“ 82–84 St Martins Lane, Covent Garden, London WC2N 4AA. Tel: 020 7497 5050. Fax: 020 7497 5005. „
On Wednesday this week we were going to the theatre in London and wanted to go for a pre show meal. The envelope that the tickets came in had an offer from Browns in Covent Garden on the back. If you showed the envelope when you arrived, each guest (up to 6) could have a complimentary bellini or beer. Never one to turn down a free drink, my husband duly booked a table on line and we were all set. I checked on the website and discovered that if you signed up to the Browns newsletter, you could download a voucher which gave you 20% of your food and drinks bill. Browns is in St Martins Lane on the edge of Covent Garden - very close to Leicester Square tube station and ideally placed for many of London's theatres. Browns in Covent Garden has been going for 40 years (they are celebrating their 40th anniversary this year) and there are now a range of restaurants, not just in England but in Scotland too. The restaurant is attractive, traditional decor which has something of the feel of a gentlemen's club about it - not that I've even been in a gentlemen's club but I would imagine it might have a similar feel. Browns is pretty much open all day. It opens at 8 am and serves breakfast or brunch until noon. A full menu is available from 12 through to 10.30 in the evening (a bit later on Fridays and Saturdays). They also serve afternoon team from 2 to 5 pm. I arrived ahead of the rest of our small party only to find that there had no record of our booking for a table of 4 at 5.45. Unfortunately we didn't have the email confirmation of the booking with us but although the restaurant was very busy, we managed to get the last table. However, that was the only hiccup. We got our complimentary drinks and settled in to look at the pre-theatre menu. This offers two courses for either £14 or £16 - some mains being slightly more expensive. The starters included prawn cocktail, chicken liver parfait (not a huge portion but delicious) and baked mushrooms. The £14 mains included Mushroom Pappardelle (my choice and again very nice although I couldn't finish all the pasta) and roasted gammon with mash and parsley sauce (hubbie had this and really enjoyed it). At £16, choices included sea bass and a steak and guinness pie. The service wasn't super fast but we had didn't have to rush and had paid the bill and were ready to set off for the theatre by 7.10. We were quite tempted by the offer to return after the theatre for a third course - £4 when you show your copy of the bill- but in the end decided we needed to head straight to St Pancras for our train home. With the 20% voucher, the bill came to just over £60 which included glasses of wine for us all. Pretty good value for central London. It wasn't fine dining (so not 5 stars), but just right for a pre theatre meal and we'll definitely go back.
Recently one of my favourite things is afternoon tea. You would think that living in London it would be easy to find somewhere to have tea and scones. Living in London it is usually fairly easy to find whatever food I feel like eating, no matter how exotic that food is but it seems that finding somewhere where you can have afternoon tea that doesn't cost upwards of £25 is close to impossible! I was even considering paying the £38 that it costs to have afternoon tea at the ritz but fortunately before I managed to book a table a friend of mine suggested we have afternoon tea at Browns. I agreed, thinking that she meant the hotel and that I would still be paying over £30 for tea. Fortunately the place she had in mind was Browns Restaurant and Bar, not Browns hotel. It has now become a regular thing for me and my friend to meet on a Saturday for afternoon tea in Browns so I thought it was about time that I wrote a review! -Service- If there's one thing that lets Browns down it's the service. The staff have always been very polite and helpful towards me and my friend so I don't have any complaints there but I have found that the service is very slow. We have sat for sometimes up to fifteen minutes before anyone has even taken our drinks order and I find it very diffcult to get the attention of staff so sometimes we are waiting for a long time before we can ask for the bill. This isn't a big problem for us, we go there on a Saturday when we have time to relax and enjoy each others company and we both like to sit for a long time after we've eaten but it can be frustrating when you're hungry and it's taking ages for your food to arrive. I have also found that you usually do not have the same waitress throughout the meal. Perhaps it's because we spend so long in the restaurants but every time we've been in there we've had one person take our order and deliver our food and another clear the table and give us our bill. To their credit they never try to hurry us out of the restaurant, even when they're very busy but they have in the past told us that our table is only available until a certain time, usually three or four hours later (and not even I can spend four hours having tea). The first time I had tea there they did make a mistake with our bill, they charged us for our afternoon teas and the meals of the people on the next table. They did take quite a long time to fix the problem and they seemed quite put out that we had brought it to their attention, but this is the only really negative experience I've ever had. -Atmosphere and Comfort- The first time I walked into the restaurant I thought it was too busy and too noisy. Being in Covent Garden and so close to the theatres it does tend to get busy on a Saturday but I found that when we were seated it didn't seem so loud. The tables are very close together which I don't like so much because I don't like the idea of other people overhearing my conversations. I've found the seating to be quite comfortable, although the sofa type seats are a little bit too wide for my comfort so I have to lean forward to eat my food. I like to have good back support when I'm eating out and these chairs don't really provide any support at all. The other chairs that they have though are comfortable and the back support is good. Tables are a little bit on the small side, so it does feel a little bit cramped when they bring out the tea and the food. -Food- I only go to Browns for afternoon tea but I have also ordered an avocado and bacon salad and a home made lemonade. The salad was quite nice but it wasn't mixed enough for my taste. It was basically a bowl of lettuce with some bacon, avocado and dressing dumped on the top. The bowl was too small for me to mix it myself and the dressing hadn't coated any of the leaves underneath. But there isn't really much that can go wrong with such a simple salad and it was nice enough. The lemonade is wonderful and I order it everytime I go to Browns. I'm sure I don't need to tell you that it is very bitter but a friend of mine ordered it the other day and complained about how bitter it was so I thought I should just warn you all! As I've said the reason I go in there is for the afternoon tea. Afternoon tea consists of tea, a scone with jam and clotted cream, two triangles of salmon sandwich, two triangles of cheese and cucumber sandwich and a slice of fruit cake. This afternoon tea is not particularly big but it is great for an afternoon snack, which I assume is what it's meant to be. The first time I ordered the afternoon tea they gave it to me in a coffee cup. I didn't like this much because I prefer for tea to be served in a tea pot so that I can control how strong the tea is. Since then it's always been served in a tea pot, although on Saturday they ran out of lids and had to serve it with a saucer on top of the tea pot (which made pouring quite awkward). They don't seem to have the same tea every time and I never think to ask which tea it is so I can't comment on what tea is the best one but I have found that I do prefer some over others. The sandwiches are lovely, it's just unfortunate that there aren't more of them. I do wish that they would leave the crusts on the sandwiches (I'm sure they would if I ever remembered to ask) because I love the crusty part of the bread. The scones are generally very good, although on Saturday my friends scone crumbled so much that she had trouble putting her jam and cream on it. I don't like fruit cake so I can't comment on the cake. Overall I really enjoy their afternoon tea. It is the perfect light snack for a Saturday afternoon. -Everything Else- Cost: Afternoon tea costs £6.75 per person. Location: Browns is in Covent Garden and is a short walk from Covent Garden tube station. I would recommend printing off a map if you don't know the area well. Accessibility: The restaurant does not appear to be accessible to wheelchair users due to the number of steps so if you are a wheelchair user I would recommend ringing the restaurant to find out if there is a alternative entrance that you can use. For more information please visit: http://www.browns-restaurants.co.uk/menu-coventgarden.php
Browns Bar & Brasserie is a restaurant and bar chain with approximately 15 outlets across London and England. I visited the Convent Gardens restaurant which is along St Martins Lane and within easy reach of Convent Gardens Tube Station. My friend logged onto the Browns website and became a "friend of Browns" and in doing so got a voucher for a 2 Course Meal for 2 people with a bottle of wine for £30.00. (£15 per head). Browns is doing well in Credit Crunch London and was packed on a Wednesday night. It was mostly full of London Business people having a drink or a meal. Browns had a good buzz and was lively without being too noisy. We didn't have to wait long for our table and the waitress who served us had the right balance of being friendly without being over the top. Because we had the voucher, we had to choose from a set menu. The main menu was priced appropriately considering the Convent Gardens location. Most mains were priced between £9.00 and £14.00. the mains were OK. My Prawn and Chorizo Linguine was lacking in taste and the prawns tasted like rubber. My friend did not comment on her main and I was too scared to ask. Sticky Toffee Pudding was great however. The bland food did not matter. We were in Convent Gardens, enjoying a bottle of wine, having a great chat in a lively, busy restaurant and paying Wetherspoons prices. Oh and about six months ago, a friend of a friend spotted Orlando Bloom in Browns Bar just inches away from her. Surely this makes Browns worth a second visit.
I feel very qualified to comment about Browns because I worked there as a temporary chef a couple of years ago in the St Martin’s Lane branch. I had not been near the place again until a few weeks ago when a friend and I stopped there for coffee and cake. (She had coffee and cake, I had herbal tea!!) You know what you are getting when you go into this restaurant. This is also true when it comes to the food preparation and production in the kitchens. I was working the pastry section and was given exact recipes and pictures of the finished items that I had to follow to the letter. Any chef unable to do this and reach the standard required is shown the door. I was impressed, the food was all prepared fresh, no packet rubbish here. It is so busy here that there is not much left at the end of the day, but I can promise you that if anything could not be safely used the next day the company policy was to throw it out. I have only been into the St Martins branch and when I was there, there were parties of tourists having coffee, business men eating… in fact the place was heaving as always. The palm filled interior with its ceiling fans is my friend said, fairly standard to all Browns branches. Browns is expensive, but I don’t feel it is a rip-off for the fresh food that is on offer here. The menu has something to suit all tastes, including a pre-theatre dinner that is good value and afternoon tea and cake. (I remember working away baking those cakes there everyday!) Rooms for private parties are also available, with a choice of set menus. Children are welcomed here, and the management will provide high chairs if asked. Just one point! It is for parents to control their kids when eating out. When I worked there an uncontrolled toddler tripped a waiter up. He was carrying hot food. There could have been a nasty accident. It was not the waiter’s fault. The parents should have been watching their child. The waiters and waitresses used to curse selfish parents that linger over coffee ignoring their bored, disruptive kids. Children have a low boredom threshold and parents should realise that when eating out. Take note!!!! There is easy access to the ground floor of this restaurant for wheelchairs (private function rooms are on the first floor) and a disabled toilet on the premises. Unless you are unlucky and get cooked for by an undetected cowboy chef I think you are fairly safe in going to Browns. They offer good food in pleasant surroundings, although it can get a bit noisy sometimes. Go take a look and let me know what you think!