Lunch with Friends at Browns:
When I was at University, Browns was THE place to go to eat. I was a young impressionable student and it seemed to me that the waitresses were the height of chic and the cocktails were the ultimate in luxury. There were only three Browns Restaurants at that time, one in Brighton, one in Oxford and one in Cambridge. And, to be honest, they didn’t have a great deal of competition. You could go to Browns and eat the best burgers in town – or have something more exotic like pasta. Remember these were the days when my boyfriend’s idea of spaghetti bolognese was to open a tin of goblin mince, mix well with a tin of heinz spaghetti and heat through before covering with cheddar cheese.
Things have changed, although so far as I can see there’s a real lack of good, cheap places to eat around Victoria Station. And, one of the catches with being the ‘blogger’ is that I get asked where to go! There are Browns bars all over the UK now, including several in London and I wanted to see how the expansion and ageing of this brand, which to me epitomises my student days, had affected the place so I suggested we met at Browns Victoria.
Browns was not a bad choice. But, nor was there anything remarkable about the food and there were a few disappointments (possibly because there was a large party who were served just ahead of us).
I ordered the Caesar salad to start and it was really pretty good. Having said that, it’s not easy to mess up. But as you can see, it was nicely served with shavings of parmesan, anchovies and croutons and really a pretty good take on a classic dish.
The cauliflower soup (soup of the day) chosen by one of my dining companions was also a reliable and tasty option.
Main courses though were less than perfect.
My burger was really a bit of a disappointment. Although it was nicely presented with small glasses of accompaniments, the burger itself was really quite overdone and chewy. And the rest of the dish was just not great. The bacon was greasy and kind of stuck onto the cheese and the bun was just…well…boring.
My friend’s chicken leek and mushroom pie was definitely on the worse side of overcooked with almost black pastry that really didn’t look appetising and a mound of speckled mash on the side. It might have been improved with a side serving some green vegetables…but these were not offered and the overall effect was dry and unappetising.
The best of the main courses was the Mushroom Pappardelle – exotic mushrooms and pine nuts in a crème fraîche and Madeira sauce tossed with pappardelle.
Service was fine, for the most part fast and helpful. And the bill at the end was quite reasonable at around £60 for the three of us including a couple of glasses of wine and some mineral water. It’s a shame that the original ambience of Browns appears to have been lost forever and that some of the food we were served really wasn’t acceptable. But, Victoria isn’t an area with a wealth of good places to meet and eat and at least Browns provides a friendly atmosphere to meet friends and grab something to fill your stomach without breaking the bank.