Restaurant Review: The Brownswood, N4
Jon Dean discovers that a makeover is no bad thing at a rebranded boozer in Green Lanes
Shabby, run down old boozers are an endangered species in London.
Everywhere you look, tatty taverns are being bought out and smartened up as urban gentrification continues its relentless march. Sticky bars that have offered a lifetime of dutiful elbow support are being replaced by chrome tops and dog-eared carpets are getting pulled up in favour of laminate flooring.
Whether you consider this sacrilege or progress is a moot point, but it would be churlish to deny that, on occasion, a facelift can breathe new life into a bar.
Those of you who used to frequent the Brownswood Park Tavern, in Green Lanes, will know that I am talking about. There was none scruffier. The place had its own odour, one you could eat with a spoon, and a motley collection of climbers and locals used to wallow in it amid the chipped furnishings.
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Not that it didn’t have its own charm, but I am going to put my neck on the line; the refurb as The Brownswood is a vast improvement. There, I’ve said it. The place looks great.
It must have been a monumental effort - stone tiles, an open kitchen new bar, full dining room upstairs and a 150 person garden on the way - only the spiral staircase remains in tribute to how the pub used to be.
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Beer-wise the place has also stepped up a notch - plenty of lagers, cask ales, Belgian bottled beers and many a cider, all served in an old-school thick pint glass with a handle. At six per cent, the Scrumpy I had as an aperitif was very tasty, but not to be toyed with.
The wine-list was no slouch either, and the Chilean Pinot Noir we ordered was an absolute beauty.
But, without further ado, to the food. The menu offers a small-ish range of pub classics, all lovingly prepared in the pub’s brand new open kitchen. A particular speciality is the sausage and mash, where diners can mix and match different types of banger, spud and gravy to suit their tastes.
After much deliberation, my girlfriend ordered the beef and Guinness sausages, cheese and spring onion mash and red wine gravy. A hearty treat it was too - the potatoes creamy, the sauce tasty and the bangers truly delicious.
There was only two of them, mind, which is fine for those with a delicate appetite, but a greedy pig like me might struggle. Apparently there is some debate among the management about upping the sausage quota, but bangers this tasty come at a price, and so two it is for the time being to keep the dish under a tenner.
As for me, at the risk of pigeon-holing myself, I ordered the biggest, juiciest steak I could get my hands on. I asked for it rare, and when the waiter came back with “French rare?” I knew I was in for a treat. Cooked to perfection, my eight-ounce rump held succulent joy in every bite. Accompanied by thrice-fried chunky chips, burst-in-the-mouth cherry tomatoes and toothsome button mushrooms, the platter was everything I dreamed it would be.
Pausing only briefly to catch our breath, we moved onto the cheese board, a mouth-watering array of cheddar, brie, goats cheese and some powerful blue, served with crackers, grapes, chutney and apple sauce.
After all that I don’t mind admitting I was only fit to roll home, which was handy, as The Brownswood is pretty much my local. And as the summer nights make way for autumnal mist, I can see many an evening wrapped round a pint and some home-cooked fair in this cosy little bolt-hole.