I love going to Donegal. it’s a great place, lovely stuff to look at. But in all honestly one of my absolute favourite things about going to Donegal is that you go through Derry to get there. And when you go through Derry, you get to go to Browns in Bonds Hill.
Now, Browns is absolutely my favourite restaurant in Northern Ireland, quite possibly the Island. The food never fails to astonish, the service is delightful and, at least to us Belfast ones, the prices are very reasonable.
But that’s not what this review is about because I’ve been to Browns loads of times. This time three of us were invited to the sister restaurant, Browns in Town.
Browns in Town is a bit more casual version of the original, the kind of place you might have a nice lunch instead of lingering for hours. In the city’s centre, you won’t find linen table clothes here, but you do still find the same lovely welcome as you would in the Bond’s Hill restaurant. It’s a bigger restaurant with many more tables and, importantly for us, it’s open on Mondays.
The menu looks ordinary enough, in fact it almost looks like pub grub. Starters feature soup of the day, chicken wings, chowder and chicken terrine. Mains include beer battered cod, a burger, a steak sandwich. Sounds pretty normal, right?
Well this, my friends, is the point that you start appreciating the mastery of Ian Orr. This isn’t regular pub grub. It’s not even regular grub. I went for chicken wings and got them fresh from the fryer with home made hot sauce and a honey chili mayo to take the edge of the spice. My companions had smoked chicken salad and seafood chowder. Both were excellent and all were in really good-sized portions.
Moving on to the mains, they both went for fish of the day – a pan seared cod and accompanied by vegetables. This one size included not only lovely fresh veg – carrots, broccoli, cauliflower – but a bowl of lovely, creamy mash.
I went for the mussels – yes, I am aware that there isn’t an R in the month – but food technology has moved on and it seemed the place to be to get good mussels. They were served with lovely grilled bread but with a twist – no cream and white wine sauce here. These were served in a leek in potato sauce. Never had mussels served like that to me before but it was really lovely. Not too heavy and not something that overwhelmed the actual taste of the Mussels.
Browns is a favourite for my wine-junkie partner because they don’t source their wine from the two main suppliers that most places in Northern Ireland do. They also sell half of their wine menu by the glass or carafe, again a very handy thing for lunch.
We didn’t do dessert, simply because we couldn’t fit it in. The chef very kindly awarded us with amuse bouches of roast tomato soup and goats cheese and smoked beetroot. Yum.
All this was part of the lunch set menu, which was two courses for a very reasonable £11.95, three for £14.95. Similar set menus are available in the evening – you can check them out here.
Oh yes! I mustn’t forget the cocktails – we all love a good cocktail these days. I do love the classics but an innovative cocktail made with really fresh ingredients is a joy. This time I went for a Made in Ireland. Quiet Man whiskey, Irisah Mist, orange bitters and fresh orange juice and I loved it. The even better thing about Browns in Towns cocktails is that some of them are two for £10!.
Look, I’m not going to lie to you. If you visit one restaurant in Derry, or indeed anywhere, make it Browns at Bonds Hill. But you prefer something a little more casual, or open on a Monday, I can highly recommend this sultry sister.