Just when you thought the changing face of the City Works Depot couldn’t throw another curveball at you, following the Miss Pings pop up and TV spinoff Food Truck Garage, they bring us another quirk, the Botanist. Almost as much florist as it is café and restaurant, the Botanist combines- you guessed it- botany and gastronomy perfectly.
We couldn’t find it at first, not amongst the likes of Scratch Bakers and Brothers Beer the Botanist is down a rusty spiral staircase (or the driveway if you’ve got more brains than I). The full glass front stretches its way along the parking lot edge as a typographic print of “The Botanist” floats at the front door. What strikes you first is the floristry, to your left is a small boutique florist, to your front and right, café. Following yellow rooftop piping, it becomes apparent they have put significant effort into carefully selecting their décor. Hanging pot plants force the taller of us to duck and weave their way past a vast middle table to the couches at the far end. By the maître d station, blackboards, coffee machines, and more flowers. It's simple. The tables are a light brown, with a concrete floor- roof to match. It feels like there is little done to this place, but I can tell a lot of thought went into it.
Listening to the tunes of Bon Iver, the humble waiter played host, maître d, waiter, food runner, wine connoisseur and barista. An all in one. They were pretty empty at the time so I didn’t expect much more but he knew the menu, the wine list, and how to crack the occasional joke so I was happy with the service- it can often be awkward on those quiet days so I’m glad it wasn’t. All food is on the organic side, to match the theme. All the food seems delicate, I went for what they dubbed a Potato and Cheddar Waffle- seemed ingenious- and paired with mushrooms and haloumi it tasted even better than it sounded. Recommended to us was the house made muesli. It was one of our main reasons for visiting and we left with no disappointments, unfortunately I didn’t get to try the squid steak, wrong time of day for that one- I’ll have to revisit for dinner. Nothing is overpriced too, if you’re getting haloumi as part of a dish for anything under $20 that’s a win in terms of Auckland dining, the coffee was great too. I'm definitely a coffee snob, and there aren't many places that get the seal of approval from me on that front. Thumbs up to the barista.
With no complaints on our end, we felt we easily could’ve stretched a long lunch out over a couple of wines on a sunnier afternoon, or a dinner visit wouldn’t be off the cards. They hire out for events too and they sell flowers, which is a plus. Great date spot, even better for a long lunch, even even better again for the coffee. If you’ve got places to tick off your list you might want this to be one of them.