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Monday 24 June 2019
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Cow and pitbull inspire unique Tobago restaurant

The sign announces the Brown Cow restaurant in Crown Point
The sign announces the Brown Cow restaurant in Crown Point

Elspeth Duncan

Years ago baby cow and a full-grown pitbull (small in comparison to the cow) lived on a fenced property near Crown Point Hotel. They were very good friends—sleeping, roaming, playing and doing everything together.

Xenon Thomas, a young chef, would frequently see the unique couple as he drove by. The vision of the large baby cow lying down, with the pitbull curling up to sleep with him/her was endearing.

“Wow, a pitbull and a cow are friends,” he reminisces. “It inspired me. I thought ‘One day I will have a restaurant and I will call it that’.”

True to his word, five years later, Xenon has opened Brown Cow, a unique restaurant in Crown Point (opposite RBC Royal Bank) and next door to Bambú Gift Shop & Café.

“The cow is a barn animal and the concept in here is that of a cosy rustic barn,” Xenon says, alluding to the colour scheme, the wooden outdoor sign (with logo designed by his brother Andre), wooden palettes on interior walls, simple yet elegant wooden tables (courtesy Unique Furniture) and the rustic bark-framed mural of flora and fauna photographs.

His mother, Rona Thomas, a guiding and supporting force within the business, reflects upon the spirit of the cow and pitbull who inspired it.

“Their relationship was one of serenity, calmness and coming together,” she says. “People don’t usually come together as easily as animals do. They were two different species, but were best friends.”

She envisions Brown Cow similarly—as a serene place that invites an easy coming together of people, regardless of perceived differences. No matter who you are or where you come from, you will be warmly welcomed and treated with the same high quality and kindness.

I can attest to the treatment. From the time I first stepped into Brown Cow (out of curiosity, to see what it was), I was welcomed by the glowing smiles of two young women elegantly dressed in black. I was unknown to them—someone stepping off the street on a Friday evening—yet their eyes glistened with the excitement some would reserve for celebrities.

“Everyone who comes through that door is treated like a VIP,” Xenon says.

Food is plated at the Brown Cow restaurant in Crown Point

His job as a medical consultant came to an end when, in 2003, a “Help wanted. Now open” sign outside of Club De Vega in Port-of-Spain caught his eye. He started there as a coffee expert (barista)—learning everything about coffee from scratch.

When a Malaysian chef took a liking to him and invited him into the kitchen for a croquette, fate took another twist.

“The croquette was the most amazing thing I ever tasted in my life and he asked me if I wanted to work in the kitchen,” Xenon says. “I said yes.”

Over the years he worked his way up to the top at popular restaurants throughout Trinidad and Tobago (Laughing Buddha—Trinidad’s first authentic Japanese and fine dining restaurant, where he learned to cook Japanese food . . . Tapas Restaurant—Trinidad’s first authentic Spanish Fine Dining restaurant . . . Mangos (as head chef) . . . Carlton Savannah . . . The Lure . . . Magdalena Grand . . . Seahorse Inn . . . Crown Point Hotel . . . Villa Being . . . to name a few).

An invitation to work as sous chef at the Magdalena Grand brought him to Tobago. Nine years later, his restaurant stands as a testament to his culinary devotion.

Brown Cow offers a unique experience, inviting the world to savour indigenous cuisines fused with international concepts and influences within a concept reminiscent of fine dining. With no bar license yet available, guests are invited to walk with their preferred choice of wine.

The menu, poetic and gastronomically seductive, took Xenon four months to create.

“Every single component of it I spent days working on,” he says of the self-crafted recipes.

‘Bhaji and bok bok arancini’ . . . ‘Crispy Lamb Ravioli’ . . . ‘Seared scallop and griddled coocoo’ . . . ‘Curry Chicken and Aloo Puff Pastry

Accompanying descriptions further whet the appetite:

Herb Crusted Rack of Goat: Fragrantly marinated local goat rack crusted in mustard and herbs, resting on cauliflower & daahl puree, fit-weed potato confit & sauce curry-stew demi glace.

“What has always intrigued me and enthused me is the way he plates his food.” his mother says. “Each dish is prepared with sheer love and service. He always wants to serve. He wants you to get that service that we so lack in TT—and through food, it’s one of the nicest ways. Food is sustenance but it comes to you as more than just sustenance. It’s a beautiful work of art when his plates are done. There is nothing out of place. Even the glasses have to be perfect. Not a fingerprint. That’s something he imparts on his staff and will demand from them—to be articulate. You are serving a person. And if you are doing it, it has to be done the right way, because that’s what you would want for yourself.”

Additionally, what Xenon wants for himself he also wants for his staff.

“I believe that the entire team needs to develop. My mission is to help build on my base, my team that I have. The second in command is a fisherman, he loves the ocean. I want him to get ahead in his life with that. I want my team to better themselves in whatever they are doing. This is my dream and they are helping me develop it. I also want to help them. I develop, they develop. Even the guests who come through the door . . . don’t get complacent with mediocre treatment. Let’s get out of that. I am working with my team and with my guests so that right here in Tobago we can offer the best.”

SPECIAL: In February, love is in the air. Celebrate Valentine’s week at Brown Cow with special dishes and romantic giveaways.

Opening hours: 11 a.m. – 10 p.m. every day

Contact: 324-2564, browncowtobago@gmail.com, FBook: Brown Cow Tobago

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