Review: Botanica Hall

Review: Botanica Hall

New restaurant gives the reimagined Arding & Hobbs building a fresh lease of life.

By Tara Robinson

Header image (c) Mariell Lind Hansen

There’s been a lot of excitement surrounding the repurposing of the old Arding & Hobbs building in Clapham. Once a popular department store, the spectacular Grade II listed building has been reimagined into a hub of retail and leisure – including the buzzy new cocktail bar and restaurant, Botanica Hall.

Complete with a coal-fired oven, the menu provides a range of pizzas and sharing plates, as well as an extensive list of cocktails and a range of gins distilled by their in-house team in their urban distillery.

Located right at the building’s centre-point on the ground floor, the restaurant impresses before you’ve been seated, thanks to the interior design that manages to blend the vintage fixtures of the department store building with trendy architecture and modern designs. A feature that particularly stands out is the mini-tree my guest and I were seated beside, managing to sprinkle a sparkle of whimsy into the mix.

(c) Mariell Lind Hansen

The main draw, however, is the food of course. The sharing plates – ranging from £7 to £11 – offer a variety of Mediterranean-style tasting. We opted for the fried aubergines with stracciatella and mint, and Calabrian chilli and mozzarella crochettes with lemon mayo. The aubergine slices were satisfyingly crispy and well-flavoured, though the stracciatella dip seemed a slightly unnecessary pairing. The crochettes were deliciously full-bodied with just a hint of spice, and paired excellently with the lemon mayo.

We paired our sharing boards with cocktails; my guest chose a classic Dark and Stormy, while I was drawn by the slightly out-there option of a Hibiscus Margarita. With a rim coated in sugar and hibiscus petals, it felt rather like drinking something straight out of Alice in Wonderland. Considering the ever-so-slightly whimsical atmosphere, it was fitting – and yummy.

The pasta dishes drew special intrigue – handmade daily by their chefs, the menu choices range from Tartufo Tagliatelle with truffle cheese sauce to a Rose Vodka Rigatoni. My companion and I, however, couldn’t resist the draw of the pizza. I opted for the Rock Star Margherita: an intriguing take on the most classic of pizzas, with stracciatella, mozzarella, roast tomatoes and salsa verde. When our pizzas arrived, I did need to withhold my shock at the sheer size. The pizzas are seriously huge – but perhaps that’s a good thing, because they’re also seriously delicious.

The dough is soft, yummy and not too thick; thought it does have you reaching for your knife and fork when reaching the thinner part of the base. The toppings are generous and innovative: adding stracciatella to a margherita was a stroke of genius, introducing a rich creaminess that balanced out the more tart flavour of the roast tomatoes.

We were stuffed to the brim by the end, but I can’t say it wasn’t worth the pain. Though I’d recommend preparing to take a box of leftovers home if you do opt for the pizza.

While it is, admittedly, another addition into London’s ever-growing roster of pizza-and-cocktail combos, Botanica Hall manages to distinguish itself with some truly great tastes, inventive cocktails and an atmosphere that seamlessly blends modernity and whimsy with the iconic architecture of Arding & Hobbs.