Browns has been a Cambridge institution since it opened its doors in 1987. The beautiful building was part of the old Addenbrooke’s Hospital originally built in 1766 and the outpatients department, with its majestic columns, was built as a memorial to King Edward VII in 1914.
I visited Browns a few times when I moved to Cambridge and I have to admit it was looking a little tired and the spaces didn’t flow. Browns has now been completely transformed thanks to an extensive interior refurbishment. It’s contemporary and luxurious with a touch of glamour in every area, from the sweeping bar and its grand piano to the various purposely designed spaces for public, semi-private and private dining. Ideal for parties, family gatherings, business meetings and romantic dinners, there are sections for every occasion.
Paulo and I were greeted warmly and shown to a table in a raised section on the right, giving us a wonderful view of the entire restaurant, including the bar. We were seated side by side so we could both admire the surroundings. It was rather romantic!
The drinks menu was impressive with a selection of champagne, fizz, wines, beers, ciders and soft drinks but the extensive list of classic and signature cocktails caught our attention.
I decided on the French Martini with Absolut vodka and Chambord shaken with pineapple and topped with a beautiful edible flower. The cocktail’s tart and sweet flavours were nicely balanced. I loved the frothy top and narrowly avoided a martini moustache!
Paulo went for the Rhurbarb & Cucumber Collins, one of Browns’ signature cocktails with Warner Edwards Victoria’s rhubarb gin, Campari, rhubarb & rosehip cordial, lemon juice and cucumber bitters, topped with soda. It was sweet and very refreshing.
We were tempted to try other cocktails as they all sounded so good but the dinner menu beckoned. With the vintage bar and stylish lounge as perfect spots to sip in style, we will return to sample more.
Browns’ menu, featuring traditional dishes, is diverse enough to please a variety of palates. The flavours in my starter – the Torched Feta Salad with heritage tomatoes, samphire and basil – went well together. However, the tomatoes were sliced too thinly, rendering them soft and weak tasting. I would have preferred a firm tomato, such as baby plum or even a large variety cut into wedges, for a more vibrant taste and fleshy bite.
Paulo’s Devon Crab on Toast starter featured a flavoursome mixture of fresh brown crab and mayonnaise spread thickly over toasted sourdough.
Risotto is a good way to gauge a kitchen’s organisation so I took a chance and ordered the Lobster Risotto for my main course. Served at the right temperature and consistency, it did not disappoint.
The dish contained a generous amount of lobster. It was topped with courgetti to add a crisp texture to the soft, comforting risotto. Chives provided a burst of fresh flavour.
Parmesan shavings placed around the plate allowed me to control the amount of cheesiness. The distinct taste of lemon cut through the creaminess of the risotto. This delicious dish was a real mix of contrasts that balanced well.
More cheesy seafood combinations continued with Paulo’s main, the Browns Fish Pie filled with salmon, prawns and scallops topped with Isle of Man Cheddar mash and a garlic, Parmesan and parsley crumb.
It was a hearty serving with a substantial amount of high quality fish and seafood. Paulo enjoyed every bite, going as far as scraping the plate to scoop up the last tasty remnants.
The desserts we selected (Trio of Chocolate and Salted Caramel Profiteroles) came in massive portions. They were good overall but the constant sweetness of each item ended up being too much of a good thing. It would have been better to share one of these desserts. Salted caramel is an intense flavour and the five large profiteroles drizzled with Devon cream toffee sauce were a salty-sweet overload. The dish didn’t end there…. the dessert was served with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, strawberries, blueberries, raspberries and two strips of hardened toffee.
The Trio of Chocolate featured an excellent warm chocolate fondant, an overly sweet white chocolate pot, chocolate ice cream and a hazelnut praline that was more hazelnuts than praline. A few berries (strawberry, blueberry, blackberry and raspberry) were placed here and there for a burst of colour and flavour.
Despite finishing the meal with our sweet tooth in overdrive, we both enjoyed our dining experience and remained impressed with Browns’ menu, cocktails and ambience. Service was excellent and our waitress Justyna was helpful and attentive throughout the meal, even when it got busy. The stunning refurbishment has breathed new life into this once complacent restaurant. Why not pop in and see for yourself?
I was invited by Browns. Although the food and drinks were complimentary, all views are my own. I did not receive compensation for my review.
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