Diners flock in and out of Browns St Martin’s Lane location on a daily basis, traipsing in for breakfast, lunch and dinner. The restaurant, which has recently undergone complete refurbishment, has a definite French café style about it, with waiters bustling in between tables with cups of good smelling coffee and plates of hot food. This Browns location (there are fourteen restaurants dotted around the UK), is a sizeable affair with plenty of café-style tables and booths filling up the high-ceilinged space, tucked into every nook and cranny.
We started lunch with some beetroot-infused salmon gravlax, which was a great combination of sharp tartness and cured sweetness and a salad of juicy looking pan-fried black pearl scallops on a bed of watercress and puy lentils, with a lip-smacking lobster sauce. Portions at Browns are a decent size, so if you’re opting for a three-course blow-out, choose carefully to avoid that all too common stuffed-belly feeling. We then tucked into our main dishes: duck confit with sweet cherries, crushed potatoes and French beans and some beautifully prepared red snapper from the specials board.
The great thing about Browns, is its versatility – there are no stuffy, snobbish glances if you come in simply for a cup of tea and something tantalising from the appetizer or bar snack menu. It’s equally just as good a place to come for a client lunch, a girly afternoon tea or a family meal. Browns’ unassuming air is what makes it work – it’s a hive of activity as staff rush efficiently from table to table giving no diner the chance to think they may have been sidelined. Yes it’s round the corner from the retail temptations of Covent Garden and theatre land is just outside the front door, but Browns is reason enough to make your way over to St Martin’s Lane.
As we settled on desserts of chocolate profiteroles (with hot chocolate sauce poured at your table) and a slightly more detox-friendly bowl of fresh melon and pineapple with Greek yoghurt and blueberries, there was no room for any more. All the more reason to come back for a second time and experience any number of occasions at Browns, from breakfast and brunch to afternoon tea (served from 2pm-5.30pm), where you can delicately wade your way through sandwiches, scones, cakes and pastries to the sound of some jazzy, lilting live piano. Shopping can wait for another day.
Browns Bar & Brasserie St Martins Lane:
82–84 St Martins Lane, Covent Garden, London, WC2N 4AA
Reviewer: Helenka Bednar