Browns, Islington, London
Location: Islington, N1 2XH.
Visited: October, 2009.
Price: One course plus a glass of wine, £20 per head.
A trip to Browns for Sunday lunch with friends this weekend yielded some very poor results. In fact I’m hard-pressed to think of any good points about the meal. I suppose we did get a very good table at the front of the restaurant surround on three sides by a large floor-to-ceiling circular window affording us a lovely view of Islington Green. The service wasn’t too bad either but it what more what was being served that was so concerning. (And, yes I know Browns is a chain and what did I expect? But I will point out that I am a regular at their Covent Garden branch and have never had a bad meal there so I was fairly hopeful this would translate to the Islington outlet).
I’ll begin with the worst elements of our meals and try to work my way up to something positive. My friend’s salmon was so burnt that we’d reached a consensus that it had to go back before the plate had even hit the table. Its replacement was only marginally better and the accompaniment of mushrooms were so chewy and rubbery they were inedible and remained on the plate. Two others opted for the Sunday roast beef with preposterously over-sized Yorkshire puddings which were stone-cold on arrival and curiously managed to have the texture of cheap, toasted bread. The beef itself was overcooked and came with a mean dribble of gravy. A separate plate of vegetables looked a bit forlorn and distinctly unexciting. So far, so bad.
My seafood platter continued the twin themes of dullness and food served at the wrong temperature. The Tiger Prawns had been char grilled. Yesterday. They had spent the intervening period in the fridge and no-one had had the courtesy to de-vein them before sending them out. Charming. Everything else, the gravadlax, smoked salmon, sweet roll mop and shrimp had made a straight forward journey from packet to plate including the bowl of fries via the deep-fat fryer, of course. The mackerel pate alone showed some evidence of culinary skill.
And so we come to the winning order of the day if you could in all honesty call it that. Our vegetarian friend’s special was – wait for it – a goat’s cheese tart. I know, inspired. It was, however, the only item on the table executed with any level of accuracy which led us to speculate the kitchen probably didn’t make it but instead had bought a batch in.
The wine list was safe, nothing special and slightly over-priced. All in all the food was pretty poor. Luckily the assembled diners were all good friends with a healthy sense of humour. Good job, too. We needed it.