Browns, a safe bet that still has a place in Brighton
There was a time when Browns on Duke Street, was THE place to be seen. A place for the upper echelons of society – the folk who can afford to park their flashy car on double yellows outside and not bat an eyelid at a £60 parking ticket. However, the calibre of restaurants in Brighton has gone through the roof lately, so like me, you probably haven’t thought to dine at Browns for years. With a new menu launched, it was time to return and discover whether the brasserie could be about to have a revival.
A Traditional French Brasserie
The first thing to point out is Browns is a chain established back in 1973, so it’s not usually the sort of place I’d choose to go to. The restaurant is vast, though it does not feel that way due to a well-designed layout. The décor style is that of a traditional French brasserie elegant, welcoming and dimly lit. Most of the tables and chairs are made from dark brown wood, in keeping with its name, and the walls are painted cream. Green yucca plants are in abundance adding a dash of colour to an otherwise very plain room. Finally, at the front of the restaurant, there are large floor-length windows, which fold fully out when the weather is warmer.
The eve of my visit was a Monday and the day before Valentine’s, so it was fairly quiet when we arrived. Initially greeted by the restaurant manager, we were then invited to choose a table by our bubbly waitress for the night, Cindy. As we are taken through the new ‘Taste of the Season – Tender Beef’ menu, Cindy informs us that all the beef comes from Brown’s Brasserie owned farms, which are managed by Browns to ensure they know what the cows are fed, where they graze and how well looked after they are. The menu options range from a slow-braised beef shin with pan-seared scallops – £9.75, to a classic côte de boeuf (a thick bone-in rib steak) – £49.95, designed to share between two. There are also a handful vegan options to choose from and several gluten-free choices from the main menu, including lobster risotto – £16.95 and courgette, mint & lemon tagliatelle – £10.50.
For my starter I decide to ‘go vegan’, opting for the courgette, mint & lemon tagliatelle (which is, in fact, a light main – not a starter). Simon selects the beef brisket croquettes – £7.50. The croquettes are small and a little overdone causing the beef brisket cloaked within crispy breadcrumbs to be dry, though notably rich in flavour. There’s also a stunning, punchy piccalilli alongside the dish, that has us both murmuring enthusiastically between mouthfuls.
My tagliatelle comes cooked al denté and it’s great to see both green and yellow courgette ribbons entangled together on the plate. Unfortunately, the dish is lacking in seasoning and it’s not until I add a generous sprinkling of pepper and Parmesan, (oh dear this is no longer vegan), that the flavours begin to come through. The pumpkin seeds mentioned in the description on the menu, are nowhere to be found either.
Spot On Steak
After a well-timed pause between the courses our mains arrive and I’m very much looking forward to tucking into my 7 oz fillet of steak with lobster tail, peppercorn sauce and fat-cut-chips – £30.45.
My main course doesn’t disappoint in the slightest. The beef tastes delicious and it is exactly as I requested, cooked medium rare. The tail of lobster is small but it’s lovely and meaty and the accompanying chips are big, chunky and the optimum balance of crispy on the outside and fluffy on the inside. The side of peppercorn sauce is also spot-on, thick, creamy and a generous portion.
Simon ordered the braised blade of beef with bubble and squeak, forestiere sauce and horseradish cream – £16.50, plus a side of thick cut chips with Parmesan and truffle oil – £4.25. I’m allowed a tasting when it arrives and as I take mouthful I have to close my eyes and savour the pleasure of it because it’s that tasty. There’s lots of rich gravy that soaks in the bubble and squeak and overpowers everything else, but overall it’s a hearty winter-warming number that’s perfect for this chilling February eve.
The Parmesan and truffle chips have a very strong flavour too, mostly of truffle, which I love, but Simon finds a little too much for his taste. If you’re a truffle lover these are a must order.
RATING: Must Go | Worth A Try | Give It A Miss
PRICE: £85.36 for 2 people including wine and added service
Not a lot has changed at Browns since its heyday in the early 90s and although it may not have offered me anything unforgettable, it’s a safe bet that still has a place in Brighton. With classic dishes done well enough, it’s ideal for the generation that doesn’t like anything too fancy or unfamiliar and it’s more than able to cater for large groups and the odd dietary requirement. However, if you’re looking for a restaurant that’s going to offer you something a bit out of the ordinary and around the same price point I’d head to The Salt Room on the seafront.
Need To Know
If you fancy a trip back in time, this Mother’s Day Browns will offer a 2-course set menu for £19.95 and a 3-course set menu for £23.95 with a glass of champagne included for you mum.
3-4 Duke Street, Brighton, East Sussex, BN1 1AH
*Disclosure: Browns invited me to dine but with or without an invite, my review is always an honest account of my experience.
Been to Browns lately or were you a regular diner back in the 90s? Leave me a comment below and let me know. And please click the tiny little heart if you like this review.