When a door closes, a window tends to open. This old proverb can ring very true even in the world of pubs. When the Living Room closed its doors, it was a surprise to many, but at the same time it left a space for something different.
The Botanist, a smaller chain than the Living Room concept, has moved in and taken the old cocktail bar as its new home. The location couldn’t really be better; bang in the central of Chester and at the doorstep of the historic Cathedral or the romantic Godstall Lane.
So perhaps the décor is fitting, in that case. The Botanist sports what can only be described as “shabby chic” with the tables, fixtures and chairs having gone through a meticulous process of sanding in the name of aging. The bartenders wear what can only be described as good old fashioned gear, suspenders and all. Having said that, it all matches and blends in together, save for the odd, almost steam punk-kind motorcycle hanging from the ceiling above the bar.
The Botanist sports the same space and the same layout as the Living Room, but otherwise it is unrecognisable as the same venue. The Living Room was a dark and cave-like place which was filled with high-end cocktail-loving folk. The Botanist, on the other hand, is an open and light bar with cask and keg on offer as well as cocktails and an extensive wine menu.
Speaking of menus, the Botanist does have a beer menu as well. They have one to lengths trying to find some outrageous beers as well as classic goodies, for example, the menu boasts the likes of BrewDog’s Tactical Nuclear Penguin, as well as offering a variety of pale ales such as Red Willow’s Shameless. Selection-wise, there is a good mixture of pale and dark ales and wheat beers. Vast majority of their beer is served in bottles, but such seems to be the going trend nowadays.
We are always happy to see new venues in Chester, and even happier when they serve real ale and craft beer. The more the merrier, we say. Having said that, The Botanist is a place where I would probably rather take my boss for lunch than go on a beer tasting session. With all the effort they have put into making the space distinctively different from its predecessor and an unique venue in its own right, they have ended up with something that has such a mass-produced feel to it, it almost borderlines on pretentious. The beer selection, whereas vast, is not very well thought out and the classics and the outrageous beers don’t blend well together, especially when a selection of beer from Tesco’s bargain bin are thrown in the mix. The keg beer is also somewhat flat and uninteresting, which hints that it’s not kept all that well.
Having said that, this could all be teething problems. The Botanist is, after all, a new venue which has just opened its doors to the beer quaffing population of Chester, and even though it is a part of a chain, the chain is not so big that it would be unthinkable for them to allow the franchise to make their own beer lists. Perhaps once they find their feet and get to know their customer base, they can adjust their selection accordingly.
We won’t be giving any grades to the Botanist yet. We will visit again and see if they can rise to the challenge.