I was always going to struggle to like Browns. It is after all a big corporate chain restaurant (sorry, "Brasserie") and we much prefer our local, home grown eateries. As much as Mitchell and Butler have tried with the leather, marble and posh champagne (140 quid for a bottle of vintage DomPers is actually pretty reasonable) there is no getting away from the fact it is a Harvester in a pretty frock and expensive jewellery, or an All-Bar-One with a piano. But the flagship restaurant brand of one of the UK's largest catering groups is never going to be awful, is it?
Well no, of course not, because whilst Brown's may be as original and unique as an X-Factor Christmas number one, it is similarly as consistent in churning out a popular product.
The food was pleasant and inoffensive, and there were some neat touches, the raspberries with the liver were a good combination. The sharing platter (a good staple of pub grub) had some interesting items, the Scotch egg being stand out.
The steak was a good size and perfectly cooked, but the presentation on the plate was a little underwhelming. First impressions count for a lot so it was quite disappointing that one of the restaurants most expensive dishes looked like it had thrown on the plate with no regard to appearance. Fortuitously the perfectly simple cooking of quality ingredients meant that it tasted great.
The lamb cutlets were marvellous, but the accompanying shepherd’s pie was a disappointment. I am well aware that shoulder of lamb is a fatty bit of sheep, that's why it's so often slow cooked (I usually do it with some honey and garlic). Therefore I don't need to be patronisingly told that by the staff member when I had the temerity to comment that out of the two bits of meat I had eaten so far, both had been gristle. I expect meat with a good amount of marbling, not one solid chunk of elastin that can't be chewed. After that I didn't fancy trying any more of the pie in case the butchery remained as bad throughout.
Other than that incident the service throughout dinner was friendly and attentive, drinks came and went and checks where made frequently to ensure we were all happy with our food. Browns is priced appropriately for the high end pub food it provides, starters are around the five to seven pound mark, mains average around the fifteen pounds. The problem Browns has is this segment of the market is getting rather full. The likes of The Corinthian, Trading House and Anchor Line are all competing for the same customers and they just seem to be doing it better at the moment.
If you find yourself in Brown's then you'll probably have a great meal and get good service. But in the same way that a Toyota Avensis will get you from A-to-B, but you choose to buy a Porsche Panamera. If you want a reliable way to sate your appetite head to Brown’s, but if you are after something exciting and different you’ll need to try somewhere else.