From the team who bought us Francis, Mr Brown is serving up refined barbecue favourites in a buzzy yet intimate space on Wan Chai’s Ship Street.
District: Wan Chai, Hong Kong
Cuisine: International smokehouse and grill
How much: Starters range between $50 and $150; vegetables range between $70 and $90; main dishes range between $120 and $250
Must Order: Lamb neck with eggplant and green tomato salsa; corn & buttermilk fritters with fermented chilli and mahon
The Best for: Date night or casual group dining for four to six people
The trio behind popular Wan Chai restaurant Francis are at it again with Mr Brown, a neighbourhood grill and smokehouse that has recently opened on Ship Street. Francis opened in early 2018 and quickly won the hearts of many Hong Kongers (and us) with its menu of modern Middle Eastern fare, extensive wine selection and laid-back, yet stylish ambience, and now co-founders James Ward, Simone Sammuri and head chef Asher Goldstein are back with a brand new concept. And Mr Brown manages to retain the same energy as Francis, with its long open kitchen, and buzzy yet intimate space. Counter seating is recommended to watch the chefs at work over the open fire grill and catch a glimpse of the bar team whipping up a range of signature cocktails.
The name “Mr Brown” is derived from the Southern slang for the smokey, dark meat located on the outside of barbecued pork, giving a less than subtle hint at what the restaurant is going to be serving up. Although a more refined dining experience than typical Southern-style barbecue joints, with a range of smaller sharing style plates on offer, Mr Brown certainly delivers when it comes to punchy flavours, offering guests a unique and internationally inspired meal, that’s sure to leave you more than satisfied.
The menu is split into four simple sections: starters, vegetables, smoker & grill, and desserts. For our party of six, we were recommended to order three starters, two veg dishes and three meats, with a couple of the orders doubled up for good measure. With an array of fish, juicy cuts of meat and inventive vegetable dishes on offer, after much deliberation, we eventually opted to start our evening with a selection of starters, including the Iberico pork muffin with cabbage, aioli and mustard ($70), corn & buttermilk fritters with fermented chilli and mahon ($50), grilled eggplant with miso tahini and chilli ($90) and the cuttlefish with zucchini and spicy tomato ink ($110).
Always sure to be a hit, we loved the pork muffin, which surprised us all by appearing as almost a glorified bacon sandwich, with the muffin lightly toasted and filled with plenty of Iberico pork and crunchy cabbage, resulting in a bite that was spicy, smokey and wonderfully savoury. We also enjoyed the tender aubergine, which again had a strong smokey flavour, mellowed by the creamy tahini sauce. And although we found the cuttlefish a little tough, unexpectedly the standout starter for us was the corn and buttermilk fritters. Little bites of pure heaven, the miniature fritters were lighter than they first appeared, with a crunchy outside, soft squidgy interior and a good kick of spice added from the fermented chilli sauce.
The starters were the perfect accompaniment to our drinks, which were an assortment of inventive and playfully named craft cocktails. The favourite was Ashes to Ashes ($120), made with mezcal, scotch, citrus, gum syrup and charcoal. The smooth and smokey drink had a slight tang from the citrus, pairing perfectly with our food. We also enjoyed the dangerously drinkable Just Brew It ($100) – a delightful combination of gin, osmanthus tea, cucumber and mint. The drinks menu also includes 50 small label wines, alongside five international craft beers on tap.
True to form, it was the dishes from the smoker & grill section of the menu that stood out for us. The seabass with fenugreek leaf and lemon ($200) was subtle and soft, but still managed to stand up in flavour to the other hearty dishes on offer. We also tried the 14hrs smoked brisket with peppercorn and pickled onion ($100/$200), along with the lamb neck with eggplant and green tomato salsa ($160). The signature brisket did not disappoint, slow cooked to perfection and paired with the homemade sweet barbecue sauce and tangy and crunchy pickled onions, the dish is sure to be a hit with those looking for a more traditional taste of barbecue. The highlight of the night for us was the lamb neck, which was tender and full of meaty flavour, with a great crust on the outside from its open fire grilling. The vegetable dishes on offer are inventive and all make use of the restaurant’s trademark techniques of smoking, roasting, baking, and grilling. All were delicious, but we recommend the smoked sweet potato with pecan and chilli ($90).
When it comes to desserts, although Mr Brown only has three offerings on the menu, don’t think that the sweets have been overlooked. We were most excited to try the caramel slice with malt & hazelnut crumble, and burnt meringue ($70). Delicious as expected, the caramel slice was semi frozen and not too sweet when coupled with the toasted marshmallowy meringue. We also enjoyed the smoked apple cigars with bourbon and vanilla cream ($80). Crisp cigar shaped filo pastry tubes filled with warm apple compote and coupled with the vanilla cream, it was like a bite of apple pie. Although we expected the caramel slice to come out on top, it was the cheesecake with Persian lime and cherry sorbet ($90) that was the star for us. The baked cheesecake looked a little dry at a first glance, but on tasting was creamy and light, paired with the tart and sweet cherry sorbet.
Our verdict: Southern-style barbecue food is a rarity in Hong Kong and Mr Brown ticks all the boxes when it comes to serving up high quality and refined grill and smokehouse favourites. The casual and chic vibe lends itself perfectly for a date night that’s sure to impress, or a fun group dinner complete with sharing plates and plenty of craft cocktails.
Mr Brown, G/F, 9 Ship Street, Wan Chai, Hong Kong, www.mrbrownhk.com
Featured image courtesy of Mr Brown via Instagram. All further images property of Sassy Media Group.