Rose & Crown adds a touch of British pub charm to Phoenix without the "Brit-kitsch"
It can't be easy being the eatery across the street from a legendary restaurant.
I've long thought that about the businesses that have occupied the gorgeous historic home that sits at the corner of 7th Street and Adams, adjacent to the wildly popular Pizzeria Bianco. It must feel like being planet Mercury, orbiting blindingly close to the sun. Circa 1900, the highly regarded fine-dining establishment that last resided there, lasted only about a year and a half, and its predecessor, Ruby Beet Gourmet, felt short-lived as well.
As for the latest tenant, The Rose & Crown, early signs show this newcomer will stand the test of time instead of wilting from the heat of the famous wood-fired oven across the way. At least I hope it will.
When I first heard that The Rose & Crown would be a British pub, it struck me as a curious choice. Is downtown really clamoring for pub grub, considering the other venerable pubs in Central Phoenix? Would anyone make the effort to park in the Heritage Park garage for a drink? Would a bar turn that beautiful old building into a schlocky, rundown den of Brit-kitsch?
My concerns subsided as soon as I got a chance to check it out. The parking situation really wasn't bad (they'll validate your ticket), and plenty of people clearly felt the effort was worth it, because the place seemed to do a decent business when I was there. The late afternoon and early evening saw more families — with grandparents and kids in tow — chowing down on fish and chips, while later at night, the crowd was mostly made up of twenty- and thirtysomethings knocking back pints to a soundtrack of The Clash and The Cure and The Police.
As for the pub concept, The Rose & Crown had a few English touches — most notably, there were paintings of icons like Queen Elizabeth and James Bond throughout the rooms, along with must-haves like a pool table and dart boards — but nobody went overboard in the decorating department. The most striking addition to the high-ceiling, wood-floor interior was a handsome wooden bar at the center of the house that opened up into each room. Out front, people lounged on the porch and even on the lawn, thanks to heat lamps and some inviting patio furniture.
But what about the demand for pub grub? Indeed, people must be craving it, from the looks of the piping-hot platters of food that waiters kept carrying past me. The aroma never failed to make my mouth water, even after I'd long since eaten my fair share.
Sometimes my eyes are bigger than my stomach. I realized that when I ordered the Swanley Sliders, a plate of three small roast beef sandwiches topped with thin slices of cucumber, tomato, Swiss cheese, and horseradish mayo, served au jus with a side of chips. They made a delicious appetizer, but after eating one, I had to save room for my entree. Next time, I may just order that and call it a meal.
Although the cheese plate wasn't exotic in the least, it was noteworthy for its sheer abundance, and included smoked cheddar, Brie, havarti, pepper jack, and goat cheese, two kinds of crackers, and fresh fruit. Chicken fingers were a substantial starter, too, with crunchy, batter-fried pieces of chicken, ranch dip, and a pile of chips.
Not surprisingly, The Rose & Crown serves chips with a lot of things, so I'm glad they were good (except for the time somebody in the kitchen apparently went nuts with the salt shaker). They were thick, hand-cut wedges, crunchy along the edges and fluffy inside. The fish that accompanied them was a fresh fillet of cod, still very moist inside a crisp, light Newcastle batter. I also liked the super-chunky tartar sauce that came with it.
Chips were paired with sandwiches as well. I enjoyed the Crown burger — a juicy half-pound of Angus beef topped with melted Swiss and cheddar — and was pleased with the Reuben Classic, too. It didn't have much sauerkraut on it, but thinly sliced homemade corned beef, along with tangy Thousand Island dressing, made up for it.
The Bleu Sirloin, a 12-ounce steak topped with blue cheese, was both underwhelming and overcooked, the cheese broiled to indistinguishable brownness. I was much more excited about the bangers and mash, with juicy grilled sausages and onions, gravy, a mountain of garlic mashed potatoes, and a few perfectly cooked spears of asparagus.
Killer mashed potatoes also figured into the Fisherman's Pie and shepherd's pie. The former had chunks of shrimp, salmon, and cod swimming in cream sauce underneath a mound of creamy mashed red-skinned potatoes. The latter, topped with mashed potatoes, melted cheddar, and chives, revealed shredded roast beef, green beans, and gravy at the bottom of the dish.
With a full bar — including cocktails and wine — there were plenty of options to wash down all that fortifying food, but beer was my thirst-quencher of choice. At last count, there were 12 on tap and a staggering 56 available by the bottle, with more getting added to the list all the time. And as expected, the selection was heavy on the imports, from Bass to Boddingtons to beers I've never heard of.
That's a good thing, in my book. Because even when I'm not hungry, I'm sure I'll stop by The Rose & Crown for a meal in a glass.
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