Brown’s at the Quay: Pigs and lipstick (October 2017)

Worcester, although picturesque with its cathedral and the majestic River Severn, does not offer a lot of fine dining options. To describe Brown’s (no relation to the chain, despite some disarming similarities) as such is perhaps over-generous. It certainly punches above its weight, and represents generally poor value for money. Yes, the restaurant is located in a stunning building on the banks of the Severn with large windows providing superb river views. The furniture is eclectic (especially the high-backed throne chairs in the bar area) but works, somehow creating a sense of cool. Then, however, take a look at the menu, sample the food and you will find yourself in reassuringly/ depressingly (choose as appropriate) familiar territory. There is no boundary-pushing innovation at this venue; rather, safe, solid and mostly dependable food. A sample three course meal might comprise crispy duck salad followed by slow-roasted pork belly and finishing with sticky toffee pudding. The problem is, that for £35/head (the set price for three courses, including a glass of house Prosecco), I would expect something a little more. The food wasn’t bad, but it certainly didn’t wow. My pork belly didn’t appear to have been roasted all that slowly; the meat certainly wasn’t succulent and indeed was rather excessively fatty. Meanwhile, the seasonal greens which accompanied our sides bordered on the stingy. My ‘chef’s selection’ of cheeses with which I finished could easily have come from the local supermarket. And so it goes on… A note too on the service: mostly friendly and enthusiastic, but let down by the wines: Brown’s had run out of our preferred white (not stocking three bottles of it – poor planning on a Friday night) and when I suggested an alternative, the server clearly did not listen and brought different bottles with no explanation (and indeed Australian Chardonnay is quite a long way taste-wise from French Picpoul). It got drunk, but Brown’s could tighten up in this area. The review’s title says it all: just as it is hard to put lipstick on a pig, so too is it to change the raison d’etre of Brown’s. Maybe it’s the best dining option Worcester has to offer, but those with just slightly higher expectations could easily be disappointed.