Anyone familiar with the Jewellery Quarter will know that the Brown Lion has changed hands many times over recent years. Be it for whatever reason, it’s a space that has struggled to fulfil its potential, seemingly whilst the rest of the area flourishes. Now, under new ownership, it looks great; part English boozer, part New York loft apartment. Neutral colours, bare brick walls, and reclaimed wooden tables. Its unfussy and efficient. Thankfully low on pretention.
The food here comes by the curious name of HowNowBrownCow, a conceptual kitchen mostly formed from burgers and burritos, with the option of gravy to dunk ones food into. I’m sold. Tell me one thing that cannot be improved by dipping it in gravy? Exactly, you can’t. Cheese? Check. Chips? Check. My future mother-in-law? Quite obviously, check. It’s an idea that is seldom seen outside of London, and one that I’m chuffed is finally here.
We get straight to the point and order stuff to be dunked. A Twisted New Yorker has fat folds of pastrami over a coleslaw piquant with French mustard. There is melted cheese and a fried egg whose yolk is slowly working its way on to everything else. As far as things between a bun go, this is up there with very best in the city; OPM, Byron, and The Lord Clifden. Actually, I take that back. Fuck The Lord Clifden. We try a caramelised onion burger, deep with the beefy kick of a properly aged bit of cow that comes alive when plunged into the meaty gravy. Its an assured bit of cooking, comfortable in keeping it simple and letting the ingredients speak for themselves.
The burritos here are rice-less. I know, it took me a few days of looking at the menu to come to terms with it as well. Turns out that I know nothing about this, and that this is perfectly acceptable. We take the advice and order the jerk chicken one, which transpires to be far less out there than my brain initially tells me. The chicken is boldly spiced with allspice and chilli heat, the mixture of peppers and onions all glued together by molten cheddar. Its the perfect bastardization of culinary cross-pollination, moving seamlessly from one style of cooking to another. The same applies the falafel burrito; you eat it and then wonder why you’ve never had it before.
They do chips that have gone through several processes to become both crunchy and fluffy, which I hope to see available as poutine the next time I return. And return I will. Time and time and bloody time again. Its the perfect comfort food in comfortable surroundings at comfortable prices. Its exactly what the Jewellery Quarter needs. No, sod it. Its what Birmingham needs. In a city now obsessed with fine dining and how many Michelin stars we can beat Manchester by (to which I include myself), its a culinary intravenous feed hooked up directly to the soul. Now pass me that gravy, I’m going for a swim.
How Now etc etc at The Brown Lion is no more. The pub lives on to fight another day.