Monday 5 June 2017


Brunch at Brownies & downieS in Emmen, Netherlands

I love checking out places to eat that are just a tad different and so on my visit home last week I had to pop into Brownies & downieS, which serves a huge selection of delicious lunchroom and coffee shop food and drinks. The thing that makes them stand out from the crowd (in addition to their excellent food, of course)? Many of the staff members, from waiting staff to the chefs creating beautifully plated dishes in the kitchen, have intellectual disabilities and the restaurant provides training opportunities and jobs for them which are often hard to come by in the hospitality sector. Hence its hugely catchy and fun name.

Set up in the Netherlands in 2010 by a chef and a special needs teacher with a vision to create job opportunities in the restaurant sector for people with intellectual disabilities, Brownies & downieS is a chain of coffee shops and lunch rooms across the country (with a branch in South Africa too!). The branches look super awesome, from the industrial looking interior design to the originality of the presentations of the dishes, and it's so very cool that they provide a training platform and jobs in real life settings for people who so often don't get the opportunity.

I'd been to the location in Groningen with my sister last year for a quick but delicious hot chocolate and a brownie (I mean, with that name I have to of course), but this time around I wanted the experience to be a little longer, so I booked myself and my mother in for brunch. They offer afternoon tea as well, which I'd had my eye on first, but we went on a special festival day where it was predicted to be hugely busy in the city so they didn't offer it that day. In hindsight that was very lucky for us - because the brunch was delicious, affordable, huge, and beautiful; ticking all of our foodie requirement boxes.

Beautifully presented on a wooden board, the brunch consisted of soup from the chef (traditionally tomato soup but they were kind enough to swap ours for asparagus soup of the day which we much preferred); a thick slice of rustic bread with ham, cheese and salad (aka a broodje gezond in Dutch); another beautiful slice of bread filled with seeds and topped with a kroket (a Dutch meat snack with a crusty exterior) with mustard and salad; an egg boiled to our wishes (soft in the middle for us) and with a cute pinch of salt in the bottom of the glass so we could season to taste, a glass of fresh orange juice; and a hot drink of our choice to finish. And all that for just €12.95 per person, and absolute steal.

We were both really, really impressed by the brunch. Presented so beautifully on the wooden board, each individual item looked wonderful as well. And how cute is the tiny pan of soup, keeping it perfectly hot throughout our visit? We were also incredibly pleased with the taste of each of the dishes on our boards. They were cooked beautiful and the combinations of the food were surprising and inspired. For example, the salad on the ham/cheese bread had a few cashew notes and dates in it, which is something we would never consider ourselves but they worked wonderfully and ensured that each bite was different from the one before. Presentation, value and taste were all spot on, and combining that with the friendly service and gorgeous Instagram-worthy decor, this coffee shop and lunch room rivals the current hot spots in London, for sure.

For a hot drink we both choose tea because our gorgeously big brunch platters meant we were just a tad too stuffed for a hot chocolate (though I was tempted as my one in Groningen had been delicious). The tea was loose leaf and presented in a box by one of the waiting staff the place was named for, and he was wonderful when asked for his flavour recommendation (apple & cinnamon, yum). And then, though we were pretty full already, I couldn't leave without ordering a brownie, because of course you can't go to Brownies & downieS without ticking both of the name boxes. It was huge, gooey and more-ish and the crunchy honeycomb on the top added something very special to an already gorgeous dessert. We were in chocolate heaven.

We absolutely loved our brunch and would highly recommend it, but if you have more of a sweet tooth they offer an extensive afternoon tea as well. Or, if you're not quite as hungry, you can order something smaller straight off the menu. They have a big selection of sandwiches, eggs, soups, salads, bar food, cakes, and hot and cold drinks, so there is plenty of choice regardless of what you're in the mood for. Another cool thing they do is dinner one night a week called 'Eten wat de pot schaft' (eating whatever is available) and these are delicious sounding three-course meals that in the past have included steak and spare ribs. It sounds fab, and I'm definitely checking that out on my next visit home.

Brownies & downieS is a chain and so it's best to check out their website for a location nearest you, but the Emmen branch is located on Noorderstraat 12. Be sure to visit the Brownies & downieS Emmen Facebook page for more information on special events, menu changes and the line-up for the Thursday evening dinners, so you can make the most of your visit.

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