New restaurants are tricky. They tend to start off bouncing around every idea at the same time to see what sticks, their shaky legs searching for a foothold wherever they can find it. This typically creates an issue because too many new ideas at once is always a bad idea. This is the issue the Brixton is facing. It may be hard to decipher over all the noise, but taking a look at things piece by piece may paint a better picture.
The interior of the Brixton is pretty luxurious. It's somewhere between a high-class British pub — with its dark wood, robust bar and dim lighting — and the VIP section of a New York nightclub, with large, comfortable booth seating and a second story overlook to the main stage. Oh yeah, did we mention the stage? The Brixton comes with a live music stage that is extremely decadent. The Brixton has its aesthetic nailed down. From large-screen TVs bordered in gold frames to high-back black plush chairs that make anyone feel like The Who, it’s a unique kind of place for the eyes.
The background music during the restaurant split of the Brixton is mostly rock, and while it certainly fits the motif, it’s way too loud for any restaurant. Conversation is difficult to carry on, and we were left confused: Would they have preferred us trying to yell to one another to communicate, or should we have just shut up completely and eaten to the fine music of The Police? While we know a nightclub isn’t the best place to talk to each other about vacation plans or business deals, if the place suggests itself as a restaurant during those times, the decibels just don’t match.
If you are a late diner coming for a bite to eat, be wary about entering from about 9:15 p.m. onward. While the Brixton states live music starts at around 10 p.m., the bands often are warming up or testing equipment beforehand, and the line between eating establishment and nightclub gets too blurry. One moment you’re having dinner, and the next, the warm-up band is tuning its guitars and testing out the drums with a passion Dave Grohl would be proud of. For us, this happened at exactly 9:23 p.m. Conversation had no choice but to come to a halt.
There are two menus: the full menu, served from 4 to 10 p.m., and the late-night menu, served from 10 p.m. until midnight. The late-night menu is just a shortened, more snacky version of the full menu, so items remain relatively consistent — although we aren’t sure how many nightclub goers are ordering black-eyed pea hummus with gluten-free breadsticks ($14) at 11:30 p.m. Most items are tapas style, usually containing three or four hearty bites that are easily shared. From rich meatballs with fried tortellini ($16) to healthier “garden of vegan” plates ($16), it has a good balance between Guns & Roses decadency and Simon and Garfunkel hippieism.
The bar is well stocked, and if you plan on going in after 10 p.m., you can expect to drink better than at most other live music venues in the area. The mixed drinks and cocktails are themed, with names like Live and Let Rye and Mezcalifornication, and are served fairly strong and fairly priced. The wine is standard, and the beer selection pairs well with whatever music is on hand.
Service was unique. The staff was friendly with an air of exclusivity that really does make you feel like a VIP, but the dress code is a bit strange. All the male staff members were dressed in black, typically slacks or dark jeans with a black shirt or button-up. All of the female staff members were in solid black as well, but with significantly less fabric. Low-cut shirts and high-cut skirts and booty shorts were common. It just didn’t fit the demeanor of what we had seen up to this point. While the male staff had a theme of professional stage hand/audio-video director feel, the female staff had an "emo Hooters" aesthetic.
We have no issue with the dress code of either, but it should at least be uniform. If the women are to dress that way, the male staff should at least be shirtless, with bar aprons covering bare chests, to make it fair. Right? That would at least fit the laissez faire heavy metal theme and make us 100 times more likely to recommend it to our friends.
We don’t know if the Brixton would be better suited as a restaurant or as a live music venue, and that’s the problem. Its menu is delicious, and its dining is comfortable. Its stage and capabilities to showcase musicians to happily liquored patrons is formidable as well. We don’t really know which one will take center stage in the future, but for now, the two of them should consider finding a way to split the duo into two acts.
The Brixton at the Shops of Legacy, 5800 Legacy Drive, Plano. Open 4 p.m. to 2 a.m. Tuesday-Sunday, 8 a.m. to 2 a.m. Monday.