I was recently invited to visit SOL Botanica in Vaucluse. Working in hospitality PR, I am usually shocked when I’m invited to somewhere I’ve never heard of before! I decided not to do any ‘digging’ and instead visit SOL Botanica without any prior knowledge about what the restaurant stood for or who the chef was.
After arriving I noticed the décor. It’s a bright dining area with lots of glass and natural light, decorated with a soft mix of pinks and purples through the lush carpet and plush dining chairs. It wasn’t what I had expected when I heard “Vaucluse” and isn’t a style I’ve seen lately in a ‘new’ venue… Somehow though, I felt very ‘at peace’ and comfortable – instantly.
We were greeted by a lovely guy named Pedro who led us to our seats. We were seated in a warm corner of the restaurant and a nice sliver of sunlight was cutting through our table which, on a late winter’s day, was lovely!
The menu is DIVINE. I didn’t know what to expect but upon opening the menu I was very excited. Lots of vegan dishes, vegetarian options and whole foods. The entire menu is also gluten free, soy free and refined sugar free!! What a treat! My favourite thing to do at a restaurant is to let the waiter order for me – I find the surprise of eating adds to the experience and after explaining I was vegetarian, and my partner wasn’t – we sat back with a glass of biodynamic sauvignon blanc and waited for the food to arrive.
As I was waiting I started to notice that a lot of the people dining at the venue were in the 60+ age bracket, but all very sophisticated looking. They were also accompanied by what looked like family groups – a spattering of mothers, fathers and a few younger children. I looked out the windows and noticed the incredible garden areas and the apartments across the way and it clicked – we were right next to a retirement village! The NICEST retirement village I’ve ever seen to be exact.
Our waiter delivered our bread – it’s a gluten free bread made with quinoa and teff flour and it’s AMAZING. It’s light, fluffy and incredibly delicious. It was served with a rich olive oil and dukkah. I asked Pedro about the apartments next door and he then explained to me the ‘culture’ of the SOL complex. I must say – I got goosebumps when he told me and I’m getting goosebumps writing this now.
SOL stands for Spirit of Living. There’s a range of places in the SOL complex, all designed to offer interesting, nutritious and elegant options for both the public, but also the residents. The seamless connection here is what makes SOL so amazing to me. I didn’t FEEL like I was in a retirement complex, I felt like I was in a gorgeous wellness centre on the end of a cliff in stunning Vaucluse… which is exactly what I was supposed to feel. The restaurant is open to the public and encourages healthy living for everyone… What an inspired, STUNNING idea.
After I finished gushing about how impressed I was and being so inspired by Pedro’s explanation that I think I might have even embarrassed myself, the food came. Well… let’s just say I will be back.
An amazing gluten free pizza came, LOADED with a fresh tomato sauce (none of that sweet pasty pizza sauce), topped with fresh mozzarella, rocket and oregano (from the kitchen garden). A celeriac and apple salad was super crunchy and obviously made to order. My partner had spanner crab dumplings in a clear broth that was so fragrant I got whiffs of lemon grass throughout the entire meal. I was more than impressed, I was DELIGHTED.
After our entrees had been cleared we were served mains. I had the gnocchi (also gluten free) which, surprisingly, was served with an Asian twist. A pumpkin and ginger puree with a green curry style sauce was such a welcome surprise! I’ve never thought of using gnocchi in other ways! A project for an upcoming weekend! My partner had a fish dish which was presented perfectly and I did steal a few of his Jerusalem artichoke chips (yum!).
After we had eaten I had the pleasure of meeting the chef. Perry offered to take us on a tour of the garden and I was delighted to see that so much of what I had just enjoyed had been harvested from only a few meters away. Perry is a gently spoken man who has had an incredible culinary history. Perry explained that SOL had just purchased a farm (near Kiama) where they plan on having a lot more vegetable growing, as well as cattle and chickens (to which he apologised to me for).
After a wander through the gardens (which are also open to the public) we returned and I was lucky enough to sample SOL’s very own gin. The gin has been infused with ants (eek, not so vegetarian) and some other botanicals. It was served to us neat, with a sprig of rosemary and some juniper berries. I immediately whipped out my purse and asked if I could purchase a bottle, thinking it would make a fantastic gift for my in-laws this Christmas, but was told it’s not available for take home purchase! Damn!! Never mind though, because after such an incredible, genuinely inspiring, experience, I will be back at SOL Botanica again soon.
I strongly recommend visiting SOL Botanica for lunch or dinner. There’s plenty of parking and it’s lovely to have gotten out of the city for a while. The menu reads like a dream and you can’t help but feel uplifted by Chef Perry’s commitment to good food. After lunch, go for a walk on the cliff edge and take time to unwind after you’ve just nourished your body with SOL Botanica’s incredible food. An absolute pleasure.
To learn more about the SOL Living and SOL Botanica experiences follow these links;
Although meals SOL Botanica were complimentary, I did not agree to provide specific or positive feedback on the experience. All opinions expressed in this review are my own and derived from my personal experience at SOL Botanica.