The iconic Five Crowns in Corona del Mar manages to capture your heart with it’s unexpected Old English charm and character and incongruous location along the ribbon of Coast Highway between the surf and sand beach communities of Newport and Laguna Beach. A lovely replica of one of England’s oldest country inns, Ye Olde Bell, Five Crowns offers a warm and inviting place of candlelight and cozy fireplaces in the middle of southern California’s Gold Coast.
A destination fine-dining establishment since 1965, Five Crowns freshened up in 2011 with a much-needed makeover and a new seasonally-inspired menu. Hubs and I recently dined there to celebrate our anniversary and were delighted to be able to chat with Chef Ryan Wilson and Guest Ambassador Tommy Martin about years past and what the new and improved Five Crowns brings to the Orange County dining scene.
Staying with my tradition of selecting a signature apéritif wherever I dine, the classic British Pimm’s Cup grabbed my eye. The Pimm’s Cup, a Wimbledon tradition, is a refreshing cocktail of Pimm’s No. 1 (a gin-based liquor made in England from dry gin, liqueur, fruit juices and spices) and sparkling lemon-lime soda, garnished with cucumber and/or fruit. Cheerio!
Seated in an intimate private alcove I could survey the dining room and see how subtle changes brighten the room; dark paneled walls have been painted a warm golden mustard hue and fabrics of blue and gold bring contemporary elegance to the space without sacrificing the Old World charm that endears Five Crowns to so many patrons past and present.
A nicely edited menu balances new offerings with Five Crowns’ traditional roasted prime rib in four different cuts. And, not to mess with a good thing – their melt-in-your mouth prime rib is still served with a silver carafe of au jus, Yorkshire pudding, whipped cream organic horseradish and a classic side (creamed corn, spinach or mashed potatoes). For years our family had a tradition of dining at Five Crowns during the holiday season. There was just something about the dark beamed ceiling, seeing the flickering flames in the fireplace, and hearing strains of Yuletide songs as the carolers drifted from room-to-room while feasting on beef and Yorkshire pudding that filled us with the spirit of the season!
This night we focused on the seasonal summer menu: for starters we enjoyed a Mary Alice’s Pride Salad with its delicate leaf lettuce, toasted pistachios, sheep’s milk cheese and smoky bacon lardons and the crispy pork belly on a bed of frisée with roasted peaches and a lavender gastrique. Our server, Jennifer, was extremely knowledgeable about the menu items and took Don’s questions to the chef to help him in selecting a heart-healthy, lower-sodium entree. He thoroughly enjoyed the roasted ling cod with creamy fresh corn pudding and earthy mushrooms lending texture and robust flavors to the delicate white fish.
Torn between the Seared Duck Breast with crispy spaetzle and the Bricked Chicken, I decided on the chicken once I learned it was Jidori. An area at the bottom of the menu is devoted to the”Friends and Farmers”, purveyors of the fine foods Five Crowns features: LA Specialty · Sweredoski Farm · Dr. Bob’s Icecream · Arnett Farms ·Dolce Gelato · LA Mill Coffee · County Line Harvest · Jidori Chicken ·Sonoma Direct · Paso Prime · Newport Meat · Kanaloa Seafood ·Aniata Cheese Co. · Rocker Bros. Meat.
One of the outstanding features of Chef Wilson’s new menu is the cheese platter where you can choose three or five cheeses from their excellent selection of artisan cheeses. I usually pass on dessert but a cheese platter is the perfect way to end a memorable meal – or begin one. Being our anniversary, we had pre-ordered the luscious dark chocolate soufflé with Devonshire cream and it was divine! But, I’ll be back to see what comfort food Chef Ryan cooks up for his seasonal fall menu and we’ll either be starting or ending with a cheese platter!
With some restaurants, its all about the food and with others, its a total package of warm ambiance, sincere and attentive service, and friendly staff. That’s Five Crowns. And think about what can be said of an establishment that retains employees for 14 years, like Jennifer – or how about 43 years! If you’ve dined at Five Crowns in the past forty years, you’ve inevitably met Tommy Martin, 69, and had him take you on a trip down memory lane with stories of LA during Hollywood’s Golden Years, meeting Elizabeth Taylor, being an Olympic runner, or tales of his mentor and life-long friend, Chuck Jones, creator of Bugs Bunny and the Roadrunner, pins of which Tommy wears proudly on his lapel. People like Tommy, this is priceless…
3801 E. Coast Highway
Corona del Mar, CA 92625