Saturday evening in Oxford and we ate at Browns. There had been some debate as to where we should go but in the end we decided on somewhere safe. There was a combination of celebrations including a Wedding Anniversary, a birthday and exam results and a need to keep all ages happy. As we sat in the room we realised that one way or other we had been coming back on an irregular basis for at least the last twenty-five years. Apart from the bar having shifted position it all seemed very much as I remembered it from when I was first in there. The walls were painted the same dull creamy yellow and what I assume were the same pots plants gave off a bit of deep greenery. The menu had changed slightly and the waiters and waitresses were not quite as good looking as I remembered them.
Co-incidentaly Rachel Cooke then mentioned Browns in the column she writes in The Observer Food Monthly the following day. She had received a press release informing her that it was 40 years old. She said there are now twenty-seven branches and the last one she visited was horrible. Well our visit to Browns in Oxford was not horrible. The food was much as I remembered it. Good chips and generous plates. Nothing spectacular but plenty of it and not too much to complain about apart from the need for a bit more vigour with some of the flavours. All our plates were clean.
They have just opened in Liverpool. With all the other good places to eat I suspect it might be a while before I try it out.
We then got to thinking about the restaurants we have been back to most over the last twenty-two years. Of course this is all to do with place and where we have been back to.
So one of the other restaurant we have been back to over the years is also in Oxford, The Chiang Mai, which is down a small narrow alley just the High Street. Part of its attraction is very good authentic Thai food being served in a building that is almost four hundred years. It is a few years since we have been but it is one of the restaurants I would most like to return to. My memory of it always is the good clear salty sweet flavours.
By way of a small celebration I made myself a very rough plate of Thai Chicken Salad this evening. Two small chicken breasts browned slowly with a few drops of oil in a pan. As they browned I poured in a good dash of fish sauce and the juice of half a lime together with a teaspoon of sugar.
I then sliced a red onion and some carrot and mixed in finely chopped garlic, red chilli and coriander. Some mint would have been good but it seems to have disappeared out of the garden. This was then left to steep in another dash of fish sauce, the juice from the other half of the lime and another teaspoon of sugar.
I turned off the heat under the chicken when the sauce around it was thick and brown. I left it to cool a while and cooked some rice. When the rice was done I chopped up the chicken and stirred it with its juices into the carrot and onion mixture.
Listening now to some of the music bought over the week-end. A special mention must go to Julia Holter and Hello Stranger. My new favourite song. Listen and be bewitched.