The small San Clemente business complex seems a bit of an unlikely spot for a British pub. Tucked away near the end of a line of offices, it's easy to miss--save for the red double-decker bus conspicuously parked in the field next door.
Upon entering the close, noisy quarters, the outside world disappears as you become caught up in inviting circles of camaraderie, like a secret social club. This is not a place for a quick drink--the conversation grabs you and pulls you in, and you find yourself fighting the irresistable urge to stay a few hours. And why not? You could join in a chat about the latest rugby upsets or the cricket match that got rained out. You may even unconsciously begin referring to your drinking buddies as "blokes" while knocking back a few pints and consuming a few bags of salt and vinegar crisps.
The air is thick with accents--not surprisingly, the Rose & Crown is a natural draw for British patrons (though the owners are American). Off to one side, you can join in a game of darts, a favorite pub pastime. On the occasional evening, you can listen to a live band. And unlike some of its London counterparts, this bar doesn't close until 2 a.m.
The dining area, at the rear of the pub, is a bit more upscale than the typical British neighborhood pub but still manages to retain the coziness and warmth. Sports enthusiasts can keep up to date, thanks to TV monitors strategically positioned at each corner of the room.
The menu offers very traditional British pub fare, including a ploughman's platter (ham, roast beef, fruit, cheeses, bread and pickled onions), tasty fish and chips, bangers and mash (English-style sausages served with mashed potatoes and peas), steak and kidney pie, and Cornish pasty (pronounced "pah-sty": crescent-shaped pastry filled with beef, onion, potatoes and carrots in a hearty sauce).
Prices are quite reasonable. Most dinners are under $10, and pints are $3 each, which may seem steep until you dive into one. Less serious drinkers can order the half-pint for $1.75. As you would expect, the bar offers a decent list of British brews, including McEwens, Watneys, Newcastle Brown Ale and Bass.
Overall, the atmosphere is comfortable and friendly, and so are the employees.
Watch out. It could become a habit.
The Rose & Crown British Pub, 647 Camino de Los Mares, San Clemente. Open daily 10 a.m. to 2 a.m. (714) 240-2392.