Browns, Spiceal Street, Birmingham City Centre
For a restaurant slap-bang in the middle of an enormous city-centre shopping centre, Brown’s has managed to snag itself a surprisingly picturesque location. It sits in the curved end of a row of restaurants on Spiceal Street, with its back to the Bullring and its floor to ceiling windows looking out over St Martin’s Church. The wide steps up to the door have the effect of making it seem slightly outside the hustle and bustle of the markets below and the shopping carnage above.
Inside, tables are crowded across the floor, and this is the closest to luxury-themed decor you will find in the Bullring without stepping into Selfridges balcony bar. The ambience was welcoming, classy, relaxing. A grand piano stood in the middle of the floor, an appropriate symbol of the vibe, suggesting luxury (the presence of a grand piano) without being in your face (no one was playing it).
Tea arrived, with the fancy touches continuing; this tea is loose leaf, with all the palaver of strainers that that entails. At one point I forgot it was loose leaf and blithely slopped half the leaves into my cup, a combination of great conversation distracting me, and a lack of experience with loose leaf tea to remind me.
I ordered eggs Benedict, which was classically and perfectly prepared. No mucking about with the basics here (I’m remembering Black Lab with disfavour); English muffin, eggs, hollandaise. The only tweak was that the ham was “whiskey glazed” which was only very slightly noticeable, and was surprisingly nice.
The full English came with everything except a hash brown (is a hash brown an essential full English ingredient, or is it simply a lovely desirable extra?). The review could be summed up in one word (“tasty”), but why use one when a phrase will do? That phrase is: “acres better than the vegetarian option”.
If you are a committed vegetarian, you may well disagree with this review, but our dining companion was seduced by the idea of beetroot hash, and was almost comically disappointed when this large plate of vegetables was delivered. Smashed avocado, beetroot hash, confit tomato, and scrambled eggs: this plate is a lovely exercise in piles of different coloured pureed food. It does look beautiful though.
The toilets are upstairs, individual cubicles hiding modestly behind a heavy velvet curtain, wood-panelled and Victorian-style tiling, super dim lighting – which is an annoying feature of a certain type of luxury-esque venue (see: The Alchemist) – and really nice smelling soap.
Price: mid range: £7.95 eggs Benedict, £7.50 for a full English or vegetarian breakfast
Atmosphere and design: luxury for the shopping masses
Food: classic English options, with quality ingredients
Toilets: too dark, nice soap
Enjoyment: a calming oasis to stop in to escape the shopping hellscape just outside the door