My first to Brown’s was as a student in Oxford. Then, it seemed the epitome of glamour. The place appeared slicker and buzzier to my untrained eyes than almost any other restaurant I had dined, they did large pies, and someone else (my Dad) was paying for dinner. Times have moved on. Brown’s has too – or sort of. The Worcester venue (which a large group of us visited for dinner on a recent Friday night) is in a stunning building located on the banks of the Severn with large windows providing river views. The furniture is eclectic (especially the high-backed throne chairs in the bar area) buts works, somehow creating a sense of cool. All this might suggest to the unwary that they were coming somewhere other than Brown’s, more akin to a boutique hotel perhaps. However, take a look at the menu, sample the food and you know you are in reassuringly/ depressingly (choose as appropriate) familiar territory. Gone are the pies, but crispy duck salad, say, followed by slow-roasted pork belly and finishing with sticky toffee pudding, suggests a focus on the uncontroversial. There is no boundary-pushing innovation at this venue; rather, safe, solid and mostly dependable food. However, for £35/head (for three courses, including a glass of house Prosecco), I would expect something a little more. The food wasn’t bad, but it certainly didn’t wow. My pork belly didn’t appear to have been roasted all that slowly; the meat certainly wasn’t succulent and indeed was rather excessively fatty. Meanwhile, the seasonal greens which accompanied our sides bordered on the stingy. My ‘chef’s selection’ of cheeses with which I finished could easily have come from the local supermarket. And so it goes on… A note too on the service: mostly friendly and enthusiastic, but let down by the wines: Brown’s had run out of our preferred white (not stocking three bottles of it – poor planning on a Friday night) and when I suggested an alternative, the server clearly did not listen and brought different bottles with no explanation (and indeed Australian Chardonnay is quite a long way taste-wise from French Picpoul). It all got drunk, but Brown’s could tighten up in this area. The review’s title says it all: just as it is hard to put lipstick on a pig, so too is it to change the raison d’etre of Brown’s. Maybe it’s the best dining option Worcester has to offer, but students with benevolent parents will surely enjoy the food here more than those with slightly higher expectations.