As a retrospective of mine and the brothers’ cumulative 111th birthday tear up last weekend continued to simmer itself into something resembling structure, the Crow and I met for beers at The Brownswood. A large, looming bastard of a building overlooking some bad tempered crossroads and a stone’s throw from one of the moodiest housing estates sinceGilley Law, The Brownswood is the latest from the brains behind Stoke Newington’s Jolly Butchers and Rose & Crown.
Open barely a month, for all the latitude that affords it, The Brownswood hasn’t quite got ‘it’. The aesthetic approach is right on, the execution not so much. Sure, it needs some wearing in, but for a start I’d have stained those downstairs table tops darker or else chosen different ones. I’d also have laid wooden flooring where the slate tiles that pave the way to the barren beer ‘garden’ lend the air of a farmhouse kitchen extension. And Christ only knows I’m not an interior designer, but perhaps I’d also have painted the ceilings to try to close in a space that, on the ground and first floor, feels hollow. Not at all sure about the ornamental star constellation on an upstairs wall, either…
But that’s not to say it’s an uncomfortable environment. It’s truly cavernous, so to be too critical of their failure to fill it already would be harsh. The bar presentation is smartly uniform. The people working it, while we’re there, are enthusiastic and helpful. And what they call their 1st Floor Lounge actually feels quite established. It benefits from an exposed brick wall, better furniture, nice light fixtures, and an open fireplace, in front of which there’s a long, comfy looking sofa that, for once, doesn’t a) waste space, and b) look like it’s been abandoned there.
If you enjoy the product selection at the Jolly Butchers you’ll feel let down here. Doubtless attributable to the terms of tie, and though you might argue that of the more generic cask and bottled booze out there they’ve chosen reasonably well, it’s still just that. Generic. And, although both the Redemption Pale Ale ( as directional as it got, it quite naturally ran out ) and St Austell Tribute were tip-top, drinking out of a jug makes me feel like an old fucker.
The food we opted for was a relative triumph. To get this many biscuits with cheese is practically unheard of and, I won’t lie, along with them playing Ryan Adams, made the place up a lot of ground. The cheeses themselves weren’t sexy but had teeth and, for £7.95, there were plenty on the board. On another was a dead decent antipasti comprising meaty florets of Parma ham, salami, chorizo, warm bread and olives (£9.95). The very deliberately narrow menu otherwise offers Burgers (which looked pretty good), sausage and mash, Fish and Chips, and a Risotto which the table next to us politely returned in exchange for a pudding on the House.
Glitches like this they’ll probably iron out over time. And at the risk of sounding quite contrary, given its early days and all, so will their garden grow. But you’ll have to go along – and I wouldn’t discourage you- to begin to appreciate what I mean when I say The Brownswood hasn’t quite got ‘it’. It has something. Somethings, even. Biscuits, music, manners. But not ‘it’. Not yet, anyway.
Peace out, the Crow. Love you, boss x
Photos courtesy of our hosts. Except the one of Cheese. I took that.