A delicious charcoal-fuelled menu

The Angus sirloin features beef that has a lovely smoky, charred crust that then yields to juicy, succulent meat. — Photos: SAMUEL ONG/The Star

Perched in Kuala Lumpur’s leafy new dining enclave Bamboo Hills is the latest Botanica + Co. The popular eatery was first birthed in 2016 in Bangsar South, where the original outlet remains. A few years later, the brand spread its wings to Alila Bangsar, where it now has a second outpost.

This third outlet, housed under the Platinum Hospitality Group – which owns and operates the brand – is the most cosmopolitan and ambitious iteration of Botanica + Co yet.

The 465sq m space is expansive enough to host a cavernous dining space speckled with sunlight and foliage – the sort of dream space that is so beautiful that it’s hard to imagine you’re actually in central KL. This is accentuated by pockets of covered eating areas outside that face a charming little garden. This picturesque tableau is complemented by a private dining space that is buttered with so much sunshine and dense greenery, it feels almost anomalous in a city setting.

The eatery is beautiful and has a strong focus on foliage. The eatery is beautiful and has a strong focus on foliage.

“When Bamboo Hills was conceptualised, there was no pre-existing design concept, so we could take the space and do what we wanted with it. Of course the main design for Bamboo Hills is landscape and greenery, so we just wanted to bring in a little bit more of that here. We wanted the space to feel like a little escape from the city. So it’s a great space for people to come here for a break for lunch or on the weekends,” says the group’s F&B director Teh Su Fen.

This sense of adventure and escapism has also been funnelled into the menu, which deviates from the original eatery in many ways, most notably with a drive towards charcoal-grilling. This derives from executive chef Lim Tzer Chuan who wanted to bring something slightly different to the eatery.

“The thing that fascinated chef Chuan is charcoal grilling, so he thought ‘How do we expand further than that?’ Because a lot of locals consider this kind of charring – burnt. But actually there is a subtle line between burnt and burnt to a crisp. So for him, he wanted to take that and work on that burnt and charred flavour. He started to play with the idea in our existing kitchens, so one of our focuses here is on charcoal grilling and creating smoky flavours,” explains Teh.

The menu is extensive and traverses wide territory, from soups and salads to pizzas cooked in a custom-made Italian wood-fired oven and handmade pasta attained from a bona fide Italian. Ingredients are sourced with care and there is an emphasis on provenance and corresponding quality, whether that’s juicy local heirloom tomatoes or Australian Angus steak.

The rosemary foccacia highlights the skills of the eatery’s in-house bakers.The rosemary foccacia highlights the skills of the eatery’s in-house bakers.

To begin a meal here, try the Rosemary Foccacia (RM19). Here, you will discover the house-made bread complemented with three dipping sauces: basil pesto, balsamic dip and tomato salsa.

The focaccia has been lightly charred upon baking and is spectacularly good. A slightly smoky outer crust gives way to a pillowy soft doughy interior, which is cushiony while still retaining some bounce and pliancy. The rosemary gives it an understated herbaceous quality and this is further buoyed by the pesto, which is incredibly, addictively good.

Up next, try the Panzanella Salad (RM40), which has cherry tomatoes, burrata cheese, red wine vinaigrette, cucumbers, roasted bell peppers and herb croutons. This is a fresh, invigorating salad with textural contrasts in the form of the soft, cloudy cheese, juicy tomatoes and crunchy cucumbers and shallots. The vinaigrette offers zesty, nuanced acerbic qualities which give the salad a pleasantly refreshing countenance.

For something more substantial, look to the Squid Roe & Peppers Pizza (RM58). This is a dish that Chuan was inspired to create after visiting a fishing village and realising that most fishermen simply discard squid roe after cleaning the squid. In this iteration, the squid roe has been marinated and grilled alongside bell peppers and mozzarella cheese before being baked in a wood-fired oven.

The result is a pizza that retains plenty of chew and bite but isn’t overly heavy. The squid roe is limber and tender and offers aquatic accents without overwhelming the palate with too many oceanic elements. It’s also a sure-fire hit with children (my six-year-old and two-year-old devoured five slices in a matter of minutes!).

From the fresh hand-made pasta on offer, look at trying something a little off the beaten path in the form of the Bottarga Spaghetti (price TBC). Bottarga is the salted, cured fish roe of the mullet fish that is often considered a delicacy. In this iteration, the bottarga is grated over the pasta and topped with ikura pearls and a giant char-grilled Sabah prawn for a triple seafaring whammy (the prawn will be added to the dish when the new menu launches).

The bottarga spaghetti fuses rich umami notes with smoky goodness in the form of the chargrilled giant prawn.The bottarga spaghetti fuses rich umami notes with smoky goodness in the form of the chargrilled giant prawn.

This is a pasta with both simplicity and indulgence at its core. The pasta itself is unadorned and uncomplicated but the umami jolts provided by the ikura and bottarga add a touch of opulence to the meal, which is taken to a whole new level with the addition of the prawn, which is lightly charred but retains sweet, succulent flesh.

For something from the carnivorous persuasion, look at indulging in the Angus Sirloin (RM168) which features 350g of grilled sirloin with bordelaise sauce, salsa verde and mustard. The sirloin is the star of this show and has been grilled wonderfully well, retaining a slight outer char while maintaining tenderly pink flesh within. The meat is juicy and succulent, but retains chew and bite. It isn’t quite melt-in-the-mouth tender, but is a wonderful bovine iteration for diners looking for more yield, pull and bite in their meat.

From the desserts on offer, there is plenty to whet the appetite, especially if you’re looking for something lighter like the Panna Cotta (RM29) which features white chocolate, strawberry compote, olive oil and thyme. This is a panna cotta that wobbles and jiggles wonderfully well while still keeping its figure and solidity intact. The strawberry compote adds a lovely sweet fruity undercurrent to this concoction, which is neither overly rich nor cloying.

If you’re after something far more sumptuous, definitely look at trying the 8 Layer Chocolate Cake (RM27). As its name implies, the cake features layer upon layer of chocolate goodness, topped with mascarpone cream. This is a chocolate cake that is worthy of being called “indulgent”. It has no pretensions or airs or graces and in fact, it knows what it is about and is there to serve chocoholics of every stripe.

The squid roe pizza is addictively good from start to finish.The squid roe pizza is addictively good from start to finish.

If you’re looking for something to wash down all this goodness, turn towards this thirst-quencher: the Bamboo Cooler (RM19). Made up of house-made mango puree, cream cheese and lemon soda, this is a tropical delight with a fizzy sparkle and effervescence that is likely to delight from the first sip.

Moving forward, Teh says the restaurant will be launching a new menu sometime in May after months of tasting, testing and gathering feedback from customers. Also in the pipeline is the introduction of an in-house bakery that will be geared towards widening the baked offerings in the eatery.

“Yes, we will have more nods to Asian flavours in our upcoming menu, so we are excited to get that launched. And next for the eatery – we will be creating a dedicated bakery because we want to showcase our bakers. They have been doing great sourdough, brioche, donuts and they make amazing pastries too, so we wanted to give them a platform to really show off their products,” says Teh.

Botanica + Co at Bamboo Hills

P-09, Taman Bukit Bambu

Off Lebuhraya Duta-Ulu Kelang

Taman Bamboo

51200 Kuala Lumpur

Tel: 017 659 1838

Open Monday to Friday: 12pm to 10pm; Saturday and Sunday: 10am to 10pm

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