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Browns Bar and Brasserie - review

Angie Sammons finds consolation - but in another restaurant

Written by . Published on December 18th 2013.

Browns Bar and Brasserie - review

DESPERATE people will make grog out of anything: rye, potatoes, berries, corn, rice, root vegetables. However unlikely the moonshine the poorest peasant will find a way to be rich in spirits. 

And it is completely understandable that sometimes the only thing that will save the day is a fat glug of distilled artichoke. In our case after a £93 dinner in one restaurant but poured by the hand of another. 

Parsnips and carrots had the uniform consistency of bullets and were completely inedible. Meanwhile, minted baby potatoes were, in fact, so jumbo they might have gestated inside an elephant

If Liverpool is good enough for hen and stag parties UK-wide, it's good enough for anybody's 40th birthday do. Thus, Brighton-born Browns Bar & Brasserie celebrated the start of its fifth decade with a rash of new branches, its middle age spreading all over the isle and into Paradise Street. 

Browns Opening Party Who TheyBrowns opening
party: Who they?
Like many wealthy corporates, Browns (part of the giant Mitchells & Butlers empire) opened with the standard Hollyoaks 'n' VIPs red carpet party.

The paps did well out of it, snapping Alex Curran in hotpants. And it must have looked impressive to the casual reader of Reveal, looking for somewhere to take Dad on his own special birthday – “after all he doesn't get to go for a nice meal very often”. 

With its dark oak panelling, brass and beige tones, Browns, in parts, looks every bit the Mayfair Gentleman's Club. However, the only pipe you'll find
is the musical kind from speakers above your head. In this case Bill Withers and Adele soundalikes. 

Browns Bar And Brasserie LiverpoolMy companion is a John Steed lookalike: an ex-Army captain who spent seven years being mercilessly thrashed at the same boarding school as Stephen Fry and who, as a result of this correct upbringing, will normally eat and drink anything. 

Accordingly, he something of an expert on toilets too, so when he revealed that those in the gents of Browns had missing lids and loose seats, one wondered if it was the result of a struggle in the cubicle?

Perhaps the head of some hapless
waiter had been shoved down and gamely flushed, for failing to sufficiently up-sell.

For herein lay the motif for our evening at Browns. Trading up. For example, why take a bottle of £17 light and fruity pinot noir with your fish when the waiter is damned sure you would enjoy the £22.50 Rioja more? 

Browns Bar And Brasserie Liverpool %285%29Such service began warm and attentive but became rather more clipped with every unrequited advance. 

Then again, maybe they were right. We won the Marchesini pinot noir battle only to bitterly regret it. Thin and harsh as a bullwhip it was one of the few occasions when “a glass half-full” has been a bad thing. 

Breadsticks, as crisp as the welcome, were of the “lavash”, variety - a flat crackerbread rolled and baked in smoked salt, plain and Italian hard cheese. Although at six quid a pop, that lavish opening party would soon be paid for. 

Accompanying harissa hummus, aubergine caviar and a lime and chilli mayonnaise suffered from being dolloped atop a slate whose radiant heat bore all the signs having come straight from the dishwasher.

It caused the dips to congeal and, left longer, may well have transformed them into a decent liniment for arthritis. 

Smoked venisonSmoked venison

A pile of apple and celeriac remoulade (coleslaw) did little to enliven rangy slices of smoked venison (£7.50). Nor did the “chocolate chilli sauce and pequillo pepper vinaigrette”. Squeezy bottle dots they surrounded the meat and served merely a decorative purpose, like WAGs in a circle. 

Braised pig cheeks with crackling in an apple brandy jus (£14) was more rewarding. Something a little different among the burgers, pies and fish n chips, it was a plat du jour and announced with a flourish. 

Pigs cheeksPigs cheeks

Did it come with veg and potatoes? Not that I know of, Sir. Would Sir like to choose some side dishes? Yes, he probably should. 

Imagine our surprise, then, when the cheeky pig showed up with some delightful but unexpected friends: verdant broad beans that someone had gone to the trouble of shelling and a perfect pillow of caramelised apple mashed potato. The meat barely needed a knife, the crackling required pliers, the apple and brandy jus a thick gravy, but none the worse for it.

Parsnips and carrotsRaw deal: Parsnips and carrots 

By now, the party had begun to get crowded with side orders. Savoy cabbage (£3) had the right intentions but the cream sauce in which it had lingered bore the tang of having turned.

Parsnips and carrots (£2.50) had the uniform consistency of bullets and were completely inedible. Meanwhile, minted baby potatoes (£3) were, in fact, so jumbo they might have gestated inside an elephant. 

Just as well the expertly seared fillet of “fresh cod” (£16) not only had plenty of sweet brown shrimps and sharp capers in a buttery dressing to keep it company but spinach and boulders of sautéed potatoes too. 

Browns Bar And Brasserie Liverpool %288%29Cod and other capers

We ruminated, over dessert, that the important business of cooking mains might have been left to one or two chefs who knew what they were doing with the rest being left to the less able. 

Such as Pineapple Carpaccio (£5) which wept in a reactive sea of lime sour and sugar syrup and was eventually abandoned like a washed up jellyfish. 

But why have one chocolate brownie when you can have three? “Brownie Indulgence” (£10) comprising each different brownie served on the menu, was suggested by the waiter who appeared crestfallen when it was eschewed for a plain ordinary Dark Chocolate Brownie (£6). But it was paired with pistachio ice cream and would be lifted to high heaven, said we. No, not today. Pistachio ice cream was off. We would have to make do with vanilla. 

Pineapple carpaccioPineapple carpaccio

With all those spuds, you would think we would have had enough of mash for one night, but having missed the train we found ourselves drinking the morbidly odd distilled variety in San Carlo. 

The name of this artichoke digestif is Cynar, which could be a disinfectant sold in Lidl, and, perhaps, tastes not far off the mark. So we had another. 

Cynar San Carlo
Yes, the barman insisted, for £100 we could indeed get a three course dinner, wine and a G&T there, and in much of Browns' competition near by. 

Back at Browns, had everything been all right with the meal, we had finally been asked. 

“There was the veg...” we had ventured. 

That's a shame, came the brisk reply. “Would you like to fill in one of our comment cards and let the management know?” 

“Well, as it happens..." we replied. "Actually, never mind.”

ALL SCORED CONFIDENTIAL REVIEWS ARE IMPARTIAL. Critics dine unannounced and the company picks up the bill




Food         5/10 
Service     2/5 
Ambience  3/5


Browns Bar & Brasserie
43a Paradise Street
Liverpool L1 3EU
Telephone: 0151 709 1693

Website: Here

Browns Bar And Brasserie Liverpool %2811%29 

Venues are rated against the best 
examples of their kind: fine dining against the best fine dining, cafes against other cafes etc. Following on from this the scores represent: 

     Straight in the dog bowl

6-9:     Get the chippy 
10-11: In an emergency
12-13: If you happen to be passing
14-15: Worth a trip out 
16-17: Very good to exceptional 
18-20: As good as it gets 

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10 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

Stephanie LengDecember 20th 2013.

I have eaten in Browns twice. The service is very bad. I like the decor though during the day because the natural light is calming. The food is stingy. Not bad, but nothing to write to Santa about either. On both occasions I asked for a cheese plate instead of pudding. The first time there were three tiny tiny bits of not very good cheese and a mass of celery and grapes. I did not ask for a fruit and veg plate, but ate the cheese nonetheless and fainted at the cost of this board. I went home and ate some proper cheese. The second time I asked for a proper cheese plate without all that fruit etc. I got two pieces of cheddar and even more grapes and about 6 sticks of celery. I sent it back. I went home and fixed myself an omelette. The french say "always leave room for cheese". I had room for a cow! Not going back there again.

AnonymousDecember 20th 2013.

Sounds utter crap, like so many of these places that spend a packet on setting up etc then waste it by having incompetent buffoons represent them, but I'm sure if I go past tomorrow it'll be full to the brim. Weird

AnonymousDecember 20th 2013.

You pay through the nose for Alex Curran's photo op in these sort of places. They are taking the piss out of people. Go to Hanover St Social instead.

SaladDazeDecember 20th 2013.

Thousands of years ago - and taking pity on bright young hungry relatives who had made the transition from Eagle & Child land - I ate in Brown's BullingdonVomity/Russianspyski 'varsity town branches and enjoyed the meals. But... there are now scores of them like a rash across Britain. And perhaps in Liverpool we have now reached resto over-saturation. Is there a sufficient pool of sourcing and cooking and waiting talent to lubricate all these outlets? There are only so many urbane unemployed graduates with well-developed taste buds to go round...

3 Responses: Reply To This...
John BradleyDecember 20th 2013.

Was that in the old clap hospital?

Martha FitzsimmonsDecember 20th 2013.

Like you'd know, you've never been laid you sad bastard.

AnonymousJanuary 3rd 2014.

Salad, we will only know we have enough good ones when all the bad ones have closed through lack of custom.

Stephanie LengDecember 20th 2013.

not too sure what you are saying Saladdaze… simplicity please

Ramsey CampbellDecember 21st 2013.

Saladdaze, I think we can't have too many good restaurants! I submit the new Nepalese on South Road in Waterloo (Da Gurkha) as the latest evidence.

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