Browns Brasserie Review

Photo Credits: Ben Carpenter

Browns Brasserie has a spring in its step, as it recently reopened to diners following a fabulous refurbishment.

We’re on a Bristol Byzantine roll here at the magazine. Last month saw us soak up the delights housed within the renowned Granary building on Harbourside’s Welsh Back, and now we’re worshipping at the steps of another architectural icon: Browns Brasserie on Queen Street, Clifton.

The Venetian Gothic marvel (that used to form part of the Bristol Museum) had to be completely reconstructed inside in 1950 after WWII scarring left it without much original detail.

With the city’s weather sometimes mirroring the aquatic nature of Venice’s landscape, this building can feel right at home. It’s been home to Browns Brasserie for as long as most Bristol residents walking and driving past each day can remember. So, to keep things feeling fresh, a full refurbishment was in order, with designers drawing on the building’s illustrious history to create its ‘neo deco’ (a modern take on art deco style), with opulent finishes in gem-like hues of green and blue, geometric digital prints adorning the walls, grand piano and a bar glinting with gold.

From breakfast to supper
We’ve got a bit of a soft spot for brasserie-style dining, and Browns is no exception. This setting can shapeshift into whatever occasion you need. Want to get dressed up and drink celebration cocktails, order a premium steak and pop some champers? You’ll feel right at home. Dropping by with your grandparents who want some traditional fish and chips and a decent cuppa? You’re more than welcome here.

Its prime location by the museum and bustling retail area of Clifton’s Queen Street no doubt brings a diverse range of people through the doors, seeking all kinds of refreshment. Browns can serve them throughout the day.

On our visit, we were almost unaware of the seamless transition from relaxed late afternoon dining into a refined buzzy evening service – suddenly we realised the atmosphere had shifted thanks to a slightly bouncier playlist, mood lighting and tables filling with lots of groups of more than four. We noted that the clever seating arrangements (which include smart, freshly upholstered banquette nooks) and sheer size of the building means it lends itself well to group dining without risking coupled or solo guests feeling overwhelmed or cramped.

Seasonal spring menu
The refurbishment coincides with the launch of Browns’ new spring menu, starting with a choice of four seasonal spring cocktails – which were almost impossible to choose between had my dining partner not been allergic to elderflower (which is used in more mixed drinks than you’d think if you didn’t need to know). We went for the delightful Rhubarb Fizz (Moët & Chandon Impérial Champagne, Chase Rhubarb and Bramley Apple Gin and lemon with a flower garnish – served in a flute); and Springtime Bramble (Bombay Bramble Gin, Moose Peach Botanical Spirit, apricot, lemon and a rosemary sprig). If you like to mix and match, these paired well together for sharing sips.

The rest of the seasonal yet reliable brasserie fare covers all sorts: those fish and chips we mentioned earlier, generous meat cuts and rich steaks – with usual favourite dishes like the chicken schnitzel remaining on the menu – but there’s definitely a spring zing lifting many of the flavours (spring vegetables, wild garlic salsa verde, lime, fennel, mango, lemongrass, rhubarb and apple crop up across the dishes).

Match your meal to your mood
It was likely the early spring weather (which saw us arrive during a torrential downpour) that meant we embraced some of the menu’s new spring elements, but also opted for clinging onto the cosiness of warm, rich meals still available. This menu is perfect for shoulder season dining. In our case, a decadent starter of rosemary, thyme and garlic studded baked camembert for two with honey, toasted sourdough, figs, pear, caramelised seeds and green tomato chutney was followed with a vibrant prawn and Devon crab linguine served with lime, chilli and coriander pesto and white wine. My dining partner stuck with a traditional main serving of mint-crusted roast rack of lamb with black garlic, potato terrine, sautéed spring vegetables and a red wine jus that we could have ordered a whole litre of.

We didn’t have room for dessert (we stand by our decision to eat an entire camembert before pasta and huge serving of lamb and had spied the generous sweet servings being passed around other tables) but we’d really wanted to order the dark chocolate torte served with a brandy snap basket, raspberry and white chocolate ice cream.

Instead, after letting our food rest and regretting our decision not to end on a sweet note, we decided to order a banana daquiri, made with sustainable spirit brand Discarded Banana Peel Rum (made from banana peels and aged Caribbean rum), shaken with lime and agave. The refreshed menu and glam new setting provide a whole host of new reasons to visit Browns again – whether it’s for bottomless brunch, afternoon tea or the relaxed all-day a la carte menu.