Restaurant Botanic

Williams Burton Leopardi

When Blanco Horner Hospitality committed to bringing Justin James to Adelaide to helm their Botanic Gardens Restaurant at the State Heritage Listed 1907 Simpson Kiosk, they embarked on an ambitious repositioning and reinterpretation of the iconic but tired fine dining establishment.

As a respectful honouring of place, heritage and produce, Restaurant Botanic is reimagined as an encasing and naturally warming harbour within which to savour and embellish the senses. Located within the centrally sited Adelaide Botanic Gardens, the same-named restaurant draws on its long-established reputation as an iconic and familiar destination, bringing a togetherness and celebrating milestones. While its connection and ingrained sense of nostalgia carry forward, the changing of its custodians required a matched rebirth of the spatial experience.

Nestled deep into the gardens, an approach through the famed Plane Tree Drive on foot allows the heritage rotunda to reveal itself slowly. A light-touch ensures the existing exterior character, heritage fretwork and detailing are restored and enlivened, while the carving of a new entry experience reinforces a sense of arrival. Inside, the previously traditional restaurant space was opened up to bring guests into the preparation experience, with a Japanese-inspired front row seat to the action. In the centre of the space, around a carefully crafted bar and under arched framed timber details, guests are invited to partake in the finery of creation, while dining. An arrangement of sculpted natives hangs overhead, and changes seasonally, bringing a literal and artful sense of the garden inward.

Creating a sense of connection between the restaurant and the garden drove the reorienting of the view outward, while the previously white internal timber filigree detailing is repainted to create a sense of hierarchy for the eye. Drawing inspiration from the lushly natural surrounds, the interior becomes doused in layers of soft and muted greens and beige tones, allowing the wattle-coloured carpet insertion in the centre to provide acoustic absorption and soften the extensive use of timber, glass and stone. Brass detailing elevates and frames nuanced moments, while custom designed brass and porcelain wall and pendant lights add a natural organic-ness through their patina and imperfections. In reimagining the Botanic Garden Restaurant, the space becomes deeply and richly immersive, and balances smells, sights and sounds idyllically.

Furniture: Billiani (supplied by Estilo Commercial), Pedrali (supplied by Estilo Commercial). Lighting commissioned by WBL, designed by F.A.W.L x Handmade & Found. Finishes: Floors Plus, CDK.

Photography: Caroline Cameron.