Mama Brown a casual spot

FAMILIAR: Mama Brown.
FAMILIAR: Mama Brown.

Having recently returned from three months travelling around the United States, I've been suffering withdrawals from the burgers and fries that seemed to be a large part of my diet. Luckily, there's no shortage of American-themed eateries popping up around Wellington and, with that in mind, I try out the relatively new Mama Brown, which opened several months ago on the corner of Tory and Wakefield streets.

Brown is… a casual, loosely American-themed cafe with a slightly eclectic all-day menu featuring everything from breakfast food to meatball sandwiches to tacos and sliders.

The interior is… reminiscent of the site's previous incarnation as Wholly Bagels and Pizza. Though the walls seem to have had a fresh coat of paint, the old tables and chairs are still the same, and the décor is limited to a handful of burlap coffee sacks arranged around the restaurant and some posters on the wall.

I'm tempted by… the assortment of sliders ($6 each) featured on the menu and on the specials board. I choose one of the specials – pulled pork with pineapple, chipotle and watercress – and a buttermilk fried chicken slider from the regular menu. The pork is juicy and flavourful, but I can't detect any of the aforementioned pineapple or watercress; these seem to have been replaced with a gherkin and some run-of-the-mill lettuce. The chicken is also just slightly off the mark: while it's magnificently crispy, I find the meat and batter a bit underseasoned, not quite living up to the salty, greasy fried chicken I remember from America. On the plus side, I'm delighted to find the homemade slider buns are soft and freshly baked.

My friend orders… from the taco menu ($6 each), choosing one featuring marinated steak, onions, coriander and a pineapple salsa and another with prawns, cabbage, Mexican tartare sauce, salsa and lime. People on a gluten-free diet should note these come on soft flour tortillas rather than the corn tortillas found at most Mexican establishments in town – it's not clear from reading the menu, but our waitress happily asks the kitchen when we inquire.

We also share… a side of hash browns ($6), which are not quite to my liking. They're bordering on overseasoned – salty and full of black pepper – and the texture is somewhat limp and greasy. The chipotle mayo accompanying them is outstanding, though, and I end up slathering it on my fried chicken as well.

Service is… cheerful, but the timing is off. When we're first seated, a waitress almost instantly appears, before we've had a chance to look at the menu. When we ask for another minute she doesn't return until several other tables have been seated and had their orders taken. Luckily, the food is quick to arrive once we order – a speed befitting the kind of casual American diner fare Mama Brown serves up.

We're surrounded by… a mostly young weekend crowd – couples, groups of friends – but not many small children, which surprised me because the menu is rather kid-friendly.

coffee is… decent. Our flat whites arrive quickly, are hot and reasonably strong, and come with a sliver of cinnamon-flavoured biscuit. At $3.80, they're some of the cheapest in town, too. They also offer bottomless filter coffee for $3.

If I went back, I'd try … the breakfast tacos ($6 each), with a choice of fillings that include bacon, chorizo, mushroom and potato as well as scrambled eggs, refried beans and the like. I'd been meaning to hit a breakfast taco joint while in New York, and am pleasantly surprised to see them on the menu here.



Mama Brown

Address: 250 Wakefield St, Wellington.

Phone: 0800 360 500.

Hours: Monday-Friday, Fri 7am-3pm; Saturday-Sunday, 9am-4pm.

The Dominion Post