These days, a new Sydney restaurant serving up locally sourced health food, dotted with plants and millennial pink armchairs barely causes us to bat an eyelid — but The Botanica Vaucluse has taken these well-practiced trends to a new level. The venue not only houses a farm-to-table restaurant but a spa, on-site produce garden and soon-to-open café as well.
And it's beautiful. The recently revamped restaurant space — which was last year operating as Sol Botanica — boasts an impressive fit-out with an entrance by landscape designer Charlie Albone (Selling Houses Australia), which is marked by a copper archway covered with hanging succulents. The interior better resembles a domestic greenhouse with floor-to-ceiling windows that open onto the garden in warmer weather, plus herbs, citrus trees and strawberry bushes aplenty. Plush pastel pink chairs and white walls with splashes of floral wallpaper complete these tea party vibes.
A focus on healthy eating starts with the seasonal produce, which is primarily sourced from the restaurant's expansive garden — with lavender, thyme, lemon balm and edible flowers — and the restaurant's 65-acre farm south of Sydney in the Jamberoo Valley near Kiama. The little that is not sourced in-house is purchased from Cooks Co-Op in Sackville — like the pasture-raised ducks, used for the roast duck breast with fennel and preserved orange salad — and from Victoria's O'Connor beef, which provides the free-range and hormone-free meat used in for the sirloin with red wine butter, charred onion and kale.
Executive chef Perry Hill's dishes are dictated by produce throughout, and his all-day menu is limited to three-or-four ingredients per plate. Think salmon smoked over eucalyptus branches or tuna tartare with native blood limes. In these cooler months, guests can expect sweet potato gnocchi with pesto and baby leeks, grilled quail with toasted almonds and wine-drizzled figs and rhubarb meringue tarts for dessert.
"We're responding to the seasons in a really immediate and natural way," says Hill. "We're not overthinking or complicating things."
The cocktails also speak to seasonality and the list includes a lemon myrtle gimlet, cold drip negroni and the signature Garden Grove Spritz: dry vermouth and sparkling wine with elderflower and cucumber, garnished with garden mint and frozen grapes. Guests can also expect gin made in-house and an Australian wine list that focuses on natural, organic and biodynamic vineyards.
Driving the wellness concept home is the Botanica's Sol Spa, which sits adjacent to the restaurant. Here, therapists will use aromatic oils, spices and herbs to revitalise patrons; facials and massages are accompanied by holistic treatments, plus detoxifying and antioxidant therapies.
Completing the new space is an upcoming cafe, which is set to open in July and will offer a more casual dining setting for farm-fresh produce, plus artisanal products for purchase.
So where exactly did they find the space for this opulent garden restaurant and spa? Well, it's actually part of Mark Moran Vaucluse, a luxury $115 million aged care facility on Old South Head Road. Not that it's anything like a traditional retirement village — the place is fancy and, in any case, the restaurant and spa have their own entrances.
Images: Nikki To