Earlier this week, I was invited to Fairmont Pacific Rim’s soon-to-open (April 24) restaurant, Botanist in the former ORU space.
The redesign by Ste. Marie Design and brand identity by Glasfurd & Walker shows off a sophisticated dining concept playing off one of the world’s most fertile, productive and diverse agricultural regions.
Our moderate Pacific Northwest climate brings a year-round variety of gorgeous ingredients that Executive Chef Hector Laguna and team are ready to showcase in a menu filled with inventive, artfully-presented dishes.
Walking through the upstairs lobby lounge, a clean white space leads to a champagne lounge offering a global sparkling wine menu paired with small plates—oysters, caviar, seasonal crudités and local artisanal cheese platters.
My favourite part of the restaurant is the garden, a glass-walled area filled with lush greenery including a trellis, over 50 species of plants and edible spices.
The main dining room contains a bread station filled with lovely buttery brioches (during breakfast and lunch) created by Pastry Chef Jeffry Kahle. At dinner time, the pain du jour is Provence-inspired, leaf-shaped fougasse.
Off to the side of the restaurant, a glass-walled private room with seating for 20 includes playful framed illustrations on the mint green walls complemented by a light wood long table and silver upholstered chairs.
Chef Hector Laguna grew up surrounded by food, his love for cooking first sparked while helping his mother in the family kitchen in Hidalgo, Mexico.
Laguna’s culinary career spans over a decade cooking in kitchens across North America’s top foodie destinations including San Francisco, Miami, Toronto and Vancouver, most recently serving as Hawksworth’s Senior Sous Chef.
Signature items include root vegetables, oven-roasted halibut with spring vegetables and crab emulsion and herb crusted lamb rack with green garlic panisse, fava and shallots.
The menu is accompanied by wine director Jill Spoor’s boutique terroir-driven wine program that supports sustainable, organic and biodynamic farming and winemaking practices.
The bite-size portions that made the rounds were also artfully presented, each dish offering an abundance of flavour and texture on the palate.
With Botanist, the Fairmont Pacific Rim has stepped things up a notch or two and I can easily see this becoming one of the city’s destination restaurants once they’ve opened and the staff has grown comfortable in the space.
Creative Beverage Director Grant Sceney has created a full range of cocktails, from the whimsical to chemistry-like concoctions from a customized “lab”. Sceney was at the forefront of Botanist’s bar and lab development. Knowing full well his reputation around the city for his creations, this new eatery will be equal parts fantastic food and top-notch libations.
A few unique industrial elements in the lab include a rotary evaporator (Rotovap) to extract flavour essences from various ingredients, a band saw for custom ice sculpting and centrifuges to separate ingredients of varying densities.
The dining room contains beautiful natural lighting and a mix of seating, from banquettes to small tables in various groupings. I like the mix of upholstery and leather colours and patterns that play nicely off the garden theme. Unwatermarked images courtesy of Botanist.