Charlie's At Brown's

Browns Hotel, Albemarle Street, London, W1S 4BP, United Kingdom

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Brown's hotel, owned by Rocco Forte, has switched formats for its flagship dining room after a year from the talented Heros de Agostinis at Beck at Browns. From September 2019 the restaurant has been renamed Charlie’s, after Lord Forte’s father Charles (rather than being a sly reference to the Schulz cartoon character of the same name), and is now in the hands of Adam Byatt of Trinity. He has put in charge of the day to day running of the kitchen executive chef Owain Atkinson, who trained at Chez Bruce and was sous chef of the excellent Scran and Scallie before returning to London to work with Adam Byatt. Head chef at Charlie’s is Matthew Starling, who worked at Roganic and Fera as head chef. The menu was appealing and firmly in classical territory, with things like beef tartare and Dover sole.

The wine list had 252 full bottles, ranging in price from £20 to £2,100 with a median price of £115. Examples were Albert Mann ‘Tradition’ Gewurtztraminer 2017 at £47 for a bottle that you can find in the high street for £24, Christian Binner Cuvée Beatrice Pinot Noir 2014 at £75 for a label that will set you back £34 in a shop, and Chateau Musar 2011 at £90 compared to its retail price of £33. At the prestige end of the list, Château de Beaucastel Vieilles Vignes 2016 was £330 compared to its retail price of £116, and Penfolds Grange Bin 95 2010 was £520 for a wine that has a current market value of £460. The average mark-up to retail price was 3.1 times, which is hardly a bargain but actually not the worst I have seen in Mayfair. It is not even the worst mark-up level that I have seen this week, but it is a reflection of how bad things have become in London that a mark-up of 3.1 times the shop price seems somehow not too bad. We drank Jermann Vintage Tunina 2016 at £130 compared to its retail price of £48.

There were no formal canapes other than a little Parmesan shortbread, which was fine, and some fairly undistinguished radishes as crudites with cod roe. Bread was made from scratch and served warm. It had a decent crust and was seasoned all right, but the texture inside was a bit cotton-wool like (13/20). Beef tartare was prettily presented and used 40-day aged beef fillet from the Lake District, topped with a layer of shallots and parsley, and notionally some Tabasco, topped with an egg yolk. The beef was quite good though for me seemed under-seasoned; I am not sure where that advertised Tabasco had gone (14/20). Crab salad was also nicely presented with layers of brown crab meat, white crab meat and cucumber, the crab being shell-free and tasting fresh (14/20).

Strozzapreti pasta (an elongated version of cavatelli pasta) with langoustines and wild mushrooms had pasta with reasonable texture but langoustines that were, while not wildly overcooked, were definitely cooked on the long side of ideal (13/20). Dover sole was served on the bone and served simply with lemon. The fish had good flavour but again was slightly overcooked, and at £40 for a simple piece of fish, precision matters (13/20). On the side were some accurately cooked beans with toasted hazelnuts and this was actually the best thing we tasted all night (easily 14/20).

For dessert, a raspberry and pistachio tart had nice raspberry sorbet and decent fruit, but the pastry was rock hard (11/20). A Paris Opera cake had some coffee flavour but was decidedly dense in texture when light is the ideal. This would not have been well received if a student had produced it at the famous Paris pastry school Lenotre (11/20). Crème caramel was the best of the desserts, served with raisins that had been soaked in Sauternes wine, the texture of the dish being light and airy, though I am not sure what the raisins really added (13/20). Coffee was Illy, and came with a pair of vanilla and white chocolate macarons, which were good and indeed the best element of pastry that we tasted. 

The service was charming, with several of the staff continuing from the previous restaurant Beck at Browns. We had a particularly capable waitress serving us who used to work at Hedone. The bill came to £157 per person, which to be honest is an awful lot of money for the quality of the food that arrived. Given the high standard of food at Trinity, there is plenty of potential for improvement here.

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