Back in February myself and Nicola had an overnight stay in Manchester as we were going to see comedian Peter Kay reprise his role as Brian Potter in Phoenix Nights Live at the Manchester Arena. The show was fantastic, filled with lots of old jokes (and some new ones), made even better by the fact that all of the profits from the two week run were being donated to Comic Relief. In the end, the show helped raise over five million pounds for the charity.
As with all of our trips, we always like to do a little research on bars and restaurant located near to our hotel in order to help us make best use of our time away. One place that Nicola had highlighted to me was The Botanist, a bar & restaurant with a big focus on craft beers, cocktails and hearty food. It looked right up our street so we added it to our list of places to try to visit and started counting down the days to our trip.
We arrived in Manchester just after lunch and after checking into our hotel we took a stroll around the compact city centre. It wasn't long before we wandered out on to one of Manchester's better known streets Deansgate.
As well as acting as a main artery for traffic in an out of the city, Deansgate is jam packed with a huge array of restaurants and bars. When we lifted our head to work out where we were, we realised that The Botanist was directly across the road from us. Our long train journey had made us thirsty so it was an easy decision to head across the road and get ourselves a drink.
The interior of The Botanist was clearly split between the bar at the front and the restaurant and kitchen towards the back of the building. Wood was the theme with the floors, bar, gantry and tables all decked out with reclaimed timber whilst the restaurant resembled the inside of a country garden potting shed, with little watering cans and flower pots taking up any free space on shelves and ledges.
Nicola chose one of the many wines that were available by the glass but my drink choice was much harder as The Botanist has the a wide collection of craft beers from all over the globe and after studying the handy beer almanac, I started my afternoon session with a fantastic bottle of Gamma Ray American Pale from Beavertown Brewery.
We spent a good couple of hours at The Botanist and I managed to try several more of their craft beers including the wonderful Fire Rock Pale Ale from Kona Brewery in Hawaii. Before long it was time to get back to the hotel for a quick change then on to dinner at The Living Room (also on Deansgate) before heading to The Manchester Arena to see the show.
The stage show was amazing and we had a great time, made all the more special when we were moved from our back row seats to seats that were only 40ft from the stage!
After the show we were keen to end the night on a high and before heading back to the hotel, we made our way to The Northern Quarter for more craft beers and cocktails, ending up in Odd Bar on the recommendation of TV & radio presenter Terry Christian.
The next day, our train home to Glasgow wasn't until 5pm so we had the day ahead of us to do a little bit of shopping. Nicola was in her element as we wandered around Selfridges, Harvey Nichols and Michael Kors to name but a few although it has to be said that she did manage to come home from this city break without a new designer handbag. We then wandered down to trendy Spinningfields thinking that we could grab lunch in one of the many restaurant there before getting our train home but the prices in this part of town were more than I like to pay for lunch! Realising that we were at the bottom end of Deansgate, we decided to head back to The Botanist and get lunch there.
The menu at The Botanist is huge so choosing lunch wasn't easy but in the end we decided to share a couple of starters between us. Keeping with the gardening theme, the calamari was served with a little watering can of alioli. The baby squid was coated in a light crispy batter and was well cooked. Nicola stuck to the main body of the cephalopod leaving me to tuck into the tiny tentacles!
Our other starter was a hummus board with freshly baked flatbreads and carrot & celery batons for dipping. The hummus was served inside a large red cabbage leave meaning that the whole dish was 100% edible. We both love hummus and this portion was rich with sesame flavours and just the right amount of garlic.
We both agreed that as our train wouldn't get back to Glasgow until after 9pm, it would be a good idea to have a substantial lunch to keep us going. Thankfully the main courses at The Botanist are very substantial indeed and offer great value for money. Nicola opted for the chicken and mushroom pie which was served with a huge pile of mashed potatoes and mushy peas. The pastry on the pie was well cooked and crispy on top whilst inside, the pie was stuffed with big chunks of well seasoned chicken and plenty of mushroom in a creamy sauce. This coupled with the rich gravy that was served on the side resulted in a truly hearty dish, in fact it's fair to say that the portion size was maybe a little too large for a lunch as Nicola was defeated about half way through.
As soon as I spotted the Cumberland sausage with mash and onion gravy on the menu, my decision was easy. Two huge bangers were layered across fluffy mashed potato and served with a small gravy boat on the side. The onion gravy was one of the tastiest that I've ever eaten. The sausages were well seasoned and packed with herby flavours and whilst others might love the strong herb flavour from the Cumberland sausage, they were perhaps a little too heavy handed with sage for my own personal taste. That didn't stop me from doing my best to demolish my lunch but I also had to admit defeat and gave up with about a half a sausage to go.
The hours were whizzing by and it was soon time to make our way to Piccadilly Station to get the train home (and a much needed sleep on the train), so we squeezed in one last drink before settling up our bill and heading on our way.
Both of our visits to The Botanist were great and on both occasions we were well looked after by the staff on duty. In fact, I was even given one of their craft beer almanacs to take away meaning that I can study up a little more on some of the other beers that I would like to try out in the future.
Needless to say, we would definitely recommend The Botanist for both food and drink and would certainly return to The Botanist next time that we are in Manchester. There are also other branches across the country so worth its checking them out before you travel.
Written by Gerry Haughian