Review - Browns

Review – Browns

Browns Bar & Brasserie set in the bustling heart of Brighton’s famous Lanes first opened its doors over forty years ago in 1973. The Brighton branch was the first Browns to open in England and still remains a successful, busy restaurant to this day.

Browns (as it’s more commonly known) immediately welcomes you into the fray like an old friend; welcoming, attentive and with that reassuring familiarity that is often found in larger chain restaurants. Retaining a classic large brasserie style interior with brown wooden chairs, dark brown tables and low lighting, Browns wants you to feel relaxed and at ease in your surroundings. 
Given the option of a table for two overlooking the wide window, we opted to seat in the quieter area toward the back of the establishment, feeling the need for a more intimate dining experience rather than being on show at the front of the large restaurant. However, having a large, open plan window is ideal if you want to dine whilst watching the world go by. 
Browns sticks to a well known and much loved formula, ensuring that every patron is appropriately catered for. Plat du Jour, starters, sharing plates, classics, from the grill, fish pie, steak pie, belly of pork and burgers fill the a La Carte menu. Plenty of choice and a good amount of vegetarian options too.

Deciding on the Crab & Avocado Stack – with mustard crème fraîche and a mildly spiced coriander & chilli salsa with an avocado & potato salad (£8) to start followed by Chicken, Leek and Bacon Pie – in a cream, white wine & mint sauce, served with buttered mash and a broad bean & shallot fricassée (£12) for main, our waitress left my companion and I to relax with our bottle of Chenin Blanc (£18) in the casual atmosphere of the brasserie.

Crab & Avocado Stack at Browns, Brighton. Photograph by Claire Beveridge.

Crab & Avocado Stack at Browns, Brighton. Photograph by Claire Beveridge.

One glass of white wine down, the starters were presented. Initial reaction was horror at the bizarre building of food in front of me. For me, something just didn’t work presentation wise. Slicing into the stack, it instantly crumbled and made a miniature salad across my plate. The avocado was under-ripe and the crab meat minuscule in portion. The chilli salsa lacked a much needed punch and I found the whole starter rather bland, chilly and disappointing.

Chicken, Leek and Bacon Pie at Browns Brighton. Photograph by Claire Beveridge.

Chicken, Leek and Bacon Pie at Browns Brighton. Photograph by Claire Beveridge.

Chicken and leek pie was, in comparison, a great main course. Crisp, flakey puff pastry crowned a deep well of rich, indulgent, herb laced sauce. Chucks of chicken swam in the white wine alongside flecks of salty ham and tender leeks. The broad bean and shallot fricassee complimented the richness of the pie well.
The dish was finished with a smooth curl of buttered mash, which perched rather awkwardly alongside the broad beans, probably feeling more at home if the pie wasn’t served separately in a deep white dish. The value for money in this dish was also a plus point.

Given the hit and miss aspect of our meal thus far, intrigue washed over me as we were handed the Browns dessert menu. And what a dessert menu it is. Brownies, crumble, fruit salad, cheesecake, even bread and butter pudding were on offer on this truly British influenced dessert list. A penchant for anything toffee or caramel based took over and I order the Sticky Toffee Pudding – with a rich toffee sauce and clotted cream (£6).
Sticky Toffee Pudding at Browns Brighton. Photograph by Claire Beveridge.

Sticky Toffee Pudding at Browns Brighton. Photograph by Claire Beveridge.

Swimming in a bowl of rich toffee sauce was a large clump of dark and almost sickly toffee sponge, joined by a small curl of clotted cream. The sponge itself was too large, too thick and too dense a portion to be enjoyed without feeling like you’re forcing down food and the cream to sauce ratio was out of control. A mediocre pudding at best.
Dining at Browns was a mixed bag. Key success were the main course which provided a worthwhile experience of traditional British food cooked well and also the service which was entirely faultless; our waitress worked her tables with confidence and ease, ensuring a higher than average level of customer service throughout her section. However, the starter and dessert left room for improvement.

Great for large groups looking for somewhere traditional, spacious and affordable, there is no doubt in my mind that Browns have got many dishes spot on over their forty year reign of Dukes Street. But tonight just wasn’t their chance to shine.

Words and photographs by Claire Beveridge.Claire Beveridge’s food and drinks were complimentary of Browns.