We’ve provided our “take” on ocean view restaurants in this forum before. It seems that it is impossible for the management of most “view” restaurants to have any concern for good service and good food. “You got this beautiful view….what more do you want?” There are a few notable exceptions – the Ocean View Bar & Grill is not one of them. However, it is far from being one of the worst offenders.
Laguna Beach regulars and residents remember when the Hotel Laguna had two restaurants. Claes’ Ovation was the indoor “fine-dining” dinner venue, and breakfast and lunch was served in the bar or attached outside patio. After the passing of Claes Anderson in 2010, the hotel and restaurants fell into a bit of limbo. The bar, deck, and dining room were combined as the aptly named Ocean View Bar & Grill last year, and since that time overall reviews from all sources have been mixed, with complaints centering more on mediocre food than anything else.
We arrived at the OVB&G early on a Wednesday evening and found that we had the place to ourselves. One jolly gentleman served as our host, waiter, and bar server. I wouldn’t call the service “snappy,” but it was adequate and, most importantly, accompanied by a smile. We took a seat on the outdoor patio and ordered martinis and two appetizers – some tasty but overly charred crab cakes and a generous order of steak nachos. The martinis were well-made and correctly shaken to arrive well-chilled. The sauce on the crab cakes and the cheese on the nachos were both low quality but not off-putting.
As the sun began to set and the temperature dropped, we moved inside to what used to be Claes dining room. Perhaps my memory had faded with the years, but it seemed very little had changed from when we were last there in 2009. (Alas, our review blog of Claes was lost in the website upgrade.) Like the bar and deck, the view in the dining room is commanding. There isn’t a bad seat, but you’ll want one by the window. We were the second table to be seated, and only two more were occupied before we left about 90 minutes later. Actually, “seated” is a misnomer. Everyone was simply advised to pick a table.
The OVB&G lunch menu serves as the dinner menu as well, with the addition of a selection of “sunset menu” items. Pricing is a matter of opinion, but we found the prices to be quite reasonable for a view restaurant. I chose the 9 oz. New York Steak served with Demi-Glace, Fingerling Potatoes, and Garlic Green Beans, $23.00. The generous-portion (9oz.++) steak was reasonably tender and tasty, but the glace was applied a bit too generously for my taste. The green beans were oddly tough and I ate very few of them. My husband ordered the Atlantic Salmon with Citrus Beurre Blanc, Steamed Rice, and Broccoli Rab, $22.00. He felt the salmon (again, a very generous portion) was slightly overcooked and—like all of the sauces we had that evening—the beurre blanc almost seemed canned or at the least made well in advance. (In retrospect I wish we had asked if the sauces were freshly made.) Also, his broccoli rab suffered from the same odd toughness as my green beans. He actually borrowed my steak knife to cut it up.
All that seems like a lot of complaining, but we didn’t hate our dinner. We just felt there were some problems. The bottom line is that no one should go to OVB&G thinking they are going to a fine dining restaurant. Service is generally good and the food, for the most part, is acceptable. You will likely leave with your tummy filled and the memory of a beautiful view, but it’s unlikely you will brag about how great your meal was.
If you didn’t know before, you now know that Ocean View Bar & Grill is located overlooking the beach in the Hotel Laguna. Menus and photos can be seen on their website. Arrive a bit before sunset and bring your camera.