Browns Covent Garden is an eye-catching venue in a thriving part of London. It’s always busy, less pricey than some of its neighbours and, provided you’re not looking for anything too flashy, it’s a decent place to have a drink or dinner.
You can’t miss this branch of Browns. Standing proudly in amongst the theatres of Covent Garden, it holds its own on St Martins Lane with flaming torches at the entrance marking it out. In an area that’s a hit and miss cacophony of fast food and tourist traps, Browns is conveniently placed a short staggering distance from Leicester Square tube or a more scenic stroll from Covent Garden.
The venue offers an expanse of space with high ceilings adding to the airy feel created by the neutral, light cream and wood decor. Whilst the bar looks like something out of an old Hollywood film it is far too busy for any serious posing. The venue is divided into three sections on different levels with quieter tables at the back offering a glimpse of the stage door to nearby Wyndhams Theatre through a pane of glass. It’s a big place with plenty of tables so wait times are kept to a minimum.
Browns Covent Garden can be relied upon to be busy every night of the week with an upbeat, lively atmosphere. This is a popular after work hang out with as many men in suits as coiffured ladies sipping pre-theatre aperitifs. However, this isn’t somewhere where jeans are frowned upon and you’re just as likely to spy casually attired tourists. The staff are often under pressure and not always the friendliest but they know their stuff and are efficient and knowledgeable.
The menu at Browns covers all the bases. There is a prix fixe option priced at £12.95 for two courses, which may appeal to pre- and post-theatre diners, whilst afternoon tea is a pleasant option between 2pm-5.30pm if you’re lucky enough to get a table by the window on a fine day.
For a leisurely dinner there is plenty to choose from ranging from a light seared beef fillet salad with chilli, soy and garlic (£11.75) to a range of steaks from £12.95-£18.95. The bacon cheeseburger (£10.95) is slightly disappointing due to its lack of strong, meaty flavours although the burger meat is lean. The bacon is too fatty and could do with being better quality to lift the flavours. The French fry style chips, however, are very good and you also receive a generous helping of crispy salad that’s fresh and crunchy.
There’s not much choice on the menu for vegetarians although there are some decent starters to choose from. The slow roasted peppers with garlic, basil and tomatoes (£5.95) is good but the garlic could do with being a little more evident, getting lost beneath the earthy flavour of the pepper. However, the garlic, rocket and parmesan flatbread is crispy and delicious with strong flavours of garlic and parmesan complementing each other well. The portion is on the generous side and you could share it between two.
For dessert, the seasonal Pimms jelly with strawberry coulis, apple and fresh mint (£4.75) is a fabulous addition to the summer menu although you can also choose between more classic offerings like profiteroles, poached pear, apple pie and sticky toffee pudding.
Their signature Bellini is a good place to start at just £6.95 in place of a glass of Champagne if you’re watching the pennies. A very pleasant bottle of Cote de Rhone rose wine with raspberry and redcurrant notes and an elegant finish is a reasonable £15.95 and works well as an aperitif. There are wines from all over the world on the menu including an unusual bottle from Lebanon – the staff are more than happy to make suggestions. You can pay up to £135 for a fine wine but the cocktails are priced well under the London norm with most coming in at below £7.
This isn’t really the place for beer drinkers but there is still a good range on tap for those pining for a pint, including Amstel, Peroni, Staropramen, Becks Vier, Erdinger and Heineken.
The Last Word
This is an unpretentious place to enjoy a cocktail without a hefty price tag. It is busy and service sometimes suffers but if you’re happy to mingle with enthusiastic theatre goers then it’s a decent spot.