In Newcastle’s ever-growing foodie scene, there are some restaurants that stand the test of time, remaining just as good as they were when they first arrived, no matter how many years go by. Browns is one of them. Perfectly-positioned and poised on Grey Street, this well-established bar and brasserie is a guarantee for mouthwatering meals; a place for all-occasion dining, whether it be leisurely weekend brunch, working lunches, celebratory Afternoon Tea or pre-theatre dinner. Eating here feels like a real treat; there’s a real sense of occasion in the air for sit-down diners, but with zero pretension or stuffiness. It’s a classy place for sure, but the service is warm and inviting and you never feel rushed or out of place. Relax while feasting your eyes on a mouthwatering menu, chat with the well-versed (and very well-dressed) waiting staff about their recommendations, or kick-back at the bar, cocktail in hand, and toe-tap to the tinkling coming from the grand piano.
You can’t say this isn’t a good-looking spot – especially when you’re admiring from outdoors. The grand, gold lettering, the chestnut double doors, the the stone arch doorway (the perfect example of classic 1830s architecture), the alfresco dining area lined with mini olive trees, the pleasant doormen… it’s all lovely. Inside, it’s all a bit France-meets-New York; low-lit lighting, cosy leather booths (some by the window, offering great, twinkly views along Grey Street and up to Monument), a sleek and slinky centre bar with plenty of seating, an elevated area to the back for more intimate gatherings and a buzzy open kitchen to the back, which fills the place with all sorts of tasty smells. Understated elegance at its best.
Fine wines, champagne and bubbles, beer and cider (bottle, draft or can – take your pick) and a variety of expertly-crafted cocktails (including some superb alcohol-free options if you’re the night’s designated driver). Love your classics? You’ll find them here – from martinis and piña coladas to great quality aperol spritz (hard to find in the city). Signatures, like the rhubarb and cucumber collins and blackberry fizz (both £7.50), hit the spot if you like sweet and sour flavours. We’re quite partial to a clover club (Sipsmith lemon drizzle gin, vermouth, grenadine, raspberries and lemon – £8) for a citrusy kick.
The food focuses on hearty dishes, seasonal treats and memorable classics, made with quality, fresh and local (where possible) ingredients, by skilful, passionate hands. It’s fine dining that won’t leave you hungry – think bang-for-your-buck-sized portions – packed with enough flavour to make your eyes roll with delight and your belly very happy indeed. Menu-wise, there’s the sophisticated a-la-carte for evenings, a small, but exciting, lunch and early evening offering (two courses for £10.95, Monday to Friday from 12pm-7pm) and a seasonal specials menu, showcasing some stellar plates, made with some of the best ingredients on offer at the time of your visit. We can’t wait to see what they come up with for autumn 2017. Flavour-wise, expect a fusion of British, French and a touch of Italian. What’s not to love?
What we ate
Our culinary journey began with whole-baked sourdough (£3.50). Fresh from the oven, the impressive loaf – a real hunk of a thing – arrived fresh from the oven in all its golden glory. Gorgeously crusty, dusted ever so slightly with flour, and thick and fluffy inside. We slathered slabs of the stuff with salty, British farmhouse butter and happily sat back, chomping away with glee, while the mains were prepared. We were craving something light and zingy to go with our lemon-centric cocktail, and so landed on the courgette tagliatelle (£9.95). We were presented with a big, comforting bowl of goodness; al dente pasta mixed with courgette ribbons, grated lemon zest, toasted pumpkin seeds and mint – real fresh wake-you-up flavours and dish you can really slurp and twiddle your fork through, without feeling like you’re swallowing gallons of sauce (you won’t find stodgy, sauce-laden pasta dishes here). More like a light, refreshing dressing in this case – easy on the stomach and a total treat for the tastebuds. We added silky slithers of smoked salmon to ours (chicken breast and feta are also on offer) for extra decadence and flavour. Our chum, ever the meat-lover, chose the 7oz fillet steak (£22.95), which arrived with baby watercress for some crunch and a pot of thick-cut chips. They ordered it rare and baby-pink it was – while lovely and charred on the outside. We couldn’t fault it – juicy and tender (zero chew or wobble – hurrah) and perfectly-seasoned, too. A total and utter winner. We opted to add half a plump lobster tail to the mix and suggest you do the same if you’re quite partial to a bit of surf ’n’ turf on your plate. The meaty flesh was finger-licking food – a thing of beauty. We also shared the super colourful beetroot and avocado salad (£9.95), which you can enjoy as a main if you’d like. Healthy eaters will love it – think thick, homemade beetroot hummus, fluffy quinoa, creamy avocado chunks, asparagus spears and baby kale, all drizzled in an uplifting lemon and basil dressing. Again, you get a lot of grub for you money and you can add your protein to bulk things up even more if you wish (we went for chicken) – a one to watch for waistline-watchers still wanting their flavour fill. We were really taken by the dessert menu, which boasts some really sophisticated puds. If we could’ve had them all, we would have, but in the end, settled on the creme brûlée (£5.50) and the apple, cherry and almond crumble (£5.95) – and never looked back. Boy, were these done well – two ramekins of perfection. The French dessert, with its cracked top, the colour of burnt amber, melted in the mouth, served devishly creamy, thick and spiked with heady vanilla (the know it’s the real kind when you can see the dots). Oh, and you also get homemade shortbread biscuits for dunking – just heaven. The crumble was big enough for two, but we took it on with gusto, devouring its buttery, almond crumb and enjoying spoonfuls and spoonfuls of its stewed, gooey fruity from the centre. So rich and so, so, good, we’re still thinking about it weeks later. The perfect ending to a faultless dining experience.