Tuesday 20 January 2015


Restaurant review: Browns Covent Garden

The first thing I noticed when walking into Browns Covent Garden was how swanky and sophisticated it looked; with a dark wooden bar area, followed by a more spacious but still classic restaurant section. And spacious it was, especially for the prime property location smack-down in London's West End, neighbouring the prestigious the Noël Coward Theatre no less.

We started our meal with an order of cocktails, as you do, which were delightful. My 'You Rang M’lord' (such a fun name, by the way) was made up of Tanqueray Rangpur, lychee liqueur, fresh lemon, elderflower and topped with a beautifully, bright pansy. I love both lychee and elderflower and so was excited to try this combination. Surprisingly it didn't taste of either in particular, but it had a refreshing and zesty kick to it and would make a lovely drink on a hot summer's day. My friend too enjoyed her 'Jerrys Iced Tea' - Sailor Jerry, Davna cherry vodka, fresh lime and Pepsi - though I do admit that when I had a sip I thought it was a Dr Pepper!

While enjoying our cocktails, the starters arrived, both of which were absolutely wonderful. My friend ordered the crab & avocado stack, which came with English mustard & crème fraîche dressing, and a chilli, coriander & cucumber salsa. This was a very fresh dish and just like my cocktail, would be perfect to enjoy on a sweltering hot evening, perhaps before heading to the theatre next door.

I too was impressed by the pan seared scallops I tried, which were served with cauliflower purée, curried cauliflower tempura, and a sea rosemary, grape & shallot vinaigrette. The portion was very generous and the plate was presented beautifully, so much so that it was almost a shame to dig into it. But dig in I did, and I relished the scallops, which were cooked to perfection, and the delicious combination with the cauliflower puree. Even my friend, who is not a fan of anything cauliflower-based normally, complimented the dish.

Unfortunately the mains let down our meal considerably. My friend ordered the British fillet of beef with garlic & herb butter, chunky chips, onion rings, mushrooms and confit tomato. While the onion rings and chips were delicious crispy, without a hint of grease in sight, the steak was disappointing. It was cooked well to my friend's orders, but it was absolutely tiny, the smallest we've ever seen in a restaurant, and we both agreed it wasn't worth the hefty price tag.

I ordered the slow cooked salted pork belly, which came with smoked Bramley apple purée, buttered mash, braised cabbage, and an apple brandy & Pink Lady jus. Rather than the delicate bowl of braised cabbage I was expecting, however, the plate was for the most part filled with the unsightly appearance of half a cabbage, which seemed simply grilled on one side; it was awkward to cut and really not very pleasant to the taste buds either. The pork belly itself was much nicer, after the extensive amount of fat was cut off the top, and made a tasty combo with the apple puree, mash and jus.

After the disappointing mains, we hoped that the desserts could redeem our experience, and thankfully they did. My friend went for the apple & gooseberry crumble with vanilla custard. While the custard didn't have much vanilla taste to it, she loved the combination with the crumble, which wasn't too sweet, and thought it a delightful finish to the meal. And it was a very big portion too. So much so, in fact, that she wasn't even able to finish it in its entirety.

My go-to sweet is anything chocolate-based, so it didn't take long for me to decide on the tempting chocolate brownie with milk ice cream. I'm an expert brownie tester, after trying dozens over the years, and I have to say that this was one of the best ones yet. Beautifully gooey and chewy, the intense flavour of chocolate hit the spot just right. I do think, however, that my dessert was possibly not served as quickly as it could have as by the time it arrived to our table it was no longer warm and a lot of the ice had already melted.
Indeed, the service overall was quite slow on the night we visited, which was a shame as it's ideally located for a pre-theatre meal yet it didn't leave us a lot of time for three courses because of the waiting time in between courses. And while it was busy, this is something they should be able to cope with. After all, if they're unable to handle the rush on an early Thursday evening, what would the waiting time be like at a peak time on Friday or Saturday? Still, while the service was slow and our mains disappointing, the starters and desserts were wonderful. And with the great location we'll definitely return for a pre-theatre cocktail and chin-wag.

Browns Covent Garden, 82-84 St Martins Lane, London WC2N 4AG.


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