Standing on the grave of ‘Athenaeum’ is the latest incarnation of the Browns chain. It’s been in manc for a few years now, though only recently has the sweet rumour of decently mixed cocktails been whispered into my ears. Well, I had to give it a go, so Z and me take it upon ourselves to venture in.
Firstly – don’t go on a Saturday night. We made this mistake and while the place was positively brimming over with atmosphere, I’d be pretty peeved if I’d gone in there for a meal, then realised I’d have to scream my order at the waitress mere inches away. Don’t get me wrong, the interior is gorgeous, due in no small part to the fact that the original use for the building was a bank (Jamie’s Italian anyone?) However the vaulted ceilings mean the slightest noise really does carry. And boy are there some noises in Manc.
We called ahead and booked a spot at the bar, but on arrival the place was so crammed to the rafters we actually got shown to a table instead. It was probably for the best and definitely gave us a welcome amount of breathing space. Wrestling elbows onto a quarter inch of bar space wouldn’t have made for such a nice night.
Now, to the liqour. Our first round consisted of a ‘Whisky Sours’ for myself (not on the menu, but they gladly whipped me one up) and Z’s order of a ‘Gin Jam’. A very interesting creature; inside you’ll find Whitley Neill Gin, De Kuyper Apricot Brandy, Grapefruit & Lemon juice and a touch of Marmalade Vodka. It was sweet, tangy and from the sip I sampled, almost chewy. I’d happily order one myself one day.
The Whisky Sour was decent, though there didn’t seem to be any inclusion of egg white. Admittedly it’s not to everyone’s taste, but I’m a fan.
As those slid their merry way down, we naturally become a little peckish, and though we didn’t want a full meal, Browns thankfully have a rather excellently priced bar snack menu. Three well-portioned plates came a grand total of £11 – I thought it was outstanding. They’re brilliant for sharing and though the two of us have – how can I put this delicately? – ‘accomplished’ appetites, neither of us felt hard done by afterward.
(I feel I must mention at this point, that the young lady serving bravely carried a chalkboard menu over to our table. She could barely see over it and turned an exhausting shade of mauve as she waded through the crowds. Extra points for service there.)
First was a row of Wild Boar & Chorizo meatballs floating on Garlic and Horseradish sauce. The balance of the boar and chorizo was stunning. Both shined through equally well and neither overpowered the other. As for the sauce…Woof! It was strong, punchy and extremely moreish. Who ever created these wonderful little treats, I bow to them.
Second was Chilli Beef on a Thai-style salad. It was tender, fresh and really very tasty. The slivers of carrot and courgette were noodle-like in size, sweet and had enough crunch to sit with the soft beef pretty well. No great heat from the chili, but I won’t hold that against them.
Thirdly (because I feel using the word ‘lastly’ would be too cruel) was Deep-Fried Calamari with Butter. Elegant, simple and the squid had just the right bite. Far from chewy, but with the lightest resistence as your teeth sink through it. Nice.
In short, I was impressed. There were tables around us groaning under the weight of steaks that can only be described as ‘obscene’, and despite my usual penchant for red meat, I couldn’t have cared less. All it took was three perfect little plates, and I was sold.
Appearances from Z’s ‘Bloody Mary’ and my ‘Rum Punch’ settled the evening very nicely indeed, and though my concoction of Overproof Rum, Lime, Orange, Grenadine & Pineapple slid down a little too sweetly, it was a very decent liquid dessert.
Next time I venture to Browns, it’ll be on a drizzly, overcast Thursday afternoon when no sod is about. I’ll be ordering six bar plates all to myself thank you very much. Pull up a stool, order a tall glass of something sharp and dig in.