Town Square is a tough mistress for restaurant owners, as evidenced by all the openings and closures. English’s and Coconuts are the newest to give her a go.
English’s, a “Quintessentially British” gastropub (478-8080), is owned by U.K. native Jacob Christoforou. It’s housed in a space once home to Louis’s and later Caña Latin Kitchen & Bar, and the room has been streamlined to the point of plainness. I miss the cypress tree the previous owner stuck at the front entrance. Any atmosphere at all is coincidental.
But the room was busy when I visited for lunch last week, and there were several large parties. And why not? The $10 express lunch they offer is fast, cheap and filling.
One of the deals, a flight of three pies—steak, mushroom and ale; chicken; and cottage pie (ground beef in tomato sauce with a mashed-potato topping)—was absurdly generous and had a nice mash on the side.
The Ploughman’s Lunch, by contrast, is pusillanimous, less than I would like of a delicious English cheddar, a few apple slices, a crust or two of bread, and the British oddity, Branston pickle, a condiment with a number of diced fruits, vegetables and spices.
We also had the battered sausages, two huge peppery pork rolls from England’s North, with a thick country batter. I had to ask for a bottle of Colman’s Mustard, a heady English variety, and I was glad I did.
At dinner one evening, I ordered a steak salad—cold meat on greens with an aggressive mustard-based dressing plus crumbled goat cheese instead of the advertised Stilton, but I’m told that is now remedied.
Sundays, roasts are served in the traditional English fashion. The beef Wellington on the blackboard might have been interesting, but it wasn’t available when I visited.
Coconuts Beach Bar & Mexican Grill (823-5051) has replaced Lolita’s, meanwhile, with hokey décor such as a fake palapa over the bar, beach-bum accoutrements including guitars and surfboards on the walls and a cool parquet dance floor on which to boogie away during the DJ’s mix. The DJ, incidentally, has a cool, converted VW Microbus in the middle of the room to work with.
A few of the Coconuts girls, all devilishly attractive and scantily clad, greeted us, led us to our table, and then plied us with the house margarita, a big drink that is a reasonable $5 during the 5-7 p.m. happy hour.
The food is basically old wine in a new bottle, but I will credit the chef, California boy Chris Myers, with putting out fare that is extremely fresh and colorful.
Unfortunately, that does not mean interesting. The guacamole had a bright color and tasted made-to-order, but was too bland for my taste. The three-cheese quesadilla is properly crisp, and there is sour cream, tomato salsa and greens on the side.
Myers makes a nice ceviche of mahi mahi, shrimp and U-boat scallops marinated in orange and lime juice, and his own tamales from scratch. The biggest letdown was an undercooked pork chile verde, despite the excellent cilantro rice and roasted corn-on-the cob sides.
But management was only too happy to remove it from the check. I suspect that attitude won’t be a problem here.