BROWNS in Newcastle is clearly the new black when it comes to eating out. The new kid on the restaurant block was chockful the day we popped in for lunch, just a week after it opened.
It was a Friday and the place was positively buzzing – the manager said it had been like that all week, even on Monday.
My friend and I were very glad we’d booked and not just turned up on the off chance.
Browns is a well-regarded national chain and the Newcastle branch has bagged a prominent spot on majestic Grey Street, with its stunning Georgian architecture.
We liked the stylish, glam vibe to the brasserie and bar with its smart, contemporary feel, wood panelling, leafy plants, high ceilings and semi-open kitchen.
It’s all cosy booths and views of Grey Street and also has a big focal-point bar with a good – and very comprehensive – line in cocktails.
Our cosy dining spot was in a slightly elevated position and the wall behind me featured photos of local landmarks and scenes.
My friend and I were both off that Friday in question, and it was very nearly the weekend, so decided on cheeky glasses of Browns house Champagne, £7.75.
The menu certainly looked tempting with a mix of classic and modern dishes, and some good lunch and early evening offers (one course from £7.95; two courses from £10.95).
The first Browns opened its doors in Brighton in 1973, and it did so with the simple belief that classic food, well delivered in a stylish setting would be a recipe for success – and that largely remains unchanged.
The menu still features signature dishes such as its famed Browns Steak, Mushroom and Guinness Pie, on the menu since 1973, 21-day hung rib eye steak with marrow bone butter and slow-braised shoulder of lamb with pearl barley. Desserts include sticky toffee pud and Black Forest gateaux and trifle.
My companion is a vegetarian and she was impressed by the veggie offerings, declaring she could have a starter and main that didn’t actually include cheese!
I started off with breads and tapenade, £3.75. An assortment of excellent breads arrived on a platter; including black olive ciabatta, rosemary focaccia and paprika artisan loaf, which I topped with the delicious olives and capers spread.
My companion tucked into a starter dish of feuilleté of mushrooms, £6.75, a puff pastry offering packed full of chestnut, oyster and shiitake mushrooms, enveloped in rich creamy sauce, which spilled out from the pastry topping and bottom; sweet caramelised silverskin onions were dotted around the plate.
It was deemed earthy and delicious, and such a generous portion it could even have served as a main.
My mains of piping hot fish pie in little tin dish, £13.95, was similarly chock-a-block with chunks of salmon, smoked haddock and king prawns with a tasty cream and white wine sauce topped with toasted parsley mash; and served with al dente green beans.
It was full of herbs, well seasoned and tasty. Extremely filling, hearty and wholesome.
While mine was a hug on a plate, my friend’s choice of salad was a healthy dose of five-a-day… enough for the entire week.
Browns House Salad, £9.95, was a veritable mound of good stuff – attractively presented though – and framed by red chicory and baby gem lettuce leaves.
Mixed leaves were tossed in white balsamic, rapeseed oil and mustard dressing. And then there was edamame beans, avocado, broccoli, semi-dried cherry tomatoes, pomegranate, butternut squash ribbons, green beans, spinach, chard, and toasted cous cous to tackle...
My friend chose a topping of two poached free-range eggs, £2, and deemed them cooked just right, with suitably runny yolks.
The only part of the dish she couldn't manage were the green beans, these being too all dente even for her liking.
We finished off sharing a taster plate of Browns brownies, £7.95. They were bought in – we checked – but they were still good, nicely warmed, squidgy in the middle, and served up with big zigzag of raspberry coulis.
We nibbled away at classic chocolate brownie with cracked top, white chocolate and raspberry blondie and warming ginger and milk chocolate, with dollops of vanilla and chocolate ice cream with mint leaf garnishes. We finished with cappuccino, £2.30 and espresso, £2.
It was a lovely lunch in a sociable setting, good food, not too complicated or overfussy. A very welcome addition to the eating out scene in Newcastle.
Address: Browns Bar & Brasserie Newcastle, 51 Grey Street, Newcastle, NE1 6EE. Tel: 0191 261 8210.
Open: Serves food all day from breakfasts, lunches, afternoon teas to dinner. Lunch, 12-6pm; Dinner, 6-10.30pm; Sun, 6-9.30pm.
First impressions: Prominent location on Grey Street, housed in lovely building dating from 1830s.
Welcome: Front-of-house greeter whisked us to table.
Style, design and furnishings: Large picture windows overlooking Grey Street, huge focal-point bar, lots of nooks and crannies for lunch/dinner, wood flooring.
Cuisine: Classic British dishes with smattering of Continental offerings.
Service: Excellent, well looked after by cheery, attentive waitress. All staff very smartly turned out and enthusiastic.
Value: Good, especially the lunch and early evening offers; one course from £7.95; two courses from £10.95.
Disabled facilities: Accessible.
It was a lovely lunch in a sociable setting, good food, not too complicated or overfussy