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First look: The Botanist

Apr 11, 2014 Cafes

For those with a taste for a little urban grit, the City Works Depot renaissance is an ongoing thrill. The latest addition to the precinct’s roster of eateries is The Botanist, an all-day cafe, bar and florist.

Carved out of a corner of an underground parking garage – internal pillars bear the scrawled warnings “Cameras operate on these premises” and “Do not attempt to break [sic] cars” – The Botanist makes a virtue of what could be a claustrophobically bunker-like space.

Working with AJ Sutton of City Works-based architectural practice MA Studio, owner Anthony Browne has created an interior full of clever tricks to mitigate the low concrete ceiling. Tables and chairs are a little closer to the ground than normal; the banquette uses throw cushions in place of an upholstered back in order to maximise wall space. The room’s stark outlines are softened with bright colours, light Scandanavian-style wood and plants from in-house florist Eden Hessell.

The ever-evolving menu, by Sara Simpson (ex The Tasting Shed, Tribeca and Clooney), is full of interesting and relatively healthy options, including omelettes, waffles and gluten free dishes at breakfast, and a range of hot dishes and creative salads at lunch. Coffee is a choice of Allpress, The Botanist’s own Three Beans-roasted blend, and a “Bean of the Moment”, changed weekly.

Once the liquor license is confirmed (in a week or so, all going well) there’ll be small plates and aperitivo snacks on offer into the evening, alongside around 20 wines, a few cocktails and four craft beers, courtesy of City Works neighbour Brothers Beer, which Browne co-owns.

Speaking of Brothers, there are exciting expansion plans afoot for the bar/brewery. They’ve just signed the lease on a Mt Eden site with space for a much bigger brewing operation, a bottling line, and a larger bar and retail area. They’ll be in by Christmas, they hope, but CBD drinkers shouldn’t fret – it won’t mean the end of the original Brothers Beer. “Mt Eden will be a destination,” Browne says. “Whereas Brothers Beer at City Works Depot is a place the local workers have taken to heart. It’s not going anywhere.”

Shed 13, City Works Depot, 90 Wellesley St. Open Mon-Sat, 7am-4pm (evening opening coming soon). Facebook.com/thebotanistnz

Words: Catherine McGregor. Photos: Ken Downie.

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