusion

Both of us eating agreed the muesli was rather too powdery. Some crunch would have gone better with the softness of the smoothie and chia yoghurt. I appreciate that quinoa was used to enable the dish to be gluten free, so I guess that’s the trade-off. Would I eat here again? Probably, but I’d try something else on the menu.

Reviewed December 2020.
Menus, ingredients and opening hours may change. Check with eatery before you visit.

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