Our Gourmet: Casual atmosphere, fine food at the Crown

October 24. 2017 8:22PM

Crown Tavern
99 Hanover St., Manchester; 218-3132; thecrownonhanover.com


Hours: Lunch Mon-Fri 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.; Dinner Mon-Sat 4 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.; bar open later hours. Closed Sunday.

Prices: Breakfast $8-$14; Soup/Salad $6-$8 plus add-ons; Pizza $12-$16; Apps/small plates $5-$10 (Oysters on half-shell $16-$30); Entrees (including burgers and Blueplate Specials) $10-$19; desserts $5-$12.

Scores for Crown Tavern
Atmosphere 18/20
Menu 18/20
Food 17/20
Service 18/20
Value 17/20
TOTAL 88/100

The bar and restaurant scene in downtown Manchester is always changing, and a new entry on Hanover Street is putting down roots that say it will stay.

The Crown Tavern on the corner of Chestnut and Hanover, which has the backing of its sister restaurant, Hanover Street Chop House, just up the street, offers the after-work crowd a fine selection of beer, wine, martinis and cocktails, along with a creative menu that is half pub and half full-course restaurant — with smaller hints of some diner attributes and other gourmet lunch establishments.

If that adds up to more than a full share, it could be said you get more than you bargain for. But whatever the math, Crown Tavern is a swell addition to an already robust dining scene.

Tile floors run throughout this brand new bistro, and a marble-topped bar with arm-rested stools line almost the entire west side. On the east side, outside beyond the main dining area, is what the Crown boasts is the largest outdoor dining area in the city. It is huge, and the unusual fall warmth we have enjoyed has been perfect for this patio’s debut.

Inside, we found it comfortable at the bar for a meal and a drink. A large kitchen/preparation area is in full view, and a team of servers, waitstaff, bar staff and managers are kept hopping in the six-o’clock hour.

An initial solo visit by Our Gourmet wasn’t sufficient to judge this new place, and our return as a couple proved a good idea one evening last week. We settled in and enjoyed a cocktail while the lively downtown crowd bubbled around us. There were lots of people, singles and couples and after-work groups that kept the bartenders hopping.

Crown’s Ravioli and Crab dinner ($18) was a very nice supper dish of green raviolis filled with butternut squash, topped by a generous serving of morsels of crab meat, along with a blend of pancetta and leeks, with a light and tasty lemon butter sauce. The serving of ravioli was ample, and the crab added a hearty touch. The raviolis were large, three-bite size, and very tasty on their own, but the crabmeat made it a full meal.

On our other flank was Cedar Plank Salmon ($18) offering a thick salmon fillet (called Scottish salmon on the menu), with nice accompanying braised red cabbage, pearl onions, and redskin potatoes. The seafood was topped by a tart pickled mustard-seed aioli sauce, and the salmon was cooked through and hot at the serving.

This dish was a winner from the presentation to the last bite. It was a solidly good dinner, and a bit unexpected in such a casual atmosphere, but why not? Who says gourmet dinners need be served in a hushed and svelte dining room?

There is a touch of the very casual at the Crown, despite the sometimes suited business crowd. Root Beer Floats ($7) are on the dessert menu, and a wood-fired oven produces a variety of pizzas.

Crown opens early (10 a.m.) and there is a smattering of good-sounding breakfasts available at that or any hour, including omelettes, other egg dishes, and an English Breakfast ($14) that includes scrambled eggs, baked beans, griddled tomato, bacon and, of course, an English muffin.

The Crown Burger ($10), purchased during the earlier lunchtime visit, came off a bit on the greasy side, and the hand-cut fries that were promised extra crispy were not. The fries, served in a cone-shaped paper wrap in a stand-up server (a la diner fries) were tasty, and almost crispy, and the standard two-patty burger was certainly ample. I added on a $2 bacon “slab” — which was two thick slices — and an extra patty or an egg can also be added for $2.

But this day, the burger itself was a bit undercooked, and its juices were flowing into the bun. Hard to keep a business shirt and slacks clean in a challenging set up like that with fries piled high and a juicy burger oozing. The burger comes with American cheese, bread-and-butter pickles, and a special sauce, with other condiments on request. I would order it again but I’d ask for medium-well done.

The dessert menu is a good one. It includes Bourbon Chocolate Mousse with espresso tuile, wood oven-baked Camembert with honey, candied walnuts and a toasted baguette, ice cream profiteroles, local sorbet or ice cream with cookies, the root beer float, and apple crisp served warm with vanilla ice cream.

We sampled one order of the Chocolate Mousse ($7) to go, and — despite not travelling so well — it was super rich and chocolately and came with blueberries on top.

The Crown has been ensconced on Hanover Street only since late summer. It’s a large, welcoming, bright new spot, directly across the street from the Palace Theatre. The location should be a popular one.

Whether it’s a gourmet seafood dinner, wings with beer from a long list of ales, the Friday Fish Fry (part of the daily Blue Plate Special menu), or one of dozens of selections from the extensive wine list (with a special menu of accompanying cheeses), we think Manchester has a winner here.

Our GourmetManchester

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