Identity is important. When Botanica + Co first opened in the sprawl of Kuala Lumpur’s Bangsar South enclave, it pitched itself as a bistro-style establishment to nourish the corporate tenants and residents of Bukit Pantai. And as much as identity is important, adaptation is as well. Confronted with feedback that the menu of coffee and sandwiches seemed limited – ‘Why’s there no rice on the menu?’; ‘It’s all bread… no noodles?’ – Botanica + Co responded by expanding its menu in directions that created a new identity: a little something for everybody.
Settling into a gravy groove of varied dishes – the Botanica Burger, Truffle Yakiniku Don, Crab & Crayfish Laksa and pizzas being the most popular – Botanica + Co has recently introduced some new additions to its menu. Each claiming more new culinary territory for the establishment, it strengthens the identity of the brand as it prepares for newer things, including space at a new luxury hotel opening in KL later this year.
Crispy fish tacos are the first of the new lineup. The Tex-Mex staple comes in generous portions here, packed with Halibut fish fingers and tangy slaw. A salad is given a Bo + Co twist with japanese cucumber, edamame and pomegranate, while the gruyere cheese soufflé is rich to the point of decadence, grounded with a hearty salad that includes walnuts, raisins and truffle dressing. A smoked tomato soup dotted with chunks of spicy chorizo and chickpea is a whiff of Andalusia; the serving might seem modest at first, but it lines the way well for heartier mains.
It quickly becomes evident that produce is the highlight at Botanica + Co, with even the most pedestrian of ingredients – leaves, bread and lemons – fresh. That vitality is replicated in the restaurant’s interior. Two trees anchor the space, designed to look like a summery conservatory filled with green and illuminated by charming rattan lamps handmade by a Malaysian artisan. The trees have their own story; battered by the journey from orchard to concrete, they receded at first but have since adapted and flourished, spreading branches wide. Which could be a metaphor for Botanica + Co itself.
Moving into the Caribbean, a Cuban sandwich of slow-cooked pulled beef, chicken ham and briny pickles in a soft sourdough is a tropical taste of a different kind all the way from Havana. The sort of dish that one consumes before a siesta. The spicy crayfish aglio olio would go down well at any time of the day, even breakfast; the addition of sambal chilli to the spaghettini sauce is akin to the morning staple mee siam. A bountiful Turkish plate, packed with lamb kofta meatballs in curry, basmati rice, kachumba salad and crispy spicy papadam, is afternoon eating. Evening nourishment would come in the form of a more refined slow-braised oyster blade, Angus beef slices served in a veal jus on garlic-infused mash and bright garden vegetables.
Sweetness appears as a banana crumble, eschewing typical apples for creamy bananas that caramelise equally well, with berries to add texture and colour. Crumble is, of course, a British staple and together with the rest of the new dishes, is almost like a United Nations of culinary inspiration. That’s not a detraction, it’s an identity. Some restaurants stick rigidly to single influences and it works. Botanica + Co aims to please all taste buds and as the evidence goes, it’s working for them.